“Paid for” Volunteer Motivation

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Are you involved with volunteer work along with your regular “paid for” career?  If so, you will know that there are similarities, but also differences, when operating in these two environments.  The general consensus is that because volunteer work is done without financial reward, there is a greater sense of purpose associated with it.  However, there is a significant factor that plays a key and sometimes varying role, and that is motivation.  How this actually plays out might surprise some.

Within career work, one could very quickly point to the obvious motivators such as payment, career progression, status, etc.  Closer consideration might offer a positive work environment, the challenge and job satisfaction.  However you look at these extrinsic and intrinsic drivers, there is also a consequence to not delivering.  Leadership also creates accountability leading to high-levels of contributions.

With volunteer work, people do this for varying reasons and, whatever the motivation, it leads to different levels of commitment.  Additionally, in conflict with this is the constant that everybody is doing it for free, which then becomes a source of frustration because of the disparity of contributions.  Because leadership has minimal leverage in this instance there can be a lot of complaints and this can give rise to low levels of contribution.

The solution lies in avoiding comparisons.  Simply accept that volunteers align their commitment / contribution to their own motivation and then make the necessary choices.  For some this will be a lot of work and for others not so much.  However, rather than viewing this as an anomaly or unfair, simply view it from the perspective that people are making conscious decisions to contribute at their own level, and that’s ok.

Work/Life/Giving Balance

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Most of us are very consumed in our professional and personal lives and, when we consider balance, it is typically thought of relative to only these two elements.  They encompass career, workplace, money, family, health, etc; but they all involve you or people you have a vested interest in; consequently the focus is pretty internal.

balanceAll of this is because nature intended for people to live in a mutually supportive environment.  These communities are typically defined in terms of family, neighborhoods, workplace, friends, etc; all of which have some sort of common link.  At various points in time change occurs (move job or home) and old ones get dismantled and new ones get formed.  But they are always present and self serving.

But what about communities that are external to you?  What connection do you have with them and why should you even be concerned?   Giving is at the core to answering these questions.  As human beings we also have an innate obligation to serve others even when there is no financial or material reward.  This feeds the mind, heart and soul and is about doing things because its the right thing to do.  When you are involved in events that give, they are typically characterized as life changing, gratifying and yet what do you get materially?  Nothing!

In some respects this feels contradictory to the old saying, “the more you give the more you get”.  The subtle difference is however, when you give from a higher level (unconditional), you receive at that level as well (purpose).  Modern society does not place enough emphasis on the value of this both for the individual giving and receiving.  However the most successful and happy people today, not only have balance in Work and Life, but also in Giving.