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Shared volunteers – threat or possibility?

In the blog series Vapaaehtoisuus on timanttista toimintaa (‘Volunteering is Brilliant Activity’), we publish articles or videos on volunteering by students who study volunteer leadership at HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.

In my work, I have seen every association and organisation competing to get volunteers involved in their activity. All of them recruit and train them, and fight tooth and nail not to lose one. But you can’t own volunteers, can you?

Since social change, it gets more and more difficult to find volunteers for different associations. Therefore, it is problematic to try to convince or commit one, which could even lead to discouraging them. People’s leisure time has a price above rubies, and we who work in associations should respect that. Also, the freedom of choice is important: where and what kind of volunteering every one of us is willing to do.

In my current work, I develop voluntary activity, and I started to think about the topic from my own experiences in voluntary work. I have participated in very many and diverse voluntary tasks with a changing schedule. All the tasks share the following common point: I plan the tasks to fit my own schedule and preferences. It is also important that I feel good for what I have done. For several years, I have been volunteering in a support group at a nearby school. This school approaches me every now and then via email offering available voluntary tasks. I have been able to choose the most fitting and interesting activities, such as concerts. There have been times I haven’t done anything, and no one blames or pushes me. This is the real spirit of volunteering, and exactly for this reason, I have been part of this group year after year.

One of the most important aims of my work is to develop voluntary activity for the local area. While working there, I got the idea of creating a pool of shared volunteers. I have talked about this idea with other associations and got them interested. On the other side of the coin, we can see the resistance against collaboration. Why? Are we afraid that there are not enough volunteers especially for my/our association? Or, do we want to own the volunteers and avoid losing them to another association? Can this be envy or the common resistance to change?

Today, at the national level, we are talking about volunteering and its models. We are trying to find new ideas. But why should everyone look for their own volunteers? Alternatively, we could share the training, tasks, responsibilities, and costs – for the benefit of shared volunteers. Do we find collaboration in volunteering impossible, as a threat? Or, would collaboration be an asset for small associations and volunteers?

Text: Minna Takkunen

The author studies volunteer leadership at the HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.

Translation: Mika Kirvesniemi

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