Growing backlash against volunteerism?

I first learned of people being against volunteerism back in 1997, when a three-day bipartisan presidential summit aimed at boosting volunteerism and community service efforts across the USA kicked off in Philadelphia.  I was directing the Virtual Volunteering Project at the time. There were arguments from both the far-right and the far-left, and I did my best to compile them. When I would bring up these arguments at various volunteerism conferences or on online groups, my colleagues usually just scoffed – it’s just extremists, it’s not something we need to worry about. 

Since then, I’ve kept an eye on these arguments against volunteerism, because I feel strongly that the arguments must be addressed. Organizations recruiting volunteers need to have these arguments in mind when they are crafting recruitment messages and when they are talking about the value of volunteers. When organizations ignore these arguments against volunteerism, or deny them, they end up with dysfunctional volunteer engagement programs, lack of support for volunteer engagement and, sometimes, very pad PR.

This came to mind over the weekend when I saw this comment in a friend’s Facebook feed:

I’d rather find the means of capitalization and pay people to do the work at hand than to bother with the volunteer work ethic or ability. I was never more personally insulted than as the president of the board of my church.

If you are talking about volunteer involvement as a way to save money, and volunteer contributions in terms of monetary value, then you are part of the problem – you are creating the fuel for these political arguments against volunteerism. And if you are not asking volunteers why they are leaving your organization, and addressing those reasons, you are creating ex-volunteers who are sharing their views with friends and colleagues and further creating a bad image not just for your organization, but for volunteering as a whole.

My other blogs and web pages on this controversy:

Note that the links within some blogs may not work, as I moved all of my blogs from Posterous to WordPress a few months ago, and it broke all of the internal links. Also, some web pages on other organization’s sites have moved since I linked to such, and I either don’t know or haven’t been able to find a new location for the material.

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