Every single day we make choices that demonstrate our priorities in life. It’s a plain truth that we all have the same amount of time in each day. What we decide to do with that time is a tangible proof of where our priorities lie.
Of course, everyone has different priorities and that is where things can get messy. This is particularly true in the area of volunteer organisations.
Volunteering is by necessity lower on the list of priorities than paid work. There are also loads of other activities in a person’s life that clamour for a spot on the list. If you sit down to write out all the different things that are important to you to do in a month, you’d be surprised by how much there is!
So in amongst our exercise regime, our alone time, and our toilet-cleaning time, the volunteer needs to slot in whatever must be done for their organisation. Perhaps there are emails or forms to keep up-to-date. Perhaps there is a program to plan.
There is often a definite time in the week where you do whatever it is you are planning for or emailing about. For some that might be dog-walking, for others it might be hearing children read at the local primary school. For me, it’s leading a group of girls each week at my Girls’ Brigade Company.
So what’s the problem?
Here is the issue that I see crop up with the volunteering situation: not everyone has the same priority level for the organisation which translates to different levels of involvement.
Having less involvement usually suggests it’s a lower priority. Putting a higher priority on the volunteering often means you’ll jump in and get further involved. Crucially, less involvement does not equal less commitment.
This is all well and good in theory. However, you may have noticed that humans are extensively flawed. If we have an opportunity to be prideful, judgmental, or arrogant (pretty much any sin, really) our sinful nature will jump at the chance. In the volunteering world, the big one I see and am guilty of myself is being judgmental.
We had a lovely older lady who was keen to help out in our company. She had other priorities in her life as well that meant she couldn’t be involved at a high level. However, she was absolutely committed to what she could do. She turned up 30 minutes before the end of the program, prepared supper for the girls and then washed up while other leaders packed up their crafts.
For three years, she was there every single week sharing the load with the leaders. The moral of this story is: placing a lower priority on something may mean less involvement but it does not equal less commitment.
Bring on the judgment
In this scenario and hundreds like it, it is especially easy to be judgemental. You can be particularly prone if you have upped the ante. Perhaps you’ve taken on the roles of secretary, treasurer, and president combined. Then you see someone who is “only” showing up faithfully each week, contributing, then going home. In jumps the judgment: they should be doing x, y, and z. I am working so hard and they only fill-in-the-blank.
This is where it swings back to priorities. When everyone has differing priorities, we will see different levels of involvement. And this, I firmly believe, is absolutely okay.
Who wants to volunteer in an organisation where the only way of being a valued contributor is being full-on, 100%, top priority, no questions? Not me! Nothing destroys a group of volunteers’ desire to volunteer than feeling like their help is looked down on because they “aren’t doing enough”.
How easy it is to look at others and judge them for their lack of involvement, not knowing the other priorities they have in their life. This judgmental attitude prevents us from truly appreciating whatever contribution people can make in the volunteering world.
I say now to myself and to all those who volunteer: quit with the judgmental attitude. Learn to value everyone’s contribution, small or big. Make sure people in your organisation know that you are a group that respects people’s priorities. That way we cultivate a group of happy, healthy, committed volunteers, and that, my friends, should be a top priority.
Lucinda volunteers as a Girls Brigade leader who loves seeing girls’ lives transformed by the love of God. She enjoys writing, playing the violin, and baking up a storm.
Lucinda’s previous articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html