I volunteer with organization X. (I am going to try my best to keep this fairly generic, as I want to keep working with them, despite my initial misgivings.) When I moved to the city, it was part of my deal with myself — if I was going to pick up and start over again in a new city, then I was going to get involved. Plus I have spare time, and my options for working with organizations that I think are doing good work are plentiful here.
My first … encounter with organization X was not great. Actually, it kind of sucked. But I sucked it up and went back. The second time was OK, and the third time actually went really well — I was working with people who were interesting, smart and whom I didn’t mind working with for four hours.
In my opinion, volunteering is simple: it’s giving of your time, without agenda, for the benefit of others. If there’s a perk in there somewhere for the volunteer, great. If not, it doesn’t matter.
With this organization, the tangible results that are produced by the volunteers are divided, and the volunteers get a portion. Not to mention that there are health perks to being outside doing the volunteer work too. During the first “shift,” the people I was working with seemed to be largely concerned with their share. Not that they were doing good for others in the city, not that they were helping out an organization that wouldn’t exist to the extent it does without volunteers, but their share. What were they going to get out of it?
It really bothered me. At the time, it seemed like it was the majority carrying on the discussion about how much they were going to get; in retrospect, it was probably only two or three people. But still. It reminded me of the lectures that I used to get from my parents, when I was a kid, about sharing and not complaining if someone got more than me.
Personally, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to donate regularly to organizations that I want to support, and until recently, I haven’t had a consistent enough schedule (or the discipline to demand a consistent schedule) where I could regularly offer my time. Now, I do have the time. And an argument could be made that times is just as valuable as money — a volunteer could help cut down the workload of an employee, or attend to tasks that otherwise get shuffled to the bottom of the heap.
I decided to volunteer with this organization because I like the work they’re doing, I like the opportunities they provide to the community (which involves the volunteers) and I like the way they benefit the community. Whatever I get out of it is a perk, and I realize that.
Going further, I think I’m going to try and get the shifts that don’t have a lot of people on them — I don’t like being in big groups of people in any social situation anyways — and I’m hopeful that as the summer continues, the ones who don’t really care will just fall off, leaving more opportunity to work with people who volunteer because they can, and because it’s simply doing good.