If you work in volunteering it is, to some degree, expected that you do some volunteering yourself. If you don’t it’s kind of like being a barista but never drinking coffee.
Anyway, and without wanting to perpetuate the myth that people simply don’t have the time to be volunteers these days, I simply don’t have the time to be a volunteer. Or, to be more accurate, I don’t have the time to be what I’ve frustratingly heard called a “proper volunteer”, that person who gives hours a week, week in week out, to their chosen cause.
But, BUT! in my defence, and sticking with the labels, I am an episodic volunteer (as many of us increasingly are) as I have volunteered for organisations in the past, helped out at various somethings-or-others where needed and volunteered at a variety of events.
Nevertheless, I decided that I wanted to do a bit more and so looked into how I could have a more regular volunteering experience that I could commit to with the confidence that I would have the time to fulfil my duties.
I had wanted to be involved with a charity for some time and took care to find one where my voice would be heard, where I could contribute something useful and where I knew my values were reflected. TimeBank is that charity.
I’ve been a Trustee for about a year now and genuinely love the experience. The Board is a fascinating mix of Trustees from various backgrounds and our work in helping to steer TimeBank and support our amazing CEO is teaching me new perspectives and proving useful in my day job, previously as the volunteering lead for a government agency and currently as Head of Volunteering for a major charity.
This Volunteers' Week I would urge anyone who thinks they don’t have time to be a volunteer to think again. Volunteering doesn’t have to be something you do every day, week or even month. Also, volunteering isn’t a purely altruistic act – I can assure you that you will get something out of it too. Getting involved with a cause or organisation that you care about is incredibly rewarding – not just for the people you are supporting but for yourself. Personally, I have gained knowledge, increased my confidence and honed skills. Deciding to support a cause for whatever reason that is – to meet people, gain experiences, learn skills, give something back – is the first step, then it’s about making sure that the time you give fits in with your life. As modern life becomes busier and more chaotic, it might seem like people have less time to “give” but episodic volunteering needs to be embraced. Volunteers' Week is a great time for organisations that use volunteers to reflect on whether they welcome and support episodic volunteers like me.
So to answer my own question, “Is a Trustee a proper volunteer?”- very much so!
Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK – and it’s taking place from 1-12 June 2016.