Trade unions, Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Societies and community based organisations, all benefit from the services of volunteers, who dedicate their time, offer their various skills, expertise and talents to advancing the work of the institutions to which they are associated.
The word volunteer by definition means a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.
Volunteering is defined in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, as: “Generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. It is considered as serving the society through one’s own interests, personal skills or learning, which in return produces a feeling of self-worth and respect, instead of money. Volunteering is also famous for skill development, socialisation and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment or for a variety of other reasons”.
Emerging from the definition of the words volunteer and volunteering is the value and significance that is attached to them. At the level of the individual, he or she who offers their services in whatever form, does so for the basic purpose of making a contribution for which no reward, monetary or in kind is associated. On the other hand, the organisation sees the volunteer service as a valuable resource, since it can not afford to pay people to work. This applies to trade unions and other non-profit organisations, which do not have enough financial resources at their disposal to pay staff to do the work that is needed.
It is for this specific purpose that persons are encouraged to volunteer their services. Without the services of volunteers many civil society organisations and community groups would cease to function. In reflection, the rhetorical questions could be asked. What motivates the average person to volunteer his/her services? What are the expectations of those who volunteer their services? Are non-profit organisations attracting the right kinds of people at the level of leadership and management? These are burning questions that warrant answers.
There seems to be a trend which reflects a decline in the number of persons who are readily volunteering their services. In the absence of empirical evidence, this observation might be considered as highly speculative. Based on this there is every good reason why this matter should be flagged for investigation.
The challenge is thrown out to all interested persons to carry out their own investigation. You may wish to start with ascertaining the accuracy of the claim that in many instances, the same individuals are returned to office in non-profit organisations without a challenge. That investigation should also extend to ascertain whether there is any evidence to support a claim that there is a rotation of the same individuals in the offices in some organisations. If this is proven to be to be true, the only positive that can be taken from it all, is that the democratic process is alike, as persons retain the right to contest a position and to be elected.
In further reflection, this cannot be good for our non-profit institutions. The question is what are we doing about it? There are two suggestions which may be considered. Firstly, more attention ought to be paid to educating people of the value attached to the giving voluntary service. Secondly, based on the assumption that some persons will sometimes use their influence to dissuade others who show an interest in volunteering their services, then every effort must be made to weed out those who come to serve in the name of being a volunteer, albeit for the wrong reason(s).
*Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant for Regional Management Services Inc.
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