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The Tangible Benefits of Volunteering

Recent Research Suggests That Doing Good For Others Ultimately Does Good For You!

UnitedHealth Group, a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people lead healthier lives and making healthcare work better, conducted a compelling study on the benefits of volunteering in 2013. The findings of this research are profound and have significant implications for promoting volunteer opportunities within nonprofit organizations.   In this article, we’ll share some of the major findings from this study. For more information we encourage you to access the original report entitled, Doing Good Is Good For You: 2013 Health And Volunteering Study.


People who volunteer report that they feel better in numerous ways.

Over three-quarters (76%) of people who volunteered in the past twelve months shared with UnitedHealth Group’s researchers that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. Add to that, volunteers are more likely than non-volunteers to consider themselves in excellent or very good health— and they are more likely to say that their health has improved over the last twelve months.

What’s more, there is an even stronger connection between volunteering and mental/emotional health. Specifically, volunteers who were studied had better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being.

It’s true, volunteering makes us feel better. And, while we’re feeling better, we’re also helping all kinds of other people who benefit from our volunteer efforts to feel better too.


Volunteering helps us manage and lower our stress levels.

The health impacts of stress are well documented—physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally. Interestingly, according to UnitedHealth Group researchers, volunteering helps us to manage

survey who volunteered in the past 12 months reported that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life, that they are helping to make their community a better place, and that volunteering helps them learn valuable things about the world and about themselves. Indeed, of the people who volunteered in the last 12 months, 95% say they are helping to make their community a better place and 96% stress. In fact, the majority of people (78%) who volunteered in the past 12 months say that volunteering has lowered their stress levels. Moreover, volunteers are more likely than other U.S. adults overall to report that they felt calm and peaceful most of the time and that they had a lot of energy over the past four weeks.


People who volunteer feel a deeper connection to their communities and to other people.

A core component of good health is to have a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. Almost everyone in the UnitedHealth Group say that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life.


Volunteers are more informed healthcare consumers and are more involved in taking care of their health. 

Remarkably, 80% of the people who volunteered in the past 12 months in the UnitedHealth Group study reported that they feel they have control over their health and their health status. Specifically, the study showed that volunteers, compared to non-volunteers considered themselves more knowledgeable about their health and chronic conditions and that they were more likely to actively seek out information about their health and health status. Last but not least, study participants were also more likely to discuss their health with their doctor more frequently than did non-volunteers and would bring up information they had found in their own personal research with their physicians. As a result, it appears that volunteers are more engaged healthcare consumers and that they make better overall healthcare decisions.


Volunteering helps employers get healthy too. 

From the study’s findings, it appears that employers directly see the benefits of physically and mentally healthier employees who volunteer. But there are larger benefits in play here than just physical health status. To be sure, employees who volunteer also bring more refined job skills to the workplace which provides a significant benefit to their employer. In addition, volunteering improves both interpersonal interaction acumen as well as teamwork skills thus allowing people to work more effectively together. Finally, volunteering with colleagues creates stronger, more collaborative relationships which add value in any and every work setting.


If you weren’t convinced before, this study helps to demonstrate that volunteering stands out as an activity that has all the right stuff. UnitedHealth Group researchers and other business leaders and nonprofit executives have known for a long time that the hours and resources that individuals contribute through volunteer efforts makes our communities better places.

What this research affirms is that there is a lot more: volunteering makes folks feel better as well as more active and engaged in their communities and in their health. The health and wellness benefits that volunteers reap are real and important.

Furthermore, employers play a significant role in enabling volunteering, and enjoy real benefits as a consequence. Healthier, more engaged employees are more productive—and building goodwill has both tangible and intangible rewards.


Patrick Traynor, J.D., is the Executive Director of Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation. In 2004, Pat led the establishment of Impact Foundation and its Institute with the support of Dakota Medical Foundation and Alex Stern Family Foundation. His visionary leadership is guiding North Dakota and western Minnesota to become the most generous and healthy region on the planet.

The Impact Institute equips exceptional leaders to make an extraordinary impact. The Institute provides an annual pathway of tools and trainings that unleash the limitless potential of people to create greater impact for their nonprofit missions. It was founded and is a proud partner with the Dakota Medical Foundation and Alex Stern Family Foundation.

Scott Holdman is the Impact Institute’s Director. He is an innovator in nonprofits who, through training, coaching and product creation helps organizations to thrive. He is a professional creative with 17 years of experience in the social sector solving complex challenges.

Dr. David Hunnicutt is the CEO of David Hunnicutt Int’l. He is a sense-maker, simplifier and the arch-enemy of underperforming cultures. Obsessed with helping leaders create breathtaking change, he is inspired to do cool stuff daily.

Impact FundingLogic™ is a six-segment, revolutionary sense-making system for fundraising that will help you achieve greater results to dramatically impact those you serve.


The content of this article was drawn entirely from a fascinating study conducted by the UnitedHealth Group entitled, “Doing Good Is Good For You: 2013 Health And Volunteering Study.” We are grateful to this organization for their efforts and acknowledge their contributions to advancing the greater good. We encourage you to download the complete report by accessing this link: or you can visit their site by visiting:

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