Are Volunteers Less Professional than Paid Staff?

Warning:  This article may well offend.  If you are likely to experience offense through hearing from those who would like to be valued for their contribution, are prepared to voice a differing opinion and who freely give of their time knowledge, skill and experience,  thus contributing to the development of organisation, please do not read any further.

I've just returned from Brussels where I spent two days promoting the WiM & CMI.  I am a volunteer for this organisation and have been for many years.

Imagine my shock and annoyance when in outlining my disagreement to a decision made by a paid member of staff not promote volunteering vacancies for one of our networks; my ‘professionalism’ was brought into question.  It amuses me when people start talking about ‘our professional relationship’ each time one shares a different point of view.

When paid members of staff give the impression that volunteers beneath the role of trustee are not important within an organisation, I think it indicates the need for a serious review of attitudes, values, respect, communication, consultation and contribution.  It is also very unfortunate that for long standing volunteers are never permitted to become trustees here.

It may be surprising to all but those who already volunteer, that 19.8 million adults volunteer in the UK. And to ensure we understand what that means, formal volunteering means giving unpaid help (time, skills, knowledge, ideas, suggestions, advice, information, contacts, activities, etc) through groups clubs and or organisations to benefit other people.

If the number of people who volunteered once a month (10.6 million people) were to be replaced with paid staff, it would require 1.1 million full-time workers at a cost of £19.4 million to the economy (based on median hourly wage).  If the same method of was applied to the whole of the UK population, an estimated 1.3 million full-time workers would be required, just under twice the number of full-time equivalent paid employees in the voluntary sector.  This would be at a cost of £23.1 billon.  The estimates do not take account of the costs of volunteer development or

management.  Information is taken from NCVO UK Civil Society on Volunteering.

I would be very interested to conduct a survey on CMI volunteers to see how much time we've given to the organisations of the past few years and then to work out how much that would cost to replace.  I’m sure this would provide some very enlightening information for some.

I must say the continued devaluing of the volunteer contribution by paid staff is most frustrating, time consuming, inappropriate and demeaning.  And any organisation who’s paid members of staff continually questions ones professionalism each time a different view is given or the prospect of working to agreements is expected, both the volunteers and the organisation itself need to take stock.

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