Last updated on 26 December 2019 at 05:14 pm
Are you one of those people who had the desire to volunteer for a good cause but never got yourself together to do it? Perhaps doubt, hesitation or other factors prevented you from taking the step to make your desire a reality, which really shouldn’t. There is also a possibility that all of these thoughts are caused by you being one of the people who had always wondered;
Does voluntary work even matter?
Voluntary work is not the most lucrative job in the world and the modern-day stereotype is that people chose to be a volunteer worker for selfish motives more than for the actual sake of doing good. It has become a scenario where the main motives for volunteer work are concerning the individuals’ own benefit and that doing good for others is becoming a bonus.
So, does looking out for one’s own benefit in regards to voluntary work impact the importance or effect of volunteer work? Does it really matter?
The simple answer is that it’s on you to decide. What is important for your organisers is that you are committed to the volunteer work you are doing, and show commitment to a cause that matters to them. They are hiring you to do voluntary work because that benefits them and their cause. They wish for the best suitable candidates to benefit their organisation. As long as their wish gets fulfilled – whatever your motives might be, can be considered pretty much acceptable. However, it is known amongst volunteer communities that the best voluntary work is done by people with a passion for what’s at stake.
Whatever motives you have, passion is a keyword for the impact you can potentially create. That’s why it is recommended, even if your motives are self-based, to ensure that you find some voluntary work that you can be passionate about.
Besides passion, another key-factor for voluntary work is ’’commitment’’. Signing up for voluntary work usually means some sort of long-term commitment. Bigger organisations rarely seek out for volunteer workers who can commit for less than 6 months.
The Importance of Organisations
Another factor to note – the organisations. Most voluntary work is organised by NGOs across the world, involving different kinds of volunteer programs. These organisations are in truth the ones that make sure that volunteers are able to create an impact. These different kinds of NGOs are really what can make or break a volunteer worker. The organisational structure, their values, their care and genuineness or lack of the same is what matters to many volunteer workers, putting in an effort through their voluntary work.
The impact created owes a lot to the efforts of the volunteer worker, but the organisations that employ them play an even bigger part. They are the major players who, through showcasing impact measurement results, are able to illustrate the direct impact that volunteers provide through their voluntary work.
What is a Volunteer?
According to dictionary.com, the term ‘volunteering’ itself is defined as the ‘practice of talents for charitable, education and worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community’. The truth is that voluntary work is not a glamorous job, and volunteers are not the highlight of the show. More often than not, volunteers have to spend their time, energy and sometimes their own resources for little to nothing in return. Though some organisations pay their volunteers, it’s still rare to see that happening in the volunteering ecosystem. There are even others who require you to pay a big lump sum fee, just to volunteer.
With all the efforts by volunteers, there are a few cases in which volunteer workers are being taken advantage of. They are required to do a multitude of things on top of their actual volunteer work because they’re seen as free labour. Most volunteer workers are willing to do anything because a lot of them remain passionate about voluntary work, and for young volunteers, they take this opportunity to gain new skills which will benefit them in the future.
The Dark Side Of The Medal
Whilst altruism is used as the main motivation to keep the act of volunteering going, it is not a bad thing at all to keep one motivated. Research done by the Government of India reported that although volunteers enjoy volunteering, they often feel unappreciated. The public, on the other hand, is not aware of the important nature of their work which can be a demotivating factor as well as a barricade in exerting influence to new volunteers.
That is why it is important for an individual who decides to do volunteer work to conduct the necessary research about an organisation its projects. This prevents the likelihood of disappointment, bad experiences or being taken advantage of.
Many want to be volunteers but hesitation gets in the way. Being committed to a long term volunteering program can sometimes be daunting. On the other hand, some volunteering programs expect you to have a very high commitment – not only to the program but also to the organization. Either that or you’re out. At the same time, we also face that struggle in choosing between money vs. meaning.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Volunteers in accordance to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the 2030 Agenda inferred that a supportive environment and opportunities are the fundamental basics needed to properly leverage young volunteers’ potential. This way, voluntary work can benefit the volunteer workers and their volunteering service will become sustainable and benefit the respective societies at large.
In Malaysia, the ability to manage volunteer workers to engage in volunteering efforts is reported as a major challenge for most NGOs. Many organisations find it very difficult to get volunteers to get involved with their programs and workflow without proper training. Additionally, most NGOs need volunteers to form a dedicated group in training new volunteers. It’s ironic, but that’s the truth. Ensuring the sustainability of a programme or project is one of the main reasons why NGOs prefer to accept volunteers who are willing to commit for the long-term rather than a group of short-term volunteers with a high turnover.
In 2012, Malaysia was ranked 76th out of 153 countries in the World Giving Index. A report made by Katharine Gaskin for the Institute for Volunteering Research concluded that most volunteers are looking for appreciative organisations that value their hard work and not feel like they’re being used most of the time because, well, they are free labour.
India Youth’s Policy in 2014 focuses on a framework specifically made to promote youth development through volunteerism as well as creating an ecosystem that will facilitate and enable volunteering. According to the policy, volunteers must be seen as genuine partners in development, who will drive social change rather than just being a service provider.
Being Good Never Goes Out Of Fashion!
Sure, volunteers and voluntary work don’t have the need to be in the spotlight altogether, but everyone likes to be appreciated once in a while. It’s good to feel like we’re not just free labour labelled under the name of ‘volunteerism’. It is good to know that the world needs more of us and that we are benefitting someone. That we can be a voice for the voiceless.
In the meantime, volunteers need to take initiative in finding the right platform to perform volunteer work (here’s more on how you can select the best one to volunteer with). Make sure that the organisation that you volunteer for is legitimate, trustworthy, transparent, verified, and most importantly – a place that allows you to grow your skills. (which is one of the 7 reasons why we might be the one for you)
Now go forth, prepare yourself, and start changing the world one step at a time!
Just in case you need more to get started, check this out:
- 7 Things You Should Know Before Volunteering
- The Best Countries in Asia for Volunteering
- 5 Ways to Volunteer in Malaysia You Should Know
- Top 13 Organisations to Volunteer With in Malaysia
- Best Places to Volunteer in Malaysia with Animals
- Best Places to Volunteer in Malaysia with Environmental Impact
- Discovering Malaysian Culture While Volunteering