Revised with new information as of June 24, 2013

 
Jayne Cravens: As a Volunteer

 
Many people know me as a volunteer manager and adviser and trainer on volunteer engagement issues. But I am also a volunteer myself.

Why do I volunteer? I guess I'm a typical Gen Xer in that regard: I don't volunteer primarily out of a sense of duty to my country, nor because I think I have to, or nor because I think it's "nice"; I volunteer to make a difference in the causes I believe in, and for what I personally and professional gain out of doing so.

Some of my volunteer activities were undertaken simply because someone asked me , and I liked the idea of being associated with the particular organization or activity. And for some I thought, after being asked: hey, this will look great on my CV. Some volunteering activities I sought out specifically, because the organization is one I am a fan of, or because there was a particular type of volunteering activity I wanted to do. Note: these are the organizations I got to volunteer with; I often had to apply to dozens of organizations, often through VolunteerMatch, before I found one that would write back!

I believe that there is nothing wrong with any motivation to volunteer, as long as the motivation isn't something destructive and the volunteer always puts the mission of the organization first when engaging in his or her activities (and priorities regarding, say, CV development, second). I think it's important to remember that different people volunteer for very different reasons, and to respect and appreciate these differences -- and even to leverage these differences for the benefit of the organization. I do not believe that saying you want to help because the activity will look good on your CV or because you need the class credit means you give up the right to being called a volunteer.

What has kept me volunteering longer term for some organizations?

Here is a selected list of my advisory board experience, pro bono work, and other volunteer contributions to various organizations:

Me and my VERA from BPEACE In November 2010, I received a VERA (Volunteer Excellence Recognition Award) from Business Council for Peace (BPEACE), a USA-based nonprofit that recruits business professionals to help entrepreneurs in countries emerging from war, like Rwanda and Afghanistan, to create and expand businesses and employment (particularly for women). I received the award as recognition for my online volunteering work with BPEACE. I then posted a photo of myself holding the award online, posted it to my Facebook page, to my blog, etc. So in addition to making me feel a part of BPEACE and feeling appreciated for my contributions, I got to help further build excitement for an organization I care about.

And in addition to that fabulous trophy pictured at left, I also got the fabulous DOSTI soccer ball pictured here as a thank you (made by women in Afghanistan - women that received support from other BPEACE volunteers!)

You can also read a long list of causes I actively support as a volunteer or donor.

Did I volunteer as a child? Indeed! As a teenager, I stuffed envelopes for St. Anthony's Hospice in Henderson, Kentucky and helped in the radiology department as a candy striper for what was then Henderson Community Methodist Hospital. Also as a teen volunteer, I escorted kids from Henderson, Kentucky participating in the Kentucky State Special Olympics in Bowling Green. As a pre-teen (way back in the 70s), I was a Junior Girl Scout (and before that, a brownie) but, sadly, my troops never engaged in volunteering activities.

If you have read this page in its entirety, then here's a fun tidbit for you: my volunteering, and attempts at volunteering, have lead to a LOT of blog posts. A LOT. You can find a list here of all of the blog posts these experiences inspired, through 2012. Many of the blogs are about, or inspired, by my own negative experiences with volunteering. What you won't see as you read these blog posts is the name of the organization I'm talking about. I've done my best to keep out information that would immediately identify organizations to a reader. All of the organizations I volunteer with are informed that I blog, but they either don't read my blogs or don't realize I'm talking about them in these blog posts. All organizations I volunteer with are informed in a conversation or email communication regarding any negative experience I have; it is often their lack of response that leads to a blog. Only one organization I've volunteered for has written to ask if any of these blogs were about them, and I was so happy to tell them, no, not at ALL - of course it's one of the organizations that does such a great job of supporting volunteers that would worry a volunteer wasn't happy, while those that do a poor job probably haven't even read these blogs! I'm not at all trying to be passive-aggressive; I'm trying, as a consultant and trainer, to give real-world examples to help those that work with volunteers or those charged with communications for their agency to do the best, most responsive job they can.

 
 Return to my volunteer-related resources


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