Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We can make a difference...

Why volunteer?
Last evening, a few of my ‘long-time’ volunteer friends were upset by another few volunteers who only do things that benefit themselves. I told them it’s ok. People volunteer for many reasons, especially wanting to help others, but it's also ok to want some benefits for ourselves from volunteering. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others, but this does not exclude other motivations, as well.

Instead of considering volunteering as something we do for people who are not as fortunate as ourselves, begin to think of it as an exchange.

Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. Today I may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow I may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. Volunteering also includes "self-help." A very good example: if you are active in your neighborhood crime watch, your home is protected while you protect your neighbors' homes too. Adding your effort to the work of others makes everyone's lives better.

What are our Motivations?
Thus we decided to sit down and think about how much we receive when we give and consider why we want to volunteer. All of us have several different reasons, and this lead us to also identify many of the possible motivations:
· to feel needed
· to share a skill
· to get to know a community
· to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
· to do your civic duty
· satisfaction from accomplishment
· to keep busy
· for recognition
· to donate your professional skills
· to have an impact
· to learn something new
· for freedom of schedule
· to help a friend or relative
· for escape
· out of guilt
· to be challenged
· to feel proud
· to make new friends
· to explore a career
· to help someone
· as therapy
· to do something different from your job
· for fun!
· for religious reasons
· to earn academic credit (for students only)

Some of us may have some other special reasons, however, the motivations that made us select the place to offer our services may not be the reasons why we stay.

As long as we’re on the volunteer job, we will continue to serve as long as we feel that our efforts are accomplishing something, that our talents are appreciated, and that we make a difference. And if we also like the people with whom we work with, so much the better!

As long as we are truly serving through our volunteer work, isn't it wonderful that such an exchange occurs? In fact, it tends to strengthen our commitment to volunteering when we can see the benefits to both the recipient of our efforts and to ourselves. And it is much more comfortable than "charity" because it upholds the self-esteem of those with whom we volunteer.
"If you don't believe you can make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito."
Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

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