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Advantages and Disadvantages of Volunteering

Updated on October 18, 2019
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When it comes to running a modern business, you might wonder how you can fill in every role that you need. A business, even a small one, has many functions that it has to deal with. That means that you might be left without the ability to carry out certain tasks if someone is off sick with illness, injury, or any other kind of reason.

That is why, for many business owners, turning to the art of volunteerism might be worth looking at and pursuing further. Whether you are a professional looking for work, or a business looking to make the most of your resources, volunteerism is a very interesting – but often controversial – idea.

What is volunteerism?

Volunteerism is something that many businesses have started to use to their advantage, as well as many professionals. Regardless of where you offer it or why you offer/ask for it, volunteerism remains the same. It means that you invest your time, services, and skills into doing something for the benefit of someone, or something, instead of just financial gain.

Volunteerism in the employment industry is all about finding the right tools and methodologies to ensure that employees who volunteer are given all the opportunities possible to succeed. Many times, you could be giving someone something like extra time off during the year for volunteering, or even other things like bringing together your team to volunteer to help out a local charity.

Now, the problem that you have is this: some companies downright hate the idea of using volunteerism. They see it as immoral. Others use it because they feel the long-term benefits reputationally. As a professional, you might not be sure if you should be using volunteerism as part of your work portfolio. Should you really be doing jobs without getting paid money for it?

Does a feelgood factor pay for the food that you need? Nope.

So, what are the good and bad sides to volunteering?

The Advantages of Volunteerism?

The idea of volunteerism is often one that can carry a few unique positives. If you are uncertain bout whether or not this is ‘for you’, consider the following. It might help you to see that, more often than not, volunteerism isn’t the boogieman that so many make it out to be.

Improve skills variety

A good part of being involved in volunteerism is that you, or your staff, can get a whole new host of skills out of it. That can be useful for diversifying skills, as volunteers are often trained to do the intended role.

Make new contacts

Whether it’s for your own business or for your employer, volunteerism allows new contacts to be made. Funnily enough, doing something for free for someone makes them more likely to want to get in tough with you again in the future.

So, a bit of volunteer work today could lead to some lucrative contracts down the line. Whether it’s because they recommend you or because they hire you outright, this gives you/your company the chance to build and grow. By meeting new people, you improve your chances of thriving in the long-term by securing your positive reputation.

Forge a new reputation

A good benefit of volunteerism is that you get to build a better reputation for you/your company. By helping out with a local charity drive, or even local business, you can start to show yourself as someone/a company who cares. That is so important, and it should allow you to contribute to the local area where you/your team are based.

Volunteerism allows you to build up a much greater reputation as being a person/company who does more to help out locally. It means that, next time someone is choosing a new employee/company to hire, they’ll remember you!

Open up new opportunities

From a purely employment perspective, volunteerism can allow you to eventually land a role or a contract doing what you have volunteered for. It will show the person you volunteered with/for that you can do what they need, and that they can rely upon you to step up to the plate and do the job that you had intended.

With that in mind, then, it’s easy to see why volunteerism is a good choice for a lot of people. Managed correctly and done through the right people, volunteerism is a very powerful tool indeed.

Form better bonds

When working or operating a business in a local community, your reputation is everything. With the help of volunteerism, you can help those in the local area who are down on their luck and need some assistance. That helps you to make a big difference locally, and it will mean that you have made a difference to the lives of many locals. That is a huge positive and is sure to help build-up and boost your reputation.

Locals are naturally more likely to use a company/hire a professional who went above and beyond to help out someone who they know or trust. It helps to enhance our reputation, forming better bonds with the local area. In time, that could be hugely beneficial to you/your business!

The Disadvantages of Volunteerism

However, while all of the above is often true, volunteerism does come with a few rather interesting drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the major disadvantages that can come from taking part in a volunteerism program when you either cannot afford it, or cannot make it work.

Risking injury

One major downside to volunteerism is that you could put yourself under needless physical pressure. Yes, it might feel good to go about cleaning out the local pools for the children to start using again in the summer. What, though, if you manage to get hurt?

  • Can you justify losing X weeks or working time, with no insurance, just to say you helped out with a local charity drive?
  • It might look and feel good to say you done X or Y for a local community project. Is it really going to feel good with a broken arm, though? Take that into account.
  • Many people forget just how easy it is for a project to get out of hand and to no longer be the thing you signed up for.
  • If the tools and conditions aren’t safe enough to volunteer without concern, you should really think twice.

Working overtime

Remember that while volunteering is good, for you as a employer or as an employee, volunteering still required a lot of energy. So, you cannot, for example, volunteer over the whole weekend, and then go back to work on 9AM on Monday as refreshed as you normally would be. Essentially, you are working double shifts and more hours per week than you should.

This will have problems coming up all the time. Either you or your staff will no longer have the energy to do the job as intended, or you will find it hard to keep productivity high. When you/everyone else is burning the candle at both ends, it will mean taking a hit to productivity. This could have issues with keeping customers and clients happy, and/or protecting your own personal and professional well-being.

Volunteerism sounds great, but the excess demands could force you into damaging situations.

Sometimes, it’s not needed

Another downside to volunteerism is that you can often be asking people to chip in for things they may not have to. For example, getting all of your staff to do an evening stint down at local charity stores and food banks might seem like a chivalrous task. And it is, in many ways. But keep in mind that these companies need to train up volunteers. That costs them money. Are you really helping out when you/your staff are volunteering? Or is the output you provide actually less than the cost of the training?

Volunteering sounds cool, but sometimes we can volunteer in the wrong places, at the wrong time. Whether it’s you who is setting up volunteer schemes, or you are taking part in one, it pays good money to actually work out how needed the volunteer scheme actually is. Work that out, and it’s much easier to achieve success in the long-term.

So, what should you do?

Frankly, this is a question that nobody can answer for you. Only you have an idea of how happy you are to do something for free. Whether you are a business owner wondering about the ethics of volunteerism, or a service provider/employee wondering whether or not you should take on an offer to volunteer, the choice is something that only you can make.

Do not allow anyone to force you, one way or another, into taking a particular stance or choice on the matter. It comes down only to what you can afford or what is possible for you to achieve.

For example, as a small freelancer, should you really be forcing yourself into poverty or near-poverty just to feel good?

As an employee, should you really be racking up countless hours for another few days off per year?

As an employer, can you justifiably ask your staff to volunteer without pushing them to a breaking point?

It’s not something that is answerable with a simple yes or not. The solution? Take a look at your personal and professional circumstances. Where does cash-free jobs fit in?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Harry Sheen


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