Why Bother Volunteering

W.I.I.F.M.? (What's in it for me?)

Why do something different from your daily life?:


   Frank and Carol with Emilio, their Little Brother from Big    
   Brothers Big Sisters


Emilio programing his phone number into Frank's phone. It was easier than trying to teach Frank how to program it.


A Parable might answer this question:

There were two lumberjacks in the far north woods. Everyone was gathered for the big contest. The contestants were about the same size and weight. The bets were fast and furious. The odds were even. The contest began. They chopped away furiously in different sections of the forest. At the end of 10 hours, the judges were stunned at the difference in the size of the piles of wood. One man was totally spent. The man with the largest pile of wood was ready to celebrate. It was clear that he still had energy to burn. The loser graciously shook his hand and asked his secret. The winner said, “Every hour, I stopped, sat down and sharpened my ax.”

The question is simple: What are you doing to sharpen your ax? If you are always with engineers or teachers or other mothers, would you like to spend time with people who are doctors or lawyers or perhaps gang members? If you spend your life around people who were born within ten years of you, what would you get out of expanding the generational ghetto you currently inhabit? Perhaps you live and work in a five mile radius. Volunteering can take place within that radius or half a world away.

Volunteering is not easy. It can be frustrating, challenging and at times even heartbreaking. If you choose wisely, you will be a sharper, wiser, more invigorated person.

My friend and colleague Susan Ellis at Energize Inc. created a marvelous list of some of the reasons why people volunteer that she observed during her 40+ years in the field of volunteerism. I have added a few to Susan's core list:

  • To feel needed
  • To share skills
  • For a change of pace
  • To get to know a new community or neighborhood
  • To help someone
  • Because a family member or friend pressured them
  • To gain leadership skills
  • To get a change from being a leader
  • To get an opportunity to lead
  • To act out a fantasy
  • To do their civic duty
  • To earn academic credit
  • To be with people who are different than themselves
  • To keep busy
  • The agency is geographically accessible
  • To do something with a friend or family member
  • To learn the truth
  • To do one’s share
  • To see that resources are well allocated
  • For recognition
  • To make new friends
  • To explore a career
  • Parenthood
  • To demonstrate commitment to a cause or belief
  • To help a family member
  • As therapy
  • To do something different than their daily job
  • For fun!!!
  • For religious reasons
  • To keep skills alive
  • To repay a debt
  • To donate professional skills
  • As a family tradition
  • To be challenged
  • To be able to criticize without personal jeopardy
  • Because there is no one else to do it
  • To get the meals, transportation, or other benefits
  • To assure progress
  • To protect clients from an institution
  • To feel good
  • To have an impact
  • Because their boss expects it
  • To be part of a team
  • To learn something new
  • To be an advocate
  • To gain status
  • To get out of the house
  • For freedom of schedule
  • Because they were asked
  • Because of who did the asking
  • To test themselves
  • As an excuse to do something they love
  • For escape
  • To become an “insider”
  • To be an agent of change
  • Because of their personal experience with a cause or problem
  • Guilt
  • Because of interest in or concern for the particular client group
  • To gain access to services for themselves
  • To experiment with new ways of doing something
  • As an alternative to giving money
  • To be a watchdog
  • To feel proud
  • To stand up and be counted
  • Because your company required it
  • To find friendship
  • To find love

I need Carol to