What? Who? Why? and How?

What is Volunteering?
Volunteer service has been a part of virtually every civilization and society.  It can be defined in the broadest terms as the contribution that individuals make as non-profit, non-wage, non-career action for the well-being of their neighborhood, community or society at large.  Volunteer service takes many forms, from traditional customs of self-help to community-based responses in time of crisis.  The concept includes local and national volunteer efforts, as well as bilateral and international programs which operate across national borders.  Volunteerism is the basis of much of the activity of non-governmental organizations, professional associations, trade unions and civic organizations. 

Source: UN publications for International Year of Volunteers 2001

To the Association for Volunteer Services, volunteering must be free in two essential respects.  First, the service must be done for free, meaning without any financial compensation.  An organization may compensate a volunteer for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in volunteering (transportation, uniform, etc.), but if it compensates a volunteer for his time, s/he is no longer a volunteer.. Benefits to the volunteer should be non-monetary (satisfaction, skills, friendships, etc.) Second, the service must be freely offered, and not required by the courts, by a course or graduation requirement, or by an employer.  Such required service can appropriately be called community service, but is less appropriately called volunteering.  AVS promotes both volunteering and community service, although its primary focus is on volunteering.

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Who Can Volunteer? 
Everyone can volunteer: people of all ages, nationalities, religions, sects, regions of the country, professions and skills, abilities and disabilities, housewives, workers and students, the retired, the aged, the handicapped, the prisoners, the homebound, the rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate,  citizens, residents, and visitors to Lebanon.

Some people may be able to volunteer any time of the day or night, others may only be able to volunteer in the evenings, on weekends, or on vacations.  Some may be able to volunteer every day, others only once a week, once a month, or even only once a year.  But everyone can volunteer somewhere, sometime, somehow.

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Why Volunteer?
Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons, especially wanting to help others. But it's also OK to want some benefits for yourself from volunteering.

Some people are uncomfortable with the notion that a volunteer "benefits" from doing volunteer work. There is a long tradition of seeing volunteering as a form of charity, based on altruism and selflessness. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others, but this does not exclude other motivations, as well.

Instead of considering volunteering as something you do for people who are not as fortunate as yourself, begin to think of it as an exchange.

Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives.  So today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. Even now you might be on both sides of the service cycle: maybe you are a tutor for someone who can't read,  while last month the volunteer ambulance corps rushed you to the emergency room.  Volunteering also includes "self-help." So if you are active in your neighborhood crime watch, your home is protected while you protect your neighbors' homes, too. Adding your effort to the work of others makes everyone's lives better.

Your Motivations
Think about how much you receive when you give and consider why you want to volunteer. You may have several different reasons. Here are just a few of the many possible motivations identified by other volunteers:
     v to feel needed
     v to share a skill
     v to get to know a community
     v to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
     v to gain leadership skills
     v to act out a fantasy
     v to do your civic duty
     v because of pressure from a friend or relative
     v satisfaction from accomplishment
     v to keep busy
     v for recognition
     v to repay a debt
     v to donate your professional skills
     v because there is no one else to do it
     v to have an impact
     v to learn something new
     v to help a friend or relative
     v for escape
     v to become an "insider"
     v guilt
     v to be challenged
     v to be a watchdog
     v to feel proud
     v to make new friends
     v to explore a career
     v to help someone
     v as therapy
     v to do something different from your job
     v for fun!
     v for religious reasons
     v to earn academic credit
     v to keep skills alive
     v because an agency is geographically close
     v to have an excuse to do what you love
     v to be able to criticize
     v to assure progress
     v to feel good
     v to be part of a team
     v to gain status
     v because you were asked
     v to test yourself
     v to build your resume
     v to be an agent of change
     v because of personal experience with the problem, illness, or cause
     v to stand up and be counted

You will probably have some special reasons of your own. Remember that the motivations that lead you to select the place to volunteer may not be the reasons why you stay. Once you're on the volunteer job, you will continue to serve as long as you feel that your efforts are accomplishing something, that your talents are appreciated, and that you make a difference. And if you also like the people with whom you work, so much the better!

As long as you are truly serving through your volunteer work, isn't it wonderful that such an exchange occurs? In fact, it tends to strengthen your commitment to volunteering when you can see the benefits to both the recipient of your efforts and to yourself. And it is much more comfortable than "charity" because it upholds the self-esteem of those with whom you volunteer.

Copyright Energize, Inc., used by the personal permission of Susan J. Ellis, with minor changes for clarity for non-native English speakers, and sections deleted that are culturally limited to the USA.

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How Does One Become a Volunteer?

Once you are convinced that you would like to become a volunteer, the question that remains is How?  It is very important to find a volunteer opportunity that is right for you. 

First, consider why you are volunteering - above and beyond your generalized interest in making the world a better place to live in, what are your personal motivations?  Do you want to learn new skills, explore areas of society you know little about, consider a new career direction, share your hobbies with others, make new friends, improve your health, reciprocate benefits provided to you or someone you love, etc.?   There are more than a hundred reasons people volunteer, and usually they are motivated by more than one reason.  Your motivation(s) for volunteering should be an important consideration in choosing a volunteer opportunity appropriate to you.  You also should look for a volunteer opportunity that fits your interests, skills, time limits and geographical limits.  It would be best if you put in writing your own volunteer profile that lists all of these considerations and can be presented to organizations that you want to consider volunteering for. 

The second concern is how to find the organization that fits with your profile.  Consider the organizations and service institutions
affiliated with AVS
- (click here).  In addition, consider organizations in your neighbourhood, organizations your friends volunteer for, organizations mentioned in articles in the newspaper, and if you are in a school or university, consider clubs that have volunteer programs.  There is also a listing of NGOs in Lebanon online at the UN website.  If you cannot find contact information for the organizations that interest you, contact AVS.  We have a large database of NGOs in Lebanon, and their basic contact information.  You should contact the organization directly (donít have someone else do it for you).  If possible, contact more than one organization and decide on which organization you want to volunteer for after meeting with them and discussing the opportunities they have that fit your profile. And if they do not have a volunteer opportunity that fits you, you might suggest ways you could help them.  They may be very happy to have a volunteer help them in ways they never thought of. 

Finally, before you start to volunteer, be sure to read the Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers
on this website.  Following these guidelines can make the difference between whether you have a good volunteer experience or not Ė as well as whether or not you are of real help to the organization that you volunteer for. 

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Information About Volunteering

What, Who, Why and How
Rights and Responsibilities
Corporate Volunteering

Family Volunteering
Volunteers with Disabilities
Retired and Senior Volunteering

Virtual Volunteering
Schools, Service Institutions, and Municipalities

AVS Information Gateway

Information About Volunteering

Join Us

About AVS

AVS Programs

IAVE - Global Networking

Affiliated Agencies

Global Youth Service Days



The Association for Volunteer Services

To promote, facilitate, and improve volunteering and community service throughout Lebanon.

Copyright 2009, Association for Volunteer Services. All rights reserved. 

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