Volunteering: What’s in it for Me?

Mar 10, 2022

Sometimes we do certain things without thinking about them, or wondering why we do them. Just that it becomes a habit.
Occasionally, something also goes wrong and that brings the question back into the spotlight.
All too often, habit takes over and the problem that brought the question of “why?” into focus fades away without being resolved. Nothing changes, and it’s only when the same thing happens again, that we say: “Oh yes, I remember that happening before!”
In business, it’s really good practice to know why you do things, because without that single point of clarity, it can be hard to remain focused on what the business does, and how to communicate that to your customers and suppliers.
How many times do you question why something is done, and you get the answer “Because we’ve always done it that way”?
The question of “Why?” in business terms is also well-associated with Simon Sinek, so I’m in good company!
As volunteers in a national youth group, if asked why we do it, the popular mantra is that “we do it for the kids”. That’s a very noble sentiment, but very simplistic; I was convinced that as human beings, we do things because of some reward – many times these are tangible rewards, such as money, gifts, favours, benefits, usually associated with paid work – but in the voluntary and caring sector, the rewards are more subtle and relate to feelings of satisfaction, gratitude, reduction in guilt.
As an engineer, I reasoned that if I understood why I volunteered in the first place, I could be clear to myself and to others, and in the event of knock-backs and disappointments, could make an unemotional judgement on whether that affected my decision.
So I decided to analyse why I volunteered.
I considered what I could bring to the table and how I felt I should benefit or be rewarded, and split into two distinct sections.

As my offer, I want to:

Use my life experiences to help guide young persons through whatever problems and concerns they have.

Use my expertise and experience to help mentor other adult volunteers to make the best and more of what they already know and can do.

Help build up self confidence in others – both adult and youth.

Improve the organisation and its structure to become far more efficient.

Improve communication through the organisation and demonstrate the benefits of that.

Help to improve practical, technical and diagnostic skills across young people and adults.

Instil the sense of respect, honesty and integrity by acting as a role model (to all).

Encourage the application of self-discipline and responsibility.

Apply my leadership skills without them being wilfully undermined.

Use my personal strengths to advantage the organisation.

Add value rather than just my time.

As my reward, I want:

A sense of teamwork – where everyone supports each other and looks after each other.

Acknowledgment that experience that is relevant to the organisation, is not confined to how many years of working in the sponsoring service, but significantly includes life and professional experience.

Inclusion through communication.

Interest in the person as an individual rather than just the rank or role.

To be valued by action, not just through passing terminology.

An understanding from the Chain of Command that they are not there just to “Command”, but also to support and facilitate and not to hinder; Ownership of a task is not absolved when instructions are issued, but when the task is completed and handed back.

I was quite proud of how clear my reasoning became after this, and it makes it really easy to be honest about what I want from this arrangement.

But, as I’ve done this exercise after joining, is this a reasonable expectation?

It is to me!

Let’s see if the organisation agrees.