Should volunteers be compensated?

To volunteer, or not to Volunteer?

Last night I was at our local sporting bodies AGM and the position of Treasurer was left open. We couldn’t find a person among the committee that was willing to volunteer for this important, but time consuming position.

A suggestion was made that some kind of compensation be attached to this position as a sweetener to make it more attractive to someone. Immediately the room was divided.

On one side was those that totally agreed, in today’s society, with time our most valuable asset, a volunteer should be compensated in some way for their time.

On the other side was the vehemently against, saying that volunteers get so much more than they give.

As you could imagine a lengthy discussion ensued and no result was decided upon. But it got me thinking. Should volunteers be compensated, or do they really get more than they give?

I have had the immense pleasure to be involved in several volunteer roles on various boards, committees and organisations. I say pleasure because it was. I made new friends and contacts in each position. I learnt new things and added to my skill set. In one of the roles I was given the opportunity to travel and explore our great nation. I have given back to my community and region, and this makes me feel great.

At no point do I look back and think, man I would have enjoyed that role much more if I had been compensated for it. So let’s look at compensation. In one of my roles it was written in the constitution that no incentives would be given to board members, general or executive, but that travel and accommodation costs incurred by the board members was to be compensated.  I’m not sure that too many people put their claim forms in for compensation. I know I never did, I thought of it as my contribution to the brilliant work that this association was doing, and I felt good about contributing both my time and footing some of the bills. After all, I volunteered for the position, I knew full well what I was getting into, I had no illusions that there would be no cost to me. It was never significant, so I treated it as insignificant.

Would I have been more willing to take on a role that had some kind of incentive attached to it? No.  I have only ever volunteered for roles or for organisations that I am passionate about and want to help with their development or continued success. I wouldn’t volunteer for the bowls club committee, I have no interest in bowls, people that are passionate about bowls would volunteer for that committee.

So when it comes to local voluntary based committees, I am on the side of; the volunteers get so much more than they give, so no further compensation is required.  What side are you?

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