So why do individuals at any age choose to become engaged in civic pursuits? Much has been written about the motives that people have for freely giving of their time and treasure. When it comes to charitable giving, motivations include altruism, the habit of giving, a coinciding of values, the desire to memorialize someone, a quest for immortality, fulfilling ego needs, community standing, being asked, default (having no one to whom assets would be left), fund raising involvement, and tax considerations (Endnote 11).
Motivations that people have for volunteering tend to fall into two categories. One is altruism, the desire to give back to society and serve the greater public good. The other is self-interest, simply doing what we want to do—a strong and straight-forward desire for structure, purpose, affiliation, growth, and meaning. Where the motivation is achievement, the goal is to be successful in situations that require excellent or improved performance. Where the motivation is affiliation, the goal is to engage with people who are enjoyed. Where the motivation is power, the goal is to have influence on situations or on others. Each of these motivations has a place in the world of civic engagement.
Perhaps the most significant research to date concerns the physical and mental health benefits of civic engagement, for thirteen major studies show significant connections. (Endnote 12) One, in Ontario, Canada, found that volunteering improves self-esteem and helps to reduce social isolation, lower blood pressure, and enhance the immune system. Another Canadian study revealed that older adults who volunteer actually experience a lower mortality rate, a result confirmed in a University of Michigan study that found men who volunteered at least once a week lived longer than men who didn’t.
In the UK, benefits have included decreases in insomnia and speedier recovery from surgery. Similar studies in the US show increases in energy, more optimistic outlook, less depression and pain, better weight control, and a healthier cardiovascular system. Among the thirteen major studies seven have identified reduction in anxiety and depression. Six noted improved self-esteem; five identified lower mortality rates; three found improved immune systems; two recognized better weight control, reduced blood pressure, and a speedier recovery time from surgery; and one identified increased mental functions as a health benefit of volunteering.Download Article 1K Club