- by Norm Wilkens
“It is better and SAFER to give than receive.” (From the Bible, Acts 20:35 KJV)
“Volunteerism is vital to the health of our communities and our lives.” (Author unknown)
Recently, several articles on the topics of Volunteerism and “giving to charity” have appeared in print. A number of these articles mention that women are more likely than men to volunteer. A 2006 report on volunteerism by the Corporation for National and Community Service supports this assertion. The 2006 report was part of an annual U.S. Census Bureau study of 60,000 households covering the giving habits and patterns for volunteering in each region and state.
As the study points out, females volunteer at higher rates than males in every state. Interestingly, women with children younger than 18 volunteer at a rate of 39.9%; whereas, women without children are at 29.0%. Women who work volunteer at 36.1% while non-workers are at 27.2%. Men and women who are in the age group 35-54 are more likely to give of their time, talent, and treasure than older individuals. None of these figures surprise me because I have seen this trend taking place on a first hand basis for some time. Moreover, I respect and understand what these statistics represent.
These US Census numbers, however, got me thinking about my own activities in the area of volunteering and giving to charities -- particularly the subject of volunteering that has been a significant part of my personal and business life for many years. Initially, I believed it was important to be a part of activities in which I knew others and in which I had some personal interest. This type of commitment began at an early age in high school and continued into my university life. It was fun to belong to a group with mutual aspirations. And, to be honest, and a bit selfish, I also hoped that volunteering would gain me the respect of my peers and the public recognition that were important in those younger years.
As time has gone by and my activities and accomplishments in the business world have broadened, my reasons for volunteering have changed dramatically. Now I am being asked to volunteer because I have something to give to the association and to achieve some of my personal goals and satisfaction.
For example, I find it gratifying to mentor younger people; to lend my expertise to fundraising, and to participate in manual activities at charitable group sessions. Yet, I have found there is a strong element of safety involved in many of the programs in which I find myself presently active.
Most organizations today want volunteers who are willing to put their talents as well as their reputations on the line. That wasn’t always the case in the past. Many organizations were looking for “names” that could be added to their roster list to increase awareness and their reputation in the community. Although those goals are still significant, the need for those who will dig in and work for the organization is now just as important as the big name that person may be bringing to the group.
Coaching Little League Teams, participating in church activities, and attending non-profit social groups of all kinds are as important today as they ever were. I can assure you that volunteers are desperately needed to fill those programs, and they are expected to work. However, there is a risk in being a volunteer.
The climate in most volunteer groups is the need for people who will actively lend their expertise and be willing to go on the line and stand behind their opinions and decisions. Board of Directors Insurance is not just a fine print in board requirements anymore. It is essentially there because it may be needed in emergency situations. If you are willing to work hard and protect the mission of the organization you represent, you will find many groups will seek your assistance.
Today, among others, I enjoy working with Butler University (Indianapolis, IN) as Chair of the Board of Visitors for the new Communications College. Also, I engage in the monthly church activities in which I am called upon to use my skills as a public speaker, and you will often find me making presentations on marketing, advertising, and public relations to all types of groups, associations, and organizations. These activities are enjoyable because I have the opportunity to utilize my skills developed over many years. I take the responsibilities for these gatherings and others in which I am engaged very seriously.
Volunteerism springs from a passion of the heart as well as the mind. To succeed as a volunteer in any situation, you must truly care about another’s well being. Plus, I believe it leads to a safer America.