Type ‘reasons for volunteering’ into Google and thousands of articles instantly appear. Despite the differences in location and sector (business, non-profit, you name it) they all espouse the various reasons why volunteering is good for you, your organization, and your community.
Yet while reading articles written by people living in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia it occurred to me I have yet to find an article from a Winnipegger’s perspective. What motivates us to leave our homes in fifty below weather, battling snow and sleet, to work on pro bono projects? Surely, staying at home and watching the new season of Stranger Things sounds more appealing.
Through our evaluation process we at Spark have gained some insight into why Winnipeggers pass on logging Netflix hours and instead dedicate their time to volunteering. We achieve this by asking a short yet significant question; Why? Why do you chose to volunteer? While many responses echo the articles mentioned above there were others that are truly unique to the individual and to Winnipeg.
So, without any further delay here are the reasons why Winnipeggers volunteer:
TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Winnipeggers contribute their time and expertise to volunteering because they want to build relationships. This can take the form of a newcomer to Canada wanting to “start being connected to [their] new community” or an established local wanting to strengthen relationships in the area in which they live. Either way, Winnipeggers are looking for ways to get out and meet each other.
TO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
Winnipeggers want to learn and volunteering is a great way to gain “access to new and interesting people, to new information and sometimes even new opportunities.” Some volunteers expressed they were new to poverty reduction and social justice issues and volunteered as a way to learn about the issues and get involved. Others, especially those already involved in the work, volunteer to “see how another organization functions, and met interesting people from whom I could learn.”
FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Spark’s projects are focused around the volunteer’s professional skills, which makes professional development and resume building a key reason for volunteering. Some volunteers are new to their field and see pro bono “as an opportunity to have some additional work to include in [their] professional portfolio.” Established professionals, meanwhile, see the opportunity to practice new ways of thinking, and to “flex some brain power that perhaps hasn’t been used over the course of a normal workflow.”
It should also be recognized that it’s not just individuals who understand the professional development benefits of volunteering. Companies are increasingly making efforts to include volunteering programs that focus on the “intentional investment into community projects that will contribute to economic, social, and environmental sustainability” into their corporate mandates because they “feel it’s important to support community groups and foster their essential work.”
TO GIVE BACK
Giving back was the overwhelming response to why Winnipeggers volunteer. It was also the most personal. Some people expressed that their motivation for volunteering is because the work aligns with their values of community, collaboration, kindness, and social justice. For others, recognizing their position of privilege motivates them to volunteer. Finally, others volunteer as a means to pay it forward. They had been participants of these programs in the past and have experienced their value first hand.
We will end this blog with a great volunteer quote. While describing her reason for becoming active in her community she said that she “genuinely believe[s] that if everyone gave a little back to our community then nobody would have to give a LOT- many hands make light work, and it’s important to contribute to our community’s well-being.” Many hands make light work is an old expression, John Haywood wrote it in the sixteenth century, but it still resonates. If Winnipeggers continue to volunteer, work collectively, and find ways to engage everyone’s unique talents and strengthens, then we can tackle these difficult problems and increase Winnipeg’s capacity and well-being.
So thank you to the volunteers out there (Spark’s and beyond)! Your efforts have helped make lighter work.