Monday 17 May 2021

How do you get people to volunteer?

There is a piece in this morning's paper for "Volunteer Week". With it comes the concern that the number of volunteers is dropping even further than it was before the pandemic.

Now numbers were dropping for a number of reasons. More women are in the workforce and it was women who did things like staff the school canteens and run the Meals on Wheels kitchens.  They also did most of the visiting of the sick, the poor, and the elderly.  Those "traditional"  roles are no longer considered to be as appropriate.  Women who go to work do not have the same amount of time to volunteer.  Nor do they feel the need to get out and socialise with  others because they see people at work. Outside work they are too busy running their households. 

And grandparents have a different role too. They are now the ones - if they are not still at work - who are expected to be child minders. They do the school runs and the sports runs.

There can also be a financial cost involved in volunteering - such as using your own car - and the way people use their money is now rather different.   Not everyone can afford to volunteer in the way they would be asked to volunteer. 

People  are also more mobile. They move not just from one job to another but around the country as well. Volunteering may be a great way of meeting people but if you are only going to be there a couple of years then trying to volunteer can be difficult - unless you are a very outgoing sort of person.

And  volunteering on a regular basis every week is often more than people want or can commit to. 

One of our local charity shops (there are four within a fairly small radius) is a big concern. It is really a social welfare hub in lots of ways. The staff are getting alarmingly old  - some are in their nineties now and most are in their seventies and eighties. They get reluctant help from people who are supposedly doing "community service", from people who are supposedly looking for employment and need something on their employment history, and others who last just a few times before they decide it is not for them. 

I have never been able to volunteer there on a regular basis. I would probably be more of a liability than an asset in some ways but they know they can call on me for certain services - the sort which involve form filling for people who have "left their glasses home" or whose first language is not English. When that happens I know that there will be some sad story - and that, above all else, I need to keep my mouth shut. The Manager might know something but nobody else will.  It might be "useful" but I also know that doing that is not the same as being there all day Monday or Tuesday or whenever every week. That sort of regularity takes real commitment.

One of the problems with asking that sort of commitment is that people rarely get properly thanked. Volunteer Week is supposed to be about thanking volunteers but many will still not be thanked. Of course some people will say a casual "thanks" but others won't even do that. If people aren't thanked then they will cease to help. 


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