The Value of Choice in Volunteering

Timing, they say, is everything. Some timing, like it being the 40th manifestation of National Volunteers Week in 2024 (June 3rd to 9th) is cyclical, comes around annually and surprises nobody. Other timing, like General Election campaigns, are thrust on us by considerations of electoral advantage. And thus two of my personal hinterlands are thrust centre-stage at the same time. What a time to be alive as the saying goes.

National Volunteers Week is normally planned in advance, themes agreed, publicity and promotion settles within a broad confine, as someone with a past in political organisation I can categorically tell you General Elections are thrown together on the hoof, “events dear boy, events” can make irrelevant the most professional gant chart. Timing wise we will have both the Volunteering sector’s annual week of celebration and the NCVO manifesto for the sector and consequently National Volunteering Week will no doubt attract candidates to the sector like a moth to a light. In that exchange I hope they all, across the spectrum, come to understand the real meaning of the term Volunteer. The value not just to the organisation taking on the volunteer but to society as a whole. To also understand how much volunteers, do to lessen the load on the state and local government. Such an appreciation of the reality of Volunteering will go a long way to ensuring that those who are our representatives in Parliament, across all parties, understand the value of choosing where and when to volunteer?

We at Volunteering Kingston work to give prospective volunteers a range of opportunities, to reflect what individuals need. We also work with Volunteer Involving Organisations to attract the skills Volunteers can bring to the table. In those activities the core philosophy for giving time and skills freely and with a mutual respect between volunteer and VIO. The volunteer experience is the glue that keeps attracting individuals to experience their own contribution and Volunteering Kingston is proud to articulate that.

Times change, what was true for volunteering and volunteers over four years ago, never mind sixty-four years ago, no longer applies. In 2024 micro-volunteering is prevalent, people juggle their life’s in a flexible manner and want the same options when it comes to their service to the local community. They value their time as priceless and that is a seismic development that VIO’s have to face and adapt to. Most have done so admirably and whilst it is true some might yearn for nostalgic approaches it is clear the relationship between volunteers and VIO’s has changed permanently and for the better. Choice is King and that is the right approach for the world as we presently find it.

We celebrate volunteers to reflect their contribution and sacrifice. All persons who have contributed over the years did so voluntary and with free will. Over the years, our Justice System and Employment Services have been directed to blur the lines but those activities are around the fringe of the Voluntary Sector. Activity, whether environmental, social or practical, embedded in the community you live in, is at its most effective when it is given willingly, when it is or feels like an obligation it loses its value to both the participator and those receiving the contribution. Once you blur that line with perceived mandatory elements not only do you undermine the volunteer experience you could actually discourage voluntary contributions from those who might otherwise step up.

For Forty years, the core element within the celebration that is National Volunteers Week is that of appreciation. The 2024 version should make sure it continues that regardless of what may be coming around the corner in our interesting times. The very essence of volunteering is the virtuous circle of giving, receiving and facilitating positive change. Nothing, particularly during our celebratory week, can change that. The value of choice in volunteering and the value of volunteers in general is for life, not just for annual National Volunteer Weeks or five year cycles of democracy.

Have a great National Volunteers Week 2024.

Michael Green. Project Manager, Volunteering Kingston

If you’re interested in beginning your volunteering journey this week, take a look at our volunteers page or browse roles on our Team Kinetic website.

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