It is already the 6th week since I started my DukeEngage journey with Washington Environmental Council (WEC) at Seattle. For the past six weeks, I have been assigned different tasks each week. The tasks can range from basic stuff like entering contact information into the database system of WEC, to setting up a booth at a park and share with the public on our vision of the environment and our stand on environmental issues. Although the tasks were hugely different in nature, each of them, to some extent, involves interaction with current volunteers or potential volunteers.
Volunteers are always very important for the functioning of a non-profit. Since non-profits have insufficient funds to hire enough staffs to carry out everything they hope to do, the ones they can always count on for free are those active volunteers. They can be helping the organization with basic tasks like data-entry or phone bank, or even collaborate with the senior staffs in the non-profits to plan events and organize programs together.
Interacting with so many volunteers of WEC through emails, phone calls and meetings in person gave me a mix of both good and bad experiences. There are volunteers who were active in all sorts of work we wished them to help out, while there are many others agreed to help but were always missing-in-action or finished their tasks with really bad quality. Because of this, I began to ponder upon what it really means to be a volunteer. Why do people want to be volunteers? Why, in the world where many are protesting for higher wages and less work, are there so many people doing work for nothing in return?
Learning to say no to volunteering chances is a good thing, not just because it saves time and efforts for both myself and the organization, but because it reflects your passion and your value. It is a step that will make me understand better what I truly want, where my passion lies, and what I really wish to fight for.
Many of us are devoting our time in volunteering jobs simply because we want to have something special on our resume, or we want to apply for a job or a school which specifically prefers people with volunteering experiences. After bringing too many materialistic factors into it, we are just so blindfolded that we even have no idea what kind of volunteering jobs we are looking for. All we are trying to get is a volunteering opportunity to touch up the resume while ignoring the nature of the role and the kind of devotion and passion needed to be a good volunteer. This kind of mentality causes pain for both us and the organizations we are volunteering for. Volunteering can never be fun and rewarding if we do not put enough efforts in it, and it is never easy if we are not passionate about what we do.
I love to meet two kinds of people when doing volunteer-recruitment. The first group is people actively volunteering simply because they really care about what we want to achieve, and the second are those who gave a clear rejection because they either disagreed with what we do or our passion just failed to align well. What I have learned from it is that if I do not belong to the first group, then just be the second. Learning to say no to volunteering chances is a good thing, not just because it saves time and efforts for both myself and the organization, but because it reflects your passion and your value. It is a step that will make me understand better what I truly want, where my passion lies, and what I really wish to fight for.
Therefore, learn to say no to volunteering opportunities, until you meet the one you truly love.