Today’s blog post comes from Michael Nealis, Interactive Strategy Coordinator for Points of Light Institute.
Umair Haque writes for the Harvard Business Review, and I’ve been reading his articles for the past year and trying to apply them to volunteering and nonprofit work. He wrote a post about moving away from an innovation-based economy to an economy based in awesome. An awesomeconomy, if you will.
But what does it mean to move from innovation to awesome? He says innovation is a negative form of development; that innovation relies on structured obsolescence and stale ideas in flashier packaging.
Being awesome, on the other hand, is ethical. It gives you the opportunity to create insanely great stuff. Awesome and love—or dedication—walk hand in hand. Awesome creates value. Not by adding features, but by adding meaning and usefulness that makes people better off than when they didn’t have an awesome thing.
Volunteering is pretty awesome.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a volunteering opportunity that doesn’t help to promote some kind of good. Whether it’s working to reduce pollution, helping to end substandard housing, helping people to better understand technology, or working to help students achieve, volunteering helps to support the work of organizations that are trying to address social problems in their communities. I think we can agree that’s a good thing.
Volunteers love the work that they do. They’re dedicated to the causes that they support. Sure, everyone has probably had a bad experience or two volunteering at one point or another, but we either give it another shot or move on to something that better fits our abilities and what we want to do. I know it took me a few tries to find something I love doing, and the warm fuzzies can only get you so far—I know for sure that they’re not enough to get me shingling a roof in Atlanta in August.
Go ahead and ask a volunteer what they do. If they don’t answer the question with where they volunteer, I bet they’ll tell you that they volunteer when they’re done telling you about what they do for their job.
Volunteers create value for the organizations that they serve with. Each year, Independent Sector estimates the value of an hour of volunteer work. In 2009 (the latest estimate available) an hour of volunteer time was valued at $20.85. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2010 Americans gave 8.1 billion hours of service valued at $169 billion. That’s a lot of services that would otherwise have to be purchased. The dollar value reflects services, but volunteers are also the best advocates for an organization and can help to recruit more volunteers to an organization. Volunteers build value on top of value.
Volunteers can add meaning and usefulness to people’s lives. There are a lot of nonprofits that are entirely, or nearly entirely, run by volunteers. These organizations add meaning to the lives of the people they serve by making parts of their lives a little bit easier to deal with. Volunteers, in general, add meaning to their lives too.
Volunteers are powerhouses of awesome. If you don’t believe me, find a place near you to volunteer. Spend some time building a home for someone who couldn’t purchase one on their own, help a student with their homework, code a database for a nonprofit that doesn’t have an IT department.
There are a lot of opportunities for you to find your own kind of awesome by volunteering.
How is the volunteer work you do, or support, awesome? Let me know why you think volunteering is awesome in the comments!