Editorial: What is a volunteer worth?

The value of volunteers cannot be measured in money

Sooke strives to be the Volunteer Capital of Canada and in many ways we accomplish that. For years people young and old have been stepping up to the plate and doing things for the good of others rather than themselves.

What kind of price do you put on volunteering? Is one person’s time more valuable than another’s? So, what would happen if we paid all our volunteers what they are worth? If truth be told, we couldn’t afford it. Volunteerism is a multi-billion dollar industry with not a penny to show for it. Governments, organizations, charities and clubs depend on getting things done at no cost. They depend on the good will of people and rely often on sentiment, sympathy and guilt. It’s a tug at the heart string at times and it works.

Being a volunteer is about making things happen, being a part of the whole rather than the individual. It doesn’t matter if one is stitching together a quilt, manning a fire hose or canvassing door-to-door, each of those commitments is valued. We rely on it.

Giving a stipend to volunteers is a show of appreciation, but is it what they want? Are they doing it for the money? Most likely not. Those who serve on municipal councils, for example, get a very small stipend for the hours they put in but they do it because they are serving the community. It isn’t a “job” in the classic sense of the word, but it is definitely work.

There are other reasons for volunteering. Sometimes it is for the training, sometimes it is social, other times it is service but it should be about giving not getting.

Let us not lose sight of what volunteering is supposed to be.

 

“You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”

— Winston Churchill

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