Whether you offer to run a stall at the Christmas fair, help organise the annual PTA quiz, or take on the role of treasurer, the simple act of volunteering is good for your health!
The health benefits
Research by national volunteering charity, TimeBank reported that a quarter of people aged between 35 and 44 found volunteering was beneficial to their health. 'People often say they are surprised that they get a lot more out of volunteering than they put in,' says Helen Walker, chief executive of TimeBank.
Professional development coach, Dorothy Atcheson, agrees: 'Volunteering does wonders for your mind, body and spirit. Especially if you're feeling isolated or out on a limb after a big change - like a redundancy, say, or change of relationship - it's a way to plug yourself in again and get charged up. Sometimes just getting out to meet new people and try new things can help you feel more connected, happy and confident.'
This is backed up by other research listing the social and CV-enhancing benefits of giving up a few hours of your time for a good cause. A survey of 200 of Britain's top businesses by TimeBank found that 73% of employers would employ candidates with volunteering experience more readily than those without and that 94% believed volunteering could enhance skills.
In his book The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks states that there is medical evidence to support the belief that volunteering is beneficial to health, and that giving up a few hours of your time a week for a deserving cause may even strengthen the immune system, speed up the recovery from surgery, and relieve insomnia.
It can help with the day job
And a study recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology even found that volunteering could be good for the day job. Dr Eva Mojza at the University of Konstanz, Germany, studied the psychological effects of volunteer work in a sample of 105 people who worked on average five days a week and volunteered for nearly seven hours during the week.
Dr Mojza found that the amount of time spent on volunteer activities positively related to the amount of psychological detachment from work. She says: 'Volunteering can bring many positive experiences such as the satisfaction of needs that aren't met through work - mastering new skills and relating to people socially, and it also helps people to thoroughly disengage from their work.'
So how can you encourage those parents who are dithering on the fence? Probably the most important thing to remember is simply to keep asking. Most people will only give their time if they are specifically asked to get involved with their school's fundraising efforts. A request for volunteers to man the tombola at the summer barbecue is much more likely to get a response than a woolly request for 'more help needed' to raise funds for the school's new outdoor classroom. Similarly, volunteers to help with the Christmas fair are more likely to come forward if they are told that they will only be expected to help for an hour each, thus spreading the task out fairly.
You should, of course, emphasise the fun to be had behind the used books/bring and buy/cake stall. And volunteers are much more likely to participate in a group if they know someone else involved, so asking friends to run a stall together can double the benefits.
Make it clear that volunteering is about much more than just helping to improve the school's facilities. Other rewards include:
- Seeing families enjoying themselves at events
- Giving your children a reason to feel proud of you
- Becoming more involved in the school
- Getting to know a wider circle of teachers and families
- Plus - children whose parents are involved in their education, perform better academically!
So the next time you need more parents to pitch in to help out with an auction of promises or a car boot sale, it might pay to remind them that it won't just be the school that will benefit!