Daily Archives: March 13, 2009

What’s In It For Me?

People who know me in my professional life will have heard the phrase “What’s in it for me?”from my lips on regular occasions. It’s not that I am totally self-centred; it’s not even about me, but it’s meant as a reminder to people who manage volunteers that volunteering is always a two-way process.

For most volunteers, most of the time, “What’s in it for me?” is fairly intangible. Things like gaining experience, meeting people, developing skills and putting something back are very hard to pin down. However, if the volunteer isn’t getting what they want from their volunteering, look out, because you’ll need to go through all the hassle of recruiting a new one.

So most good volunteer managers will also also ensure that volunteers are recognised in more tangible ways. June 1st – 7th each year is Volunteers Week in the UK, when we are encouraged to celebrate our volunteers. One way that this is done is through the Volunteers Week certificates that we are encouraged to present to our volunteers. I have at least one or two of these and wouldn’t dream of throwing them away.

Some organisations will celebrate their volunteers at other times of year as well (or instead of) in Volunteers Week. Christmas is always a good time to invite volunteers to the organisation’s party.

I was invited to a special Celebration of Volunteering at Bulwell Vision recently in recognition of some volunteering I had done there. I was  delighted to recieve this, especially as my involvement at Bulwell Vision had been on just three or four occasions:

Celebration of Volunteering Certificate

Dave's Celebration of Volunteering Certificate

However, much of my regular volunteering is at Peak Rail. This is a seriously volunteer led organisation, with perhaps a couple of hundred volunteers involved and just a handful of paid staff. Yet there is an annual and very tangible means of recognition that is available only to active volunteers. Not just the ones active  at Peak Rail, but at almost every other heritage railway in the country. This is the opportunity to buy an inexpensive pass that allows free or reduced rate travel on all the railways that are members of the scheme. 
Since most of us who volunteer on one steam railway are anoraks at heart, we love to visit other lines and the pass becomes well worth having. Sue and I have put our pass to good use each year that I have been involved in the railway.
I believe that the fantastic cooperation between such a large number of independent and disparate voluntary organisations that enables this scheme to exist is one of the best examples of volunteer recognition that I have ever seen.
That’s a part of “What’s in it for me?”; another is that I can keep you posted about our visits to other railways during the summer.
Ride Safe