As anyone who has ever given time to a good cause knows, the rewards of volunteering are intangible. By definition, the point is to make the world a better place without expecting payment in return.
See also: Find a volunteer opportunity near you.
Without expecting payment, yes, but a coincidental perk here and there doesn't hurt. If your budget is extra tight (and even if it isn't), it makes sense to get some extras when you're giving your time instead of your money.
Here are six great volunteer opportunities with benefits that enrich your life while you enrich the lives of others.
1. Help out at a hospital. Most hospitals rely on large volunteer staffs to keep things running smoothly. They need helpers to cheer up the sick, hold newborn babies or run the gift shop. Those volunteer opportunities offer satisfaction on their own, but many hospitals sweeten the deal.
Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, for example, offers volunteers free access to its fitness center and medical library, health screenings, educational seminars and parking — not to mention a meal in the cafeteria for each shift. Other common volunteer perks at hospitals include flu shots and discounts at local businesses.
Cash value: Variable
Time: As little as an hour a week
Tip: Hospitals screen volunteers more stringently than most organizations; expect a detailed application, a TB test and training time.
Info: Call the volunteer coordinator at your local hospital, or browse online for your hospital's name plus the word "volunteer."
2. Chaperone trips for adults with special needs. Exploring the world expands horizons, boosts self-confidence and forges meaningful new friendships. That's as true for you as for adults with special needs. Serving as a chaperone on tours and trips doubles as a free working vacation.
There may not be many groups that arrange such outings, but here are two that do:
- With the New York nonprofit group Sprout, teams of three leaders escort 11 adults with mild-to-moderate mental disabilities on excursions — day trips around New York or even a week in Hawaii.
- In the Pacific Northwest, Trips Inc. has a similar arrangement for many vacation choices, including cruises, city adventures and nature outings.
Cash value: Variable
Time: One day to one week per trip
Tip: Although the goal is fun for everyone, chaperones are on call 24 hours a day.