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Volunteer Syndrome - Part One
How many times have you heard a person referred to as "just a volunteer" as though "Justa" were a first name?
This is based on the completely false assumption that by the very nature of being a volunteer you won't deliver work to the same standard as a paid employee. Relying on employees instead of volunteers does not guarantee quality. Assuming that a volunteer will never deliver on time or achieve excellence is a myth. We’ve all worked with or employed enough people to know how easy it is to find bad employees.
You get what you pay for
We often hear that "you get what you pay for" as a reason not to rely on volunteers. That's hogwash and assumes that payment can only ever be in the form of something you can exchange for groceries at the store.
All volunteers are paid!
Payment is the receiving of a benefit in exchange for the work that you have done. That benefit does not have to be in the form of a wage. As a volunteer you receive innumerable benefits - training, experience, new skills, friendship, recognition, self-worth and so much more.
Just a volunteer
Ironically all too often we change the name our parents gave us to "Justa" ourselves. We do this as an easy excuse for not doing what we have volunteered to do to the best of our abilities. It is too easy to fake lack of knowledge than to figure out a solution to a problem. It is too easy to fake lack of time than to complete the task at hand. It is too easy to leave it to another team member when you can easily do it yourself.
This is not the failure of the volunteer it is a failure of the leadership. Leaders must ensure that all volunteers feel they are the "most valuable" assets within the organisation. With suitable leadership, management and recognition no one is "just a volunteer".
When a volunteer fails it is a failure not of the individual but of the leader. By ensuring that every volunteer feels that their contributions are valued you encourage even greater commitment.
When you allow a volunteer to use the word "just" as a qualifier to what they do they are not only making a negative statement about themselves but also about your organisation.
When you instill a sense of pride in a volunteer and when they see their contribution rewarded with recognition you create a positive attitude. This will translate into the most important thing of all - excellence.
Volunteer is not a dirty word
Don't think of your "volunteering" as something you do for others. Think of it as an exchange. You are exchanging a skill or some time with others. Volunteering is not a chore it is, and must be, something that you enjoy. Something that gives you a sense of achievement and a feeling that you are making a difference. Something that you enjoy and look forward to.
Don't allow yourself to be “just a volunteer”. Don't refer to others as “just a volunteer”. Don't use being “just a volunteer” as an excuse.