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Recently, I read a statisitc noting that six million volunteers are active in American non-profits, and hence contribute 15 million volunteer hours to a variety of endeavors around the country.

Bearing in mind the large numbers of volunteers dedicating time to charitable efforts, one might tend to wonder about how they discovered their particular volunteer niches. Sometimes it may occur through a referral, or through individual persons conducting research to learn about the right opportunities available in their communities.

One resource which I found in my own research, Guidestar, offers information on non-profits through a searchable database of more than 1.5 million organizations- all recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

By simply, providing a zip code, visitors to the site can access organizations of interest to them in proximity to their local area. The database contains contact information where volunteer coordinators can be reached for further inquiry. This process can be helpful in setting a volunteer opportunity into motion. Such a process is ideal for persons who are self-motivated and able to do outreach in their communities. Persons can also request informational interviews with the organization's volunteer administrator, and thereby get a thorough overview of the non-profit and the department needing volunteers. Usually, by investing time in research and in making detailed inquiries, a good match between volunteer and organization can result fairly smoothly.

There are tremendous benefits to be gained by volunteering, both spiritual and emotional. In addition, research has shown some of the physical benefits as well. For example, in a long-term study conducted in 1956 by Dr. Moen involving 1,000 women, all residents of New York, resulted in some insights on how volunteering impacted their physical health.

The women were tracked for three decades by Dr. Moen and his research staff. Dr. Moen later told Prevention Magazine: "Volunteering seemed to make the most impact on their physical health."

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