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I’m convinced. We, Leaders of Volunteers (#LOVols) hold in our hands more power to affect positive change than we can even imagine.
We have the opportunity to impact the world beyond filling tasks and adding to our volunteer base. The intuitive feelings within each of us are spot on: There’s so much more going on than our excel spreadsheets show.
I remember long ago struggling to find volunteers who could be with clients while loved ones attended church or synagogue or temple or mosque. I would look for volunteers of that same faith and hoped that they would be willing to give up their own attendance to help someone in need. It was the way it had always been done and it was frankly, exhausting.
Then one day, a volunteer stepped forward. Hannah offered to sit with Christian clients on a Sunday morning. (I’d love to take credit for thinking this solution up, but, no, it came from this wonderful, selfless volunteer.) Bam! The light went on.
I feared that mixing faiths (or cultures, or beliefs) would be a challenge in itself, but you know what? (Of course you know what comes next) It ended up uniting people in mutual respect and a desire to understand one another. The mere act of reaching across a cultural or spiritual divide created its own sense of wonder.
And here’s the thing. For the volunteers, it was never about, “oh, I’m so enlightened that I want to transcend these differences.” No, it was, “you know what? I’m free on a Sunday morning and you need someone, so what could be a better fit?”
The deep meaningful by-products of volunteering are seldom the initial goals. They just naturally evolve because the volunteer ripple brings out the best in everyone: Clients, families, volunteers, volunteer managers, staff, neighbors, community, everyone.
Think about that. Volunteer programs impact society in rippling positive ways beyond the delivering of meals, or escorting a tour group or passing out information. Our programs share love. Our programs open the doors for unity, connection and understanding to naturally take hold, and not just during holidays.
We often witness a profound change in people. We glimpse moments of powerful interconnection through the simplest of assignments. We stand, watching that small pebble create ripples of inspiring stories.
As you are running around this holiday season, scrambling to fill tasks, stop for a moment and think about the societal change you are helping to bring about. Because you value the innate worth of each human being and believe in their ability to transcend, you are spreading that change like a ripple in a vast sea.
Volunteerism is a rippling movement.
And leaders of volunteers are tossing the pebble into the water.
Laura Hamilton said:
Great post! I wonder how we can better capture this ripple effect when we are looking at the impact and gauging the success of our volunteer programmes? I really believe that volunteering makes the world a better place – on a micro level in terms of the activity undertaken, and on a macro level in terms of cultivating positive values and increasing compassion within society. Common Cause look to be doing some excellent, interesting work around this: https://valuesandframes.org/volunteering-values-community-in-a-cultural-setting/
Hi Laura and thank you for sharing that link! I agree that we should be finding ways to report on all of volunteering’s by-products. I wrote specifically about this topic in this post:, https://volunteerplaintalk.com/2016/10/26/is-it-time-to-start-selling-volunteer-perfume/
I think it was reprinted on the Engaging Volunteers Blog on VolunteerMatch as well. I listed some ways to report on these by-products and argued that organizations would benefit greatly from including these incredible statistics in their end of year reports. We, leaders of volunteers have much work to do in telling our stories, but with some real unity among the volunteer manager sector, there are some gains being made.
Laura Rundell said:
Another wonderful post – I always try to tell volunteers those “ripple effect” stories. I often find that volunteer applicants tell me that they want to volunteer because of the positive experience they had with a volunteer helping them at some point in their life. A few cases in point:
At a botanical garden I worked at, volunteers help children pot a small plant to take home. One young woman who applied to volunteer said she kept every pot she had planted and wanted to help someone else have that same experience.
At that same botanical garden, I had a retired teacher apply to volunteer because she took her class on a visit and had a great docent led tour.
At an agency that served youth, I talked to many volunteer applicants in their 20s-30s who said they had help from tutors and mentors when they were kids and it really had an impact on their life and now wanted to help another youth get that same assistance.
At my current agency – I often talk with clients in one program who have benefited from our services and want to be able to help give some of that back in another program.
I always make sure to pass these stories on to volunteers as well. The volunteer at the botanical garden who spent a few minutes helping a child pot up a plant may not ever see that child return as an adult to become a volunteer, but I can sure let them know that even this simple activity had an impact on someone.
The person who is tutoring today, may not be around when their student decides to become a volunteer 10 years later, but I can sure let today’s tutors about that ripple effect.
Wow, Laura, these are spot on examples of that ripple effect, thank you so much for sharing these stories with us. It is time for volunteerism to be recognized for the positive impact on our communities, something we, volunteer managers are keenly aware of on a daily basis.
Thanks so much for this post, Meridian. You are so right. I just had a conversation with my Volunteer Managers Leadership Circle about how we measure our value. So much of that value comes from our talent for facilitating these small and profound moments of connection. Once again you inspire us!
Thank you Elisa! Glad those conversations are out there. Collectively volunteer managers will elevate volunteerism, of that I’m certain!
Astrid Raffinpeyloz said:
This ripple effect is clearly illustrated in our hospice. The majority of people wanting to volunteer with us had an experience with hospice (anywhere in the country) that led them to want to “pay back.”
Thank you Astrid for sharing your experience with us. I think you are spot on. People giving back have been touched by that rippling effect. Volunteers change so much more than they know.
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