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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Something for Nothing?

I am sitting here wondering why working for something is called "Volunteering" these days? I always thought volunteering was just that, volunteering. You, doing something for no reason than to help either someone, something or an organization out, just for the kindness of doing it and maybe to make yourself feel good in the process knowing you are doing what you can to make a positive difference in the world.

These days that doesn't seem to be enough any more. Volunteering, in my opinion for many has come to be understood as something different. Oh yes, they call it volunteering but is it? Let's take the recent "Give a day, get a Day" campaign by Disney. You "volunteer" but instead of just feeling good or being happy you made a difference to someone, somewhere you get "rewarded with a ticket to Disney. Isn't that just working for a ticket rather than volunteering?

Another example I heard of recently is a program in which you "volunteer" a certain amount of hours and in return, once again instead of just the satisfaction of "doing good" you get rewarded with a desk top computer, printer accessories and all! Volunteering? I wouldn't call it that. I call it working in exchange for a computer.

Is there anything "wrong" per say with the above scenarios? Not really, as long as both parties know what they are getting in return out of each other and are satisfied. But lets not call it volunteering. Let's call it what it really is which is working for goods, or bartering work for goods.

Here is the definition of volunteer as found via the online Dictionary:
a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay

The above scenarios do NOT fit that definition: willing and without pay, now do they?

I am not against situations as described above, but I am against calling it volunteering, because it's not. These situations are fine in that they enable some people to get luxury type items they may not otherwise be able to afford and in return a business or organization gets some much needed help. The satisfaction and feeling is going to be different though. You will be satisfied you got your Disney ticket or a computer, but you wont have that same feel good feeling inside that you did something just to do it, because it's the right thing to do, or was for an organization you feel strongly about, you will just feel good because you obtained a material possession. It is a whole different kind of feeling and not quite as rewarding.

If you are an organization that offers goods in exchange for work or a person looking to perform a service in exchange for work, great, but please, call it what it is, which is NOT volunteering.

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