Of course, this is not to belittle the gift of time volunteers give to society. In fact, itâ€™s completely the opposite. By understanding what motivates people to volunteer and the rewards they receive, it means we can not only better meet the needs of existing volunteers but also understand why people donâ€™t volunteer.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I was chatting with a volunteer, who had a story that is familiar to many of us. He had been volunteering for a local organisation for about four years. For the first three years, he thoroughly enjoyed it and got a tremendous sense of satisfaction from it. But in the last 12 months heâ€™d been increasingly suffering from â€˜volunteer burn-outâ€™, to the extent now that every time he volunteers it is a chore. He gets that â€˜Monday morningâ€™ feeling. He now wishes, heâ€™d never started.Â Â
Why doesnâ€™t he just stop? Because he feels guilty about letting people down. The one time he suggested he might leave, he was told he was irreplaceable. It was meant to be a compliment but it just added to the burden on his shoulders.Â
His story made me re-think my thoughts on altruistic volunteering. For here was a person who, thanks to not being managed well, no longer got any benefits or rewards; no satisfaction, no enjoyment, no personal fulfilment. He was truly volunteering with absolutely no regard for himself.
So it made me consider whether altruistic volunteering does in fact exist, but only, perversely, where bad volunteer management removes any benefit for the volunteer?