Week 8: Our Chair’s Weekly Blog – Volunteering

As you may have gathered from my previous weekly blogs, volunteering has taken up a lot of my time over the last 12 years (although in truth I had also done a lot before that when I was working full time).

So why do I do it? Why do people do it generally? What is the motivation and purpose behind it? And why choose one particular form of volunteering over another?

I mentioned in a previous article some largely negative reasons why, in hindsight, I may have got more involved: guilt, jealousy, an arrogant rejection of my previous paid working lifestyle, to name a few. On reflection, these are not good primary reasons to become a volunteer!

Our time in this world is the most precious commodity we have. Once we finish full time education, most of us end up being drawn into the world of paid work whilst others take up other roles (care of children or other family members at different stages of our life being the obvious one).

Our economy and that of all countries in the world is driven by the need to earn income to support ourselves and any other responsibilities we pick up along the way.  The so called ‘protestant’ work ethic was (perhaps unconsciously) drummed into me when I was younger and has remained with me since. Over the centuries different cultures have adopted different approaches to the relative importance of ‘work’ in terms of achieving personal goals and what Maslow called ‘self-actualization’.

Of course, the nature of many jobs has changed over time, with the development of technology and demographic shifts. Some people, thanks to their education and/or personal circumstances, have more choices on what sort of paid employment they secure. I suspect few people can say honestly that there haven’t been periods when they’ve wondered if they’ve made the right choice. Some people act on it, looking for something more lucrative or enjoyable. Others stick with it hoping it will get better or embracing the security it brings.

When it comes to volunteering, carrying out a role for no financial reward, there is arguably, much more flexibility deciding whether to stick or twist. Indeed, why do it at all?  This is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot in recent months. The circumstances in which people volunteer are really, quite important. Younger people, often on unpaid internships, are usually looking for a stepping stone to paid employment in a chosen field and see it as a way of moving on. Others who are more financially secure or who have fully retired, may see it as a way of giving back, occupying their time more fruitfully or just making new connections and friendships.

I think it is always important to ask these questions whether you are recruiting or taking a volunteer role yourself. At the WCA/ Wimblecomm, we regularly challenge ourselves as to whether we are doing the right thing with our time and the charity. As explained in a previous blog we felt we could carry on the mission of what the charity stood for, through the website and occasional in-person events.

I’ll come back to the connection with the legacy of the organisation and its purpose in the community another time. Anyone involved with a charity as a trustee or volunteer, giving up their time to a cause, needs to believe in its aims and the wider social impact of the organisation, although achieving a little love and respect along the way also helps towards those wider personal goals!

There are times, like others, when I have questioned whether my time and efforts could have been better channelled into something else, but I can’t change the past so we deal with the here and now.  I’ll develop on that next time and what else I’d like to see us do with this fine old institution.

In the meantime, we’re very pleased to announce the recruitment of our new Communications Administrator, Natalie Romero, following the recent advert. You can read more about Natalie here.

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