What Does It Mean to Volunteer?

As a consultant I learned years ago that work is a feast or famine proposition.  The hardest part of moving out of a corporate job was learning to live with the ups and downs.  I found though that being a volunteer allows me to remain engaged all the time because I can volunteer more hours when I’m in between consulting work.

Volunteers are needed in just about every venue of interest and can sometimes be a great way to do what you love if you just happen to have a job that pays the bills but is not necessarily the work that makes you sing.  I love to cook for big groups, and although I don’t have the professional background to cook in a restaurant, I do have the ability to prepare meals for large groups at my church.  It is a lot of work, but the satisfied looks on their faces is enough for me.

But what does it mean to volunteer?  It means giving your time and talents to a cause for no monetary compensation.  Rewards for your time and talents must come from the work and/or the outcomes.  It should always be a win-win for both you and the organization you are working with.

I preface all this up front to show my support for volunteering and for the best use of volunteering talent.  Because corporations are now creating volunteer groups to avoid paying salaries.  This is not honorable or ethical, and yet it is gaining traction.

Once such health care organization in my community has hundreds of volunteers performing thousands of hours of service a week for free.  This organization is using a volunteer program to provide numerous services, taking credit for community service and saving a ton of money in salary and benefits annually.  Because if they couldn’t get volunteers, they would have to hire people as employees to perform the work.  It is a sham and a shameful part of their business.

There is a time and place for volunteer work, and there is a time and place for paid compensation for work.  The more the lines get crossed, the fewer volunteers will be available for real volunteer work.


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