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The rewards of giving your time
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (All day)

Canadians are a giving bunch: in 2013, 44% of us volunteered our time. That’s a drop of three percentage points since 2010, but the amount of time donated annually to volunteer activities – nearly two billion hours – hasn’t changed.

There are many great reasons to contribute your time to causes and organizations you care about, including better physical, mental and emotional health. In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, researchers found that 78% of respondents think that volunteering lowers their stress levels, and 94% said it helps to improve their mood. Nearly everyone (96%) felt that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.

Another interesting stat: nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said that volunteering has helped with their career. The survey results don’t elaborate, but I’ve seen this happen in the freelancing world. As solo practitioners, we tend to work in isolation a good deal of the time. And while we can rely on marketing and cold-calling to find new clients, the reality is that many opportunities are never advertised, and people doing the hiring often ask their contacts for recommendations rather than take a chance on an unknown.

Of course, we volunteer for altruistic reasons, but in the process, we can grow personally and professionally. I’m a long-term volunteer with a couple of organizations, and through those experiences, I’ve met plenty of people, made new friends, learned new skills and tried new things. I’ve gotten to know my fellow volunteers by working alongside them towards common goals, such as organizing events or producing a publication. It’s an informal, low-pressure kind of networking that I really enjoy.

Because of these relationships, I’ve been hired for freelance work, I’ve hired other writers, and I’ve recommended fellow writers for other opportunities. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed home and watched Netflix!

Volunteer opportunities are endless, as a quick visit to Charity Village or Volunteer Canada will show. Pick something that speaks to you, makes use of your skills and fits your schedule. If you want to give back to the writing community, there are many organizations to choose from. PWAC members, consider contributing your time to Toronto Chapter – all of our seminars, events, outreach and communications are done entirely by volunteers. Contact me to find out how you can help make our 2015-16 year the best yet!

Jaclyn Law is president of PWAC Toronto Chapter. In 2014, she was the recipient of PWAC’s Ontario Regional Volunteer Award.

- Jaclyn Law

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