Volunteering is commonly understood as the practice of people working on behalf of others without being motivated by financial or material gain
No material or financial gain? Then what is it that makes us do it? What are the deciding factors in making a commitment to invest our time, energy, ideas?
I’ve asked a lot of people this question recently. Some reasons I’ve uncovered include: sense of obligation, the need to make a difference, karmic investment, frustration with the current efforts, do your part, meet new people, to ease the guilt about being privileged , to impress people, because it is fun, because it’s a moral obligation, to join in the excitement, be a positive influence, develop new talents, grow from the experience, learn and serve, personal satisfaction, support a cause, be part of a team, pass along wisdom, preserve the environment, raise awareness, share your vision or help the less fortunate.
Apparently, there are a myriad of payoffs to be gained from volunteering.
At one point in our lives, I’m sure most of us will volunteer in support of a cause, organisation or event. It’s most likely that we are doing volunteering close to home for small, but worthy causes. It doesn’t have to be big to count. Sally Koch states “Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.”
I’ve been on volunteer boards doing fundraising, marketing, membership drives, event planning for food banks, chambers of commerce, sports and social clubs in both Canada and here In Australia. I started my volunteering practice about the time I realized just how many organizations relied solely on the philanthropic efforts of others. So much of our world is reliant on the generosity of volunteers, those with huge hearts who devote their skills, their ideas, their efforts and their time to making a difference in their communities.
“The best way to do good to ourselves is to do it to others: the right way to gather is to scatter” – Seneca
Some give a great portion of their discretionary time to their pet causes, some devote their lives, some generously support a multitude of causes, issues, organizations and sadly there are some who don’t experience the heart healing feeling that comes from the world of volunteering.
If you’re a volunteer, this column is devoted to you. Stand up, reach around and give yourself a great big pat on the back. You’ve earned it. The world is a better place because you choose to give of yourself. If you’ve been thinking about adding your support to another cause that means something to you, I challenge you to do it. Of course, I would never suggest you do something that I wasn’t prepared to do. I’m walking the talk (perhaps literally) as I have just added Sydney’s Golden Retriever Rescue to my own list. (Anyone have room in their hearts and homes for a golden?)
For those of you who may need a little inspiration to get started, perhaps you’ll find it in this lovely YouTube video on volunteering at
Or in the inspirational words of the English religious leader John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”
Personally, I’ve found that one of the surest ways to move forward is to give back.
Do you volunteer? For what causes? What motivates you to do it?