Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Threat Within

In my opinion there is an emerging voice within our sector that is using the “pure volunteering” tag as a weapon to push ahead with their own archaic views. This body of people believe that volunteering is a natural instinct embedded in all of us to serve and support others. It is anathema to them to suggest that people may not volunteer for altruistic reasons. The reality of change scares them. They perpetuate the “woe is me” culture in the third sector. They fail to grasp innovation because it may mean change and they are more comfortable being snug in their old cocoons. They do not believe that “Volunteer Management” is a profession. They believe that “pure” volunteering doesn’t require leadership or management.

In calling a spade a spade I believe this group are the biggest threat to the volunteering sector because their ilk pervades the volunteering community, our national conference on volunteering and our peak bodies. They are responsible for not having Volunteer Management on our national conference agenda. They give succour to the anti volunteer movement who may reject the notion of volunteering due to white Christian religious connotations and servitude. This won’t bother them as they would not even be aware of an anti volunteer movement for their vision is so narrow. They sit on high thrones casting aspersions on those of us who believe that volunteering is more dynamic, more diverse and more all encompassing than ever before. Their traditional model is threatened. People are volunteering for all sorts of reasons and not just to do good to make themselves feel better or to secure a ticket to celestial bliss! Dare I suggest that there may be some people who don’t use the title of volunteering to describe their voluntary activity due to some negative connotations and perceptions associated with the word itself - perceptions formed due partially to these “purists” within the sector who are blind to the damage that they may be causing.

And they are a threat. Because if they remain unchallenged then our sector will continue to haemorrhage and bleed the visionaries that can lead volunteering to a more dynamic future; a future where volunteering is more effective, a future where more people volunteer and a future where volunteering attains the “wow” factor and loses the “goody two shoes” factor.

Doesn’t the volunteering sector deserve to attract the best talent and the best minds? Why, because its volunteering does it have to be lesser somewhat? Why, because it’s volunteering, does it have to be poorer? Why, because it’s volunteering, does it have to have less value?

In my eyes, volunteerism is a dynamic cutting edge force that comes in many shapes and forms. It is not owned by anyone. It exists outside of the tradition paradigm and as I suggested, perhaps under different names because of the negative perceptions perpetrated by those who claim to know and own volunteering!

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