03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Volunteering to Change the World: Top 15 Reasons People Join

In cities across America, it's the season of the "cause." From charity 10K runs to sumptuous galas, volunteers of all sizes and stripes step forward in the fall to do their part. Chicago's no different. In fact, 1.7 million people volunteer in Chicago, contributing an equivalent of $3.6 million in service hours.

What drives people to pour hours of their precious time into charity work? Turns out it's a mix. Of course there is the desire to improve the world, starting in your own back yard. But if you believe in the merits of enlightened self-interest, and I do, there's a big carrot enticing many people to roll up their sleeves for charity -- a shot at playing a leadership role. In established cities like Chicago, access to power can be hard to crack. Volunteer involvement can presage a political career or open key business contacts.

Here are top 15 reasons people become involved on volunteer boards and committees:

1. To use professional and personal knowledge, skills and talents

2. To develop new knowledge and skills

3. To be involved in purposeful and meaningful work

4. To play an active role in decision-making

5. To help an organization, a program or cause

6. To learn about an organization, program or cause

7. To meet people

8. To gain recognition and skills

9. To have a title or add to a résumé

10. To increase one's profile in the community in order to advance political aspirations

11. To feel useful and needed

12. To contribute to social change

13. To use leisure time productively

14. To have fun

15. To work with people who have similar beliefs, values or interests