10 Bad Reasons to Become a Volunteer or Why Selfishness Has No Place in Volunteering


prideMy intent is not blame people for bad intentions when they volunteer but to have people think about why they volunteer and change their perspective on what they are doing. While too many people are volunteering for the wrong reasons if we think about and reevaluate our reasons we can become better volunteers

Here are  10 bad reasons to become a volunteer

1. To show how good a person I am.
2. To practice my leadership skills
3. To add skills to my CV (resume)
4. Because the volunteers I have seen aren’t doing a good Job
5. Because it is my civic duty to volunteer
6. Because all my friends do
7. Because it makes me a better person
8. Because my faith says I have to
9. Because the court said I have to do community service
10. Because my Mom or Dad did.

While many of the bad reasons to volunteer above look like really good reasons to volunteer a good number of them will make you a bad volunteer.

Volunteering is all about commitment to service and as you can see many of the reasons above are totally unrelated to commitment.

Let’s look at each one individually.

1. To show how good a person I am.

This is a reason that we all use but don’t admit to. No one wants to be seen as an unconcerned person and volunteering, whether it be with a charity or with a church or faith group, is one way to show how concerned and how kind we are. The problem here is charity or service is best done to benefit the community and the reward should be how you feel after doing it. You don’t need anyone to tell you that you did something good. You should feel that inside, and that is your reward. This is true of many of the 10 ten reason above. If you are volunteering to benefit you, you are volunteering for the wrong reason. This does not mean you should stop but you should adjust your thinking and make your volunteering for others first. Try doing something for others and keep your name out of the outcome. Work for a soup kitchen but ask the organization not to publish your name as a volunteer and when they say thank-you say “No, thank you” because your reward should be the feeling you get from knowing you did something good.

If you can’t volunteer without wanting people to know about it you are being selfish. Sure if you get known for your work in the community that is fine and no crime, but if that is your reason you are doing it for the wrong reason. Selfishness has no place in volunteering. You should volunteer because you know it is right to do so not for any expectation of reward, even if the reward is recognition. More often than not when I get a citation or an award I feel I don’t deserve it. People tell me this is the wring response but sorry they are wrong this is exactly how you should feel. Why because there are always better people out there. There are always more things you can do and my reward should be knowing I did my best to do the right thing not the plaque on the wall or the pin or the certificate.  I did not know my Uncle Vern was a Cub scout leader until his name appeared in the Scouting life magazine obituaries.  I also did not know that he stayed on as a Cub leader when his kids were well into their 30s and 40s. That is the way to volunteer, to do it with advertising it to do it just because it is the right thing to do.

2. To practice my leadership skills

While there is nothing wrong with taking a leadership role in an organization and it is important that people that have natural leadership tendencies will put them to good use this should not be your reason to volunteer. Why? Because most volunteer groups work as a team. The best volunteer organizations are democratic in nature. The best attitude to come into volunteering is how can I contribute to the group. Again to come in assuming that you will take control as you are a natural leader is a mistake. Most volunteer organizations will recognise natural leadership and you very well might be promoted to a leadership role but if you don’t then to get upset is another selfish response. If you don’t feel your leadership abilities are being used then you have the right to leave, and if you think that you should be the one in charge you need to consider that you might again be volunteering for selfish reasons and as I mentioned selfishness has no place in volunteering.

3. To add skills to my CV (resume)

I won’t spend a lot of time on this because again it is related to what I have just said. Volunteering does ad skills to your CV and yes I list some of my volunteering on my CV. However this is a benefit of volunteering and definitely should never be the reason you volunteer. I had one cub scout that never sewed his badges on his sash but he had them all. I also had another that kept trying to get me to give him new badges that he hadn’t quite earned. The one I respected was the one that didn’t find the badges themselves important but put out the effort to earn them.

4.Because the volunteers I have seen aren’t doing a good Job

This actually can be a good reason to volunteer BUT it depends on the person using it. Arrogance is a deadly sin in volunteering. Remember that for every volunteer you criticise there will be 10 people like you ready to criticise your volunteer work. That said each and every person that volunteers even for bad reasons like we have been talking about here is better than those that won’t volunteer for selfish reasons. In volunteering you must respect the volunteers you work with or those that came before if you don’t then you need to remember there will be people just like you looking back at the “Bad Job” you did. Respect is crucial in volunteering.

5. Because it is my civic duty to volunteer

This one I disagree with fully there should be no civic duty to volunteer. Why because if your heart isn’t in it if you are doing it because you are told you must you might as well be a machine programmed to do good. Volunteering must be done because you WANT to do it not because you feel you must do it. I know I have to tend my yard to mow the lawn pull the weeds this will keep the neighbours from complaining. That said If I want my neighbourhood to look good I will go one step farther I will pull the weeds mow the lawn plant flowers paint the fence and sweep the walk. Duty only takes you so far it is a desire to make things better that makes you exceed your capabilities.

6. Because all my friends do

The simple answer to this one is that riding on the good intentions of your friends is just wrong. While it is nice to socialise as a volunteer this is a benefit of volunteering not a reason to volunteer. Sure go ahead but also keep in mind that in order to be a good volunteer you need to go beyond just doing it because your friends are. I have seen to many people quit a group once their friends leave and to me this just shows that you really did not care about the organization you were volunteering for.

7. Because it makes me a better person

This is true but again it is a reward not a reason. I keep saying this but volunteering should be to benefit others not our selves.

8. Because my faith says I have to

Most faiths have some edict that compels the faithful to do acts of kindness. The problem is the rule should not be the reason. In the Christian faith one of the highest callings is to act selflessly like Christ. To give everything with out expectation of reward. In this faith the reason to volunteer or to give to the poor and help others is because you are to become like Christ to be selfless. The reason you should do as your faith tells you is because you believe in it because you know that helping others is right, not simply because you are told to.

9. Because the court said I have to do community service

First of all people call this volunteering I don’t , and people in this situation are actually not volunteers and can drag down a volunteer group. This is something I have always disagreed with while I think some people benefit from being forced to do community service in general it is a waste of time. The Lions Club I volunteered for had one good and on bad experience with community service kids. One kid that had to do community service was just a bad kid he was not sorry for what he did he did the bare minimum of work and in the end came back one night and robbed the place. The other kid we had felt sorry for what he did (stole his moms car) he did a good job and I hired him for other jobs. The thing is community service does not make a bad kid a good kid it just stops good kids from getting worse. Most times by the time kids or adults get to the point of being given community service, to a large degree they are beyond the point were it will actually help them.

10. Because my Mom or Dad did.

This one sounds good but if you are doing volunteer work because you believe in the values of community service that your parents did then fine, but if is to please them then you are missing what they tried to teach you.

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13 thoughts on “10 Bad Reasons to Become a Volunteer or Why Selfishness Has No Place in Volunteering

  1. Pingback: What Some People Google | ENVISION

  2. Extensively. I am a volunteer with Scouts Canada the Ottawa Jazz Festival. I have volunteered with Lions International, The Learning Disabilities Association of Ottawa Carleton, The Leos Club I have worked with several Churches on volunteer Projects. At work I am a regular volunteer with the workplace Charitable campaign. I have volunteer with United Way initiatives and a couple community involvement groups.While yes some of these bad reasons above could be reasons to volunteer the primary purpose of a volunteer should be based on selflessness and for the most part these reasons are based on the self not the desire to help others. If some of these reasons apply but your primary reason is to help others good for you but if your primary reason is to help yourself as much as others then you need to think again. Note the Ayn Rand school of thought is definitely not a good place to begin. (if you know what I mean)

      • I try not to be hypocritical but being human some of the bad reasons influence you even if you are not doing it consciously. It is interesting however that the first person that commented here has volunteered in ways I don’t have the courage to, exposing a degree of my lack of selflessness. (see his link) So compared to peterdowney1989 yes I am a bit hypocritical.

  3. Not that I should find this odd but those that seem to think selfish motives are good reasons to volunteer are generally offended by this post. They also seem to be offensive in their responses, So I have deleted the insults as they don’t debate they simply insult. If there was even one iota of debate included with them I would have left them up but the last one simply stated “you’re an idiot” .

    This and a number of other recent changes in our society have given me some concern. So I have created an alternate blog to explain my beliefs in regards to selflessness. Why my faith has lead me to believe that the primary goal of a Christian is a commitment to selflessness.

    Enjoy – http://envisioninglife.wordpress.com/

  4. Pingback: 10 Bad Reasons to Become a Volunteer or Why Selfishness Has No Place in Volunteering | Striving for Selflessness

  5. I think if you want to do community service you can and that will count as credit and if you do not want to do it you need to study harder. So it is your option if you want to do it.

  6. Pingback: Five Ways To Motivate and Keep Campaign Volunteers | The Win Equation

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