Volunteerism – and other free stuff

It’s county fair time, raspberry picking time, haying time and maybe time to rant.

Hay bales in neighbor's field - it's a late first crop this year.
Hay bales in neighbor’s field – it’s a late first crop this year.

A rant about volunteerism

Time, money, expertise – all the things so many people have so little of, but yet when it’s volunteered it gets devalued. Well maybe not the money, except think of it, free money gets spent in frivolous ways (ie. the big win, the birthday cash, the bonus go to things that are not really needed most of the time – the actions speak ‘this money isn’t as valuable/important as other earned money’).

Why is that? Why must there be an equal price to make something worthwhile? It makes no sense actually and it’s stupid. The value is in there, whether it’s paid for with the traditional exchange of cash or not. Someone has paid for it, has accumulated it, has done the time, done the gather.

This devaluing is why volunteers quit and why programs that are brilliant but free disappear.

So what to do? Because without volunteers/philanthropy so many community things fall apart – there just isn’t the money, time or expertise.

If to be valued there must be a cost, then recipients must pay some cost before they get any benefits. It doesn’t have to be money, but it does need to be of value to the recipients, some initial cost to get their attention and volunteers who are offering up their part need to get something they value too.

The big money people/corporations have this in place for themselves – favors, deductions, power, publicity and legacies. But the backbone of the volunteer workforce gets, pretty much, nothing for their efforts. Oh maybe new friendships, maybe good feelings, karma, charitable deductions for money or goods donated and a small amount for volunteer mileage and maybe a volunteer dinner that mostly you have to sit through. Or maybe just a lot of work that no one seems to appreciate and often doesn’t show up even though they were so enthused originally (of course they weren’t doing the work and so they didn’t have a clue). And then they never find out, never gain the offered knowledge … ah well, may they suffer later.

I despise people who say they will do something and then don’t without even an explanation. It’s so thoughtless, so rude, so hypocritical, such a lie and a bad example. I assume they make promises to themselves all the time and break them, because if you can’t keep  your word to someone else it’s got to be even harder to keep it for yourself when no one else knows what you’ve agreed to.

And maybe, stupid, this is all about values set by an arbitrary price. Over my life I’ve been paid $0 to over $100/hour for the same expertise — arbitrary isn’t it. And the further away I came from the more of an expert I seemed to become, downright silly isn’t it. Just think how much my abilities and knowledge would be worth if I came from a big city instead of up-north rural Wisconsin (you think I’m joking, think again).

The results of this rant haven’t made being a volunteer more appealing to me, in fact I’m thinking of always putting a price on things, always creating hoops, never assuming that others have any idea of what’s being offered – usually they don’t know the difference between an off-the-cuff opinion and researched answers/experience. Grr, this trying to change the world stuff is irritating.

Can’t give it away? Charge for it and be happier.


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