Friday, March 20, 2009

Wonder Girl's Secret

The "volunteer extraordinaire," mentioned in an earlier post, still hadn't figured out that she was the example being discussed until I surprised her this week. She possesses the typical trait of a dedicated volunteer: humility. Because I studied the motivators and behaviors of volunteers for a master's thesis, I'm always impressed by the infinite hours of unpaid labor that improve the projects I've worked on. Many have involved school activities, and others have been related to different children's causes. The benefits of volunteering can be garnered in any genre, from education, to animals, health care, or the environment. Those who take advice from volunteers such as Wonder Girl can make a difference.

What motivates us to become involved in a cause outside of home or work, where there is no direct personal benefit? Data from a recent study suggests such intangibles as these:
  1. A sense of belonging to a larger entity
  2. A desire to affiliate with like-minded individuals
  3. Improved self-esteem
  4. Making friends
H. Bussell & D. Forbes (2002, August), Understanding the volunteer market: the what, where, who and why of volunteering. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 7(3), 238-244.

Even though at first glance volunteers might seem to be those who have extra time on their hands, the most passionate volunteers are usually the busiest people in other areas of life as well. The desire and opportunity to do good provides a sense of accomplishment not found in their salaried jobs. Wonder Girl is typical of many committed volunteers in that she has a very advanced degree in a highly specialized field. (Remember, I can't give away her identity!) The ability to participate on a volunteer project provides an additional creative outlet not found at home or work; there is usually more camaraderie and collaboration involved in these efforts. When questioned recently, this "volunteer extraordinaire" shared the personal benefits she has gained from doing good:
  1. Working with other adults in a professional setting
  2. Meeting people and making friends
  3. Improvement of interpersonal skills.
Given all of the rewards of volunteering, it's impossible to imagine why anyone wouldn't want to give it a try. This is a hurried and complicated world, but volunteering helps us to slow down and remember what is truly important. The great thing about unpaid labor is that you can sign up for as much or as little as you want; but watch out, the happiness derived from volunteering is highly addictive, as Wonder Girl and others can attest!

No comments: