The Selfish Volunteer

David was looking out for me today and sent me a short article on the rise of the selfish volunteer. Volunteers get both intrinsic and extrinsic value out of the act of volunteering. This article focuses on the extrinsic. From the article.

Volunteers are increasingly interested in what they can get out of volunteering, and nonprofits must adapt, a new study says.

…volunteers are looking for concrete returns on their efforts. That may include career experience, a chance to build their skills, or the opportunity to meet people, the study says.

The article also discusses the ever increasing demands on a volunteers time and suggests that

nonprofits should "productise" their volunteer opportunities by packaging and marketing them in a way that attracts today’s busy, discerning volunteers.

That involves packaging opportunities so volunteers are presented with specific tasks that are measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

For me, that last sentence hit the nail on the head. As a volunteer, I get very frustrated when I feel that a lot of time has been spent in meetings, etc. and very little has been achieved. I also think this, in part, explains why volunteers are going their own way. Making their own opportunities. They are in control, the tasks they carry out are created by them and inherently relevant to them.

As for volunteers becoming more selfish? I don’t see a problem with this. I am one of those selfish volunteers. Yes, I get strong intrinsic value out of what I do. In fact, the majority of the value I get is intrinsic. However, what I do also gives me an opportunity to put my education to work and get noticed for my abilities. However, if volunteering only lead to the extrinsic rewards, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. It’s the intrinsic that fuels my motivation, and I have to wonder if this isn’t common for most of us "selfish" volunteers.

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