Volunteering empowers, activates, builds, communicates

CDSckppWMAAvCDsA fabulous quote by Elisabeth Kisakye, of Mozambique and a VSO volunteer (seen in the photo at left):

“Volunteering empowers people to move from being passive recipients to active beneficiaries.”

She said this at the United Nations April joint session of the Financing for Development (FfD) process and the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

I love this statement because it is the TRUE value of volunteers. Are you listening, Independent Sector, Corporation for National Service, governments and corporations? The true value of volunteers is NOT a monetary amount for hours served!

Maybe a more accurate statement would be:

“Volunteering can empower people to move from being passive recipients to active beneficiaries. Volunteering can engage the community, create more dialogue with those a program is meant to serve, promote transparency in decision-making, and create ownership in a program’s goals.”

Oh, I could go on and on…

Two things make volunteer engagement oh-so-different than mere human resources management: Volunteers are unpaid, and volunteer engagement is a program. I will never understand why managers of volunteers aren’t sitting in on every program meeting, and charged to find ways that volunteer engagement can be fully integrated into the mission of an organization. Instead, too many organizations treat managers of volunteers as human resources managers: finding people to do unpaid work so that the organization can save money by not hiring a consultant or employee. Too many managers of volunteers have a primary priority of finding free labor, period. And primarily valuing volunteers by a monetary value for their time served reinforces this horribly outdated way of thinking about reason to involve volunteers.

Elisabeth Kisakye understands this. Why don’t others?

Note: The “post-2015” talk is regarding the soon-to-expire Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which set targets for halving extreme poverty rates, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, promoting gender equality and empowering women, providing universal primary education, and more, all by 2015. People are tweeting about the ongoing discussions with the tags #post2015 , #action2015 S and .

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