Throughout the history of mankind, volunteering for community development has been the norm when it comes to the greater good. No one can pinpoint where volunteering started. We all know that there are “forced volunteers” where people were made to work without any compensation (also known as slavery). However, there are instances where volunteerism in its purest form and definition was present in all societies and civilizations.
In early pre-historic hunter-gatherer societies, some men and women went out on a perilous journey to hunt. In contrast, the others volunteered to stay to tend to their mini nomadic tribe. In early Roman society, their greatest armies were not drafted — they were all made up of volunteers from their conquered citizenry. Volunteering was seen as a noble effort to help better their community and, consequently, their country. Volunteerism was often expected of those with high integrity and intense love for country/nationalism.
Volunteerism is facing a new challenge in the digital age and the year of the pandemic. For example, volunteers in the United Kingdom organized themselves into a group that helped people through the pandemic. While a lot of them volunteered in organized groups, a lot more did not sign up and only volunteered informally. 35% of volunteer organizations in the United Kingdom experienced a decrease in their volunteers in 2020. It may be perused that the decrease can be attributed to the pandemic. However, the problem still stands.
What are the latest trends in volunteering? Should we be alarmed?
Lack of Organizational Positions
In most organized volunteer organizations, all volunteers must start at the bottom no matter how much they are an expert at something. Because most volunteer organizations call for volunteers as plainly as they can, organizational positions are not needed. The supposed interest in the voluntary act is presumed to be out of the goodness of their hearts.
People are slow to rise in the hierarchy of a volunteer group. Just like in school organizations, volunteer organizations value tenure over expertise. Volunteer organizations usually lack their own leader. Because of the many faces volunteer organizations front with, no one leader will lead the organization in the best and optimal direction. This trend can affect the way people perceive volunteering in these organizations.
Burnout of Personnel
Voluntary personnel can also get burnt out. Like how people get burnt out of working daily, volunteers can also get burnt out of doing volunteer work. We have to remember that most volunteers are front liners and witnesses to the worst problems of society. We have volunteers regarding the environment, social work, animal conservation, women’s rights, and disabled sports.
Daycare is fun when done in small doses. However, handling troubled children all the time can be draining. Sometimes, because of poor management, organizations may ask too much of their volunteers without even realizing it. Burnout is usual and unfortunate for volunteers. Not spacing volunteer work out can spell doom for the organizations longing for volunteers.
Lack of Education and Guidance
Guidance from those experienced with the work is not expected from experienced volunteers and senior organization members. Usually, there is no formal training when it comes to volunteer work. Usually, the volunteers go to the area and just be instructed on what to do. Volunteerism has become so deliberately futile because of how desensitized volunteer organizations have become.
The turnover rate for volunteers is so high that volunteer organizations do not waste too much time training newer volunteers. Volunteers must remember that the act of volunteering, while purely out of kindness, also requires commitment. Absent the commitment, it would be a mundane task that people do on the weekends.
Lack of Resources
Lastly, volunteer organizations are generally getting less and less every year. Most of the biggest donations come during the holidays. People are more giving during the holidays and amidst all the merriment. Unfortunately, most of these donations run out during the ordinary months of the year. They have to spread their budget out thin to meet the upkeep of their organization. Organizations struggle during the off months throughout the year. Like businesses, they also need some capital to support themselves and their assets used for voluntary purposes.
Volunteerism is slowly dying in America. Year in and year out, fewer and fewer people are volunteering for different meaningful causes. There are a lot of problems plaguing the various efforts, but there are recurring themes. People must work together to change the corrupted idea of people that volunteerism is not worth it. It should be spread that volunteerism is still essential, especially during trying times.