Making a difference through volunteering
5 December 2013
Volunteer Scotland is here to make a difference through volunteering. Without a beneficiary what’s the point? No beneficiary no difference; no recipient no purpose!
The beneficiary or recipient can be anyone or anything, and if you think about it, we’re all beneficiaries of volunteering. Who is not touched in some way by volunteers?
Where I live there’s a wonderful volunteer environment group who I’ve never met. They make an enormous positive difference to the public landscape with beautiful rock gardens, dykes, flower baskets, art, and horticulture.
Before looking for volunteers we must first describe the need and have a clarity of vision and shared purpose about the beneficiary and how the volunteer can make a difference. Sounds simple, yet we often focus on volunteering as a noun – ie the subject – rather than the verb – as in the action. I believe that the beneficiary is the noun; the subject that gives meaning to our volunteering. Yes, the volunteer is a major beneficiary in the exchange, not least with recent findings that have calculated the monetary value to the volunteer’s well-being as a massive £13,500 a year!
Recently I was very moved by a group of seven young unemployed summer school-leavers talking about volunteering. When asked if they were interested in volunteer radio broadcasting there wasn’t a response until ‘hospital radio’ was mentioned. A charge went through the room, as each spoke about wanting to help patients get better and offer support to friends and families. None of those young people were at that time involved in volunteering, yet all of them were willing and prepared to get involved in hospital radio where it made a difference in the care of people.
It’s the human empathy for others, simple and direct ways of helping to meet a need, and sense of community that is the key for engaging us. Those seven young people instinctively understood this and helped me to realise that truth.