I see a lot of blog posts about why you shouldn’t work for free, but I think that society undervalues the volunteer at times. This post isn’t meant to dismiss situations where you should be charging for your time, but rather speak up for the role of the volunteer.
My mum taught me the importance of giving back from an early age. I always joke that my first volunteer experiences were hardly “voluntary” because she was the one signing me up. Now I’m grateful. It used to disappoint her when someone signed up to volunteer and then wouldn’t show up because they felt their commitment wasn’t as binding due to the fact they were an unpaid volunteer. It’s the wrong mindset.
Sometimes getting paid to do something is not possible or not likely. This shouldn’t hold you back. If money isn’t your reason for doing something, it won’t hold you back from helping an important cause, mission or not-for-profit. We should value these chances to help.
Not getting paid extends to more than just charitable work in my mind. Some things we do in life won’t always be about making money. Sometimes, it’s about doing something you love, something you enjoy. The cliché saying we all know is, “there is more to life than money.” Yes, everyone needs to make a living but not everything we do has a dollar amount attached to it.
I’ve also found that getting paid to do something potentially changes expectations both for yourself and the person paying you. When you’re getting paid it can ruin the “fun” element. The person paying you might expect more than when you were a volunteer. Now that you’re suddenly getting paid you could also get fired.
When you’re not following your passion, helping someone who needs you, or feel that you’re being taken advantage of for some reason– then revaluate your situation and ask again if you should still be working for free.
What are your thoughts on getting paid?
I love the concept behind Columbus Gives Back, and try to give them shout outs when possible. If you are a young professional in Columbus who wants to get involved with community service but don’t have a lot of time of time to commit – here is your answer.
The group plans one time volunteer events in various interest areas of community service. After the project the group usually goes out for food or drinks to socialize. It is free to become a member. Join their email list and RSVP online for events you are interested in attending. You can show up to an event anywhere from once a week to once a year, no restrictions or minimum requirements.
Juliana Pernik started the group in March 2009 to use volunteerism to make friends. She refers to it as “volunteering with a social twist.” Juliana works during the day and goes to school at night so I’m not really sure when she finds time for this constantly growing group (another reason I love to help her spread the world and get others involved).
Preparing a meal at the Unverferth House
I’m also a fan of young people using community service to take visible action. Service and philanthropy are themes I want to carry throughout my life, regardless of my career path. I find volunteering empowering (and fun) so sharing that feeling with others is important.
So take the next step. I encourage you to check out the website and consider joining the mailing list (remember no commitment) or become a fan on Facebook. You can also follow them on twitter @cbusgivesback which is how I found out about the group and got involved. The leadership team is always looking for event leaders. This is a great way to work with a cause you are particularly passionate about. Columbus Gives Back is a great opportunity to serve, meet new people while having fun in Columbus. Hopefully I’ll see you at a future event.
cc license, alykat
When meeting someone for the first time you should be able to give them a quick summary of who you are and what you do. Your ‘elevator pitch’ is an approximately thirty second story to tell during a brief elevator ride to a hypothetical top floor. I like to think that I used to have a decent pitch ready to give. It went something like this, “I’m a public relations student who wants to work in the non-profit sector when I graduate. I love meeting people, volunteering, playing tennis, etc.” While all of those things are still true I find that my pitch has been changing lately, or in come cases disappearing.
I’m starting to ask myself where I want to go next. I would still love to work in the non-profit sector one day but I’m starting to see other possibilities. Too many possibilities – that’s my issue. There are a lot of things I could do, careers I could pursue, dreams I could bring to life. How do I explain to others where I am going if I have no idea myself?
Now when I meet new people it feels like I’m rambling off a million different thoughts and ideas. This isn’t exactly an awful problem to have. I’m excited for new possibilities. It’s great to question yourself and reevaluate your goals. I know that I’ll find my pitch again soon. Until then, let’s hope we don’t meet in an elevator.
One of my favorite volunteer projects to organize with Circle K is a “rake and run.” We borrow the school van and drive around Westerville looking for random front yards still covered with leaves. I’ve been told some Circle K clubs rake the leaves when no one is home and then leave a note at the door. We like to ask the homeowners for permission first, but most are extremely grateful for the offer. Typically there is a reason the yard hasn’t been taken care of – perhaps they are elderly, living alone, very busy or have something else holding them back.
Part of the reason I like rake and runs so much is the instant feedback and gratitude from those you are helping. It generates such a genuine response. Let’s face it, how often does someone knock on your door and ask to do a few hours of yard work free of charge? We are not interested in donations, delivering a message or handing out literature. It is just a random act of kindness, helping out a stranger, no strings attached. The women we met this week probably thanked us ten times. There were four of us working and it took about an hour and a half to finish the front yard. Meaning it would have taken this woman living alone at least six hours to finish the job on her own, maybe more.
Another gratifying part of this project is the effect is has on the students volunteering. I took three sophomore with me who have been involved with Circle K since last year. There was a moment where one girl stopped, looked at me, and said, “I’m glad I don’t have to do this alone.” It was really powerful, because I think she realized the impact of her actions on someone else. It was also a great reminder of why we choose to serve others.
You don’t have to be a volunteer extraordinaire to rake leaves. It’s easy, but sometimes a simple good deed can be really meaningful.