Thursday, 5 June 2014

Why volunteers volunteer

Written by Claire Chapman, Information and Membership Officer, One East Midlands

Volunteers Week, taking place from Sunday 1st to Saturday 7th June, is a great time to consider why volunteers volunteer, and as a volunteer myself I know there are many reasons volunteers do so.

Outside of my role as Information & Communications Officer for One East Midlands, I have two voluntary roles, one volunteering in a charity shop and the other as a trustee of a local charity, and for me volunteering is about giving something back to the community and supporting causes I believe in.

However at the shop especially the reason people volunteer varies considerably, including adding it to their CV or UCAS form, keep them busy during periods of unemployment or retirement, doing it as part of a University of Edinburgh Award, meeting new friends and potential other halves, just because they’ve being doing it for years, or for the same reason I do.

Most volunteers will start volunteering with one of these reasons for doing so in mind, but what they won’t anticipate is another great reason, which I will call “the buzz”.

The buzz is that reason for volunteering that is unplanned for but makes you feel all warm and fuzzy whilst volunteering. It can come unexpectedly but will come. Here are some examples of when I’ve had “the buzz” whilst volunteering in the shop:

  • When you make a customer’s day by finding them a get a great bargain or just providing a friendly face;
  • When you receive a massive donation, especially if you get the donor to sign up for gift aid at the same time;
  • When you train up a fellow volunteer;
  • When something you’ve chosen to sell through the website or display in the shop sells faster than you could have imagined;
  • When customers keep coming back during your shift just because they know you’ll be there and be able to help them;
  • When you know how much has been taken through the till during the time you’ll been volunteering and what a difference it will make to the charity;
  • And many, many more!

Everyone who volunteers will have their own buzzes but will pretty much always keep them to their selves.

Now working in VCS communications I know the benefit of spreading the word, so when I’m volunteering I will happily tell anyone who inquiries in the shop about volunteering or who is doing their first shift how great it is and nine times out of 10 they’ll keep volunteering.

So this volunteering week, why not encourage your volunteers to do the same or what about asking for their buzzes and use these to create a buzz about volunteering with your organisation.

And a final thing to do this volunteering week, sign up for our monthly volunteering e-bulletin here for all the latest volunteering news, events and opportunities of interest to VCS organisations in the East Midlands.

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