“In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” (Bertrand Russell)
Volunteering is usually defined with regard to the following three points.
Volunteering is an activity
- undertaken of your own free will,
- undertaken with no remuneration (e.g. unpaid),
- undertaken for the benefit of the community or environment.
For example both “The National Survey of Volunteering 1997” and “Helping Out: A national survey of volunteering and charitable giving” published in 2007 define volunteering as
"any activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone (individuals or groups) other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment" (pages 13-14).
Well, lets look at these three points used for defining volunteering.
We were once told of a man who was on a very crowded train. He was standing nearest the door and whenever the train arrived at a station he would push the button, the door would open and those that wanted to could get off. So ask yourself, was that chap volunteering?
- He was certainly acting of his own free will.
- I heard of no-one offering him any remuneration for his efforts (probably not even a thank you thinking about most commuters!)
- Opening the door for people was clearly helpful to those around him.
What about when you walked your friend’s dog and let it stay at your place while your friend was on holiday? Or babysat for your best friend?
The point is that there is no one easy catch-all definition of volunteering. This means we do not have to restrict ourselves to thinking of one type of opportunity. If more traditional ideas of volunteering do not appeal to you don’t give up on volunteering, give up on that view of volunteering and you will find many more options open up to you.
Check out some experiences of volunteering that might make you think.