Managing Volunteer-Business Owner Relationship

Volunteering has had, and is having, great impact on our society today. It remains a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges and can transform the pace and nature of development. However, volunteering is beginning to lose its essence in modern day as no one wants to work for free anymore and this could be as a result of an economy crisis or challenges faced in past outreaches. As the need for survival has been inherent in man from time immemorial, survival of the fittest has become the order of the day – everyone is in a bid to make a livelihood out of anything they do.

The Impact of volunteering cannot be overemphasised. While there may be no monetary benefits attached, it is fulfilling to know that you are a part of a cause that has had positive impact on the society. A few years back, a group of doctors volunteered to provide aid in Sierra Leone to tackle the Ebola epidemic, the NGO, Doctors Without Borders, constantly offer medical help in conflict zones, and just last week, our guest on the Good Citizen show attributed the success of her organization to the work of volunteers who assist in managing outreaches.

It is disheartening to note that a lot of young professionals are apathetic towards volunteering because they think it is for people who have nothing to do. These days the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of volunteering is “how much?” This causes a huge problem as no one thinks past the monetary gain – No one wants to be a part of the solution neither do they see the need to lend their voice.

While discussing the importance of volunteering, our host – Bekeme Masade-Olowola reiterated that volunteering doesn’t necessarily require your physical presence all the time; you could lend your voice to a course by providing online assistance, help to create awareness on social media, encourage people around you to volunteer, and more. In the inspiring words of Oscar Wilde, we are reminded that “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention”. The message in every volunteering service remains “every little thing count” and it is important that we understand the importance of these “little things”.

Interested in listening to this episode and previous episodes? Click here to catch-up. You can also read the transcript of this show below

Transcript

Bekeme: Hi everyone! This is Bekeme and you’re listening to the Good Citizen Radio show. I hope you had a fantastic week? I had a great week just literally getting to work very early and being very useful to myself. The show as you know is brought to you by CSR–in–Action – a non-profit, a consultancy firm, an advocacy firm; and our focus is on driving sustainability in whatever way that we can through policy, through supporting different groups in different sectors and I think that we have been doing a pretty good job and I think that this is one of our initiatives under our advocacy arm. It is funded by ACT Foundation aka A.C.T Foundation which is a grant making organization established in 2016 to support local, national and regional non-profits working in health, environment, entrepreneurship and leadership. As you know, what we are doing here is driving a new cast of leaders and I know that you are all leaders and that’s why you are listening to this show. We have all sort of challenges in this country and in the world and the collective problems that we have would only be solved if we all get our hands dirty so to speak.

This week, we are going to be talking about managing volunteering business relationship, and when we say business, we mean corporate and ‘corporate’ in abroad form; it’s not just business alone but non-profits as well.  It’s interesting that last week I went to the launch of the Global Citizen in Nigeria and it was a very interesting event. The Global Citizen is a global organisation that was started by a young man in his 30s a number of years ago and was focused on eradicating poverty in the world. What’s interesting about this organization is that it is driven by volunteers – they calculate impact by talking about the hundreds of thousands of volunteers in the world who have decided to take number of actions in government – everyday people, civil society and all of that. In Nigeria, they have partners, a Chairman and a Vice chairman Mr Tunde Folawiyo and Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (respectively) who are pushing this; who are working with “non-profits individuals”; who are working in different areas to eradicate poverty which is the number one SDG – no poverty, Zero Poverty – in the world and we had a roomful of people partaking in this policy launch. It was pretty interesting. Hopes were high and hope that it is something that we can continue to drive. 

Speaking about volunteers, you do see global citizens make use of personalities – they use celebrities to drive their course – which is why it has grown exponentially in such a very short time. It has grown so much that people all over the world want to be associated with it in some way and I use the opportunity to once again thank the celebrities who came for the SITEI conference this year – it was a blast and because we were talking about community engagement, some people see community people as those back there in the village and they are not interested especially when you talk about conflict and oil and gas communities. But it’s interesting to note that we had Chief Joseph Yobo – ex international footballer, we had Harrysong and Omawunmi lend their voice to this course and they were very powerful speakers who tend to generate  conversations around key issues we face around us; so shout out to them, thank you so much for what you did, we continue to appreciate it, and you know I want to use this opportunity to thank or rather talk to those who pretended not to see our messages and  emails, the celebrities – they know themselves, I don’t have to call your names – and those who knew us personally or who knew people that we knew and we asked, can you support this? We want to mainstream the conversation and some of them were like please speak to my manager and you know what that means basically – pay me money or some of them would say What is in it for me? And interestingly some of them have causes that we help them follow up on social media, we help them talk about their various causes and if somebody else talk about theirs they say uhn”, just remember that in everything that you do, you are paying folds.

Every time people think about volunteering, some people’s argument would be that I volunteered for UNICEF or I volunteer for one other such body, that is a great thing, but then what about the less known entity? So you volunteer for them, sometimes there is a little ‘something’, sometimes there is nothing. But then you are also thinking of the immediate, oh how would people see me when associating with XYZ? But what about the very strong impactful, less-popular initiatives that are doing really powerful work within society? Within community? if you do your research a lot, you would find that your work is useful and that your voice would help to make it happen, so think about supporting such causes.

On the role of volunteering, we didn’t manage to plan our first true Christmas and all of that this year, my team and I – I am dragging them in even though we didn’t officially agree about this – we are willing to volunteer to any course that works with children this Christmas. We didn’t manage to plan ours because it was very busy driving our own, both advocacy and consulting work and by the time we looked at the time it was already too late. So if you have any  initiative that you see that we can volunteer to make it happen, you can send a message @CSR_n_Action on Instagram or @csr-in-action on any other platforms or you can send me a message @Bekemeo on social media or Bekeme Olowola and we would see how we can work with those that we think we can work with.

On to volunteering specifically, volunteering is such a glow phenomenon now. It has powerful impact and remains a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development charges. It can transform the pace and nature of development and whilst there is no monetary benefits attached, most times there is also a very fulfilling feeling; we cannot overemphasize the value of volunteering. Take for instance a few years back, a couple of doctors volunteered to provide aide in Sierra Leone to tackle the Ebola epidemic. The NGO, Doctors without Borders, constantly offer medical help in conflict zones  and the Good Citizen team volunteer at a school where we train students on the importance of good citizenship and last week our guest on the show spoke of the success of her organization, all thanks to the work of volunteers. There are so much examples. We remind ourselves the word of Oscar Wilde “that the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” and basically the message in every volunteering message is that “every little bit counts.” As we come close to the end of the year, we are constantly grateful as we do hear of people who slumped and died. But many of us are here still standing strong mentally, physically and otherwise. As stated last week, it (volunteering) doesn’t require your presence all the time. You can be a part of the process by donating to a cause, offering online assistance or just speaking the right words of encouragement and all that. We are going to continue this conversation and I think that you should start trying to call, even though we are going on a short break. The number to call is 0700923923923. We would take a short break and be right back on the show.

{Break}

Welcome back to the Good Citizen Radio show. You are still listening to me, Bekeme, your ‘hostest’ to the ‘mostest’ and we have been talking about managing volunteers.  We have been espousing the benefits of volunteering. we have been saying how good it is to be a volunteer, we have been saying how profitable it is to the society, we have been saying how profitable it is to the non-profits sometimes businesses and we have not talked about the challenges. I have been working at CSR-in-Action, which I founded 10 years ago officially for at least 11 years, and I can tell you that it has not been easy working with volunteers for a number of reason. Sometimes, it’s us not being able to source for the volunteers or keep them interested. In our own case, you get caught up in doing something quickly, you have to get something done like right now that you just don’t have the time to go through the recruitment process, get the people trained and all of that. While for others, it’s a number of other things. Sometimes it’s the proper skills to coordinate a number of outreach and sometimes not having the patience because there is always so much to do thereby not giving themselves space to understand the challenges that the volunteers may be facing and I think that, that in itself is a major issue. There is so much wants, so much poverty in our land that you have to start thinking how do I even get there. You have just 500 naira with you and you are going to volunteer your time; you are not sure whether your transportation would be covered. And the person you are going to volunteer for, is there thinking why is this guy just lacklustre? Why are they not active? Why are they not doing the things that they should? You know, everybody just gets frustrated. Have you ever been in that situation where you feel like your efforts are not being appreciated by the people you are working for, whether you are volunteering in an unpaid capacity or with a little stipend? I would like to hear what you have to say. Again, the number to call is 0700923923923. Call me and let me know what you think.

There is also the matter of overworking the volunteers. You see, because there is always never enough volunteers and there is also the challenge of miscommunication, you are thinking one thing and the other party, maybe because they are not a member of your team, is not getting the message and as a result causes frustration or we have somehow employed a volunteer who don’t have the right skill set. I volunteer in the prison ministry of my church. Sometimes when we get there, it’s a case of what can I possibly do? I am not a medical professional so what can I possibly do in terms of taking vitals or whatever so there is usually impromptu trainings. Sometimes it requires a little more maturity, so the more mature volunteers are able to do certain things. For the younger ones, you tend to think, what can I do with them? Can they counsel? What are they counselling with? What life experiences have they encountered?

*Call comes in*

Caller: Hello

Bekeme: Hi. Good evening. What is your name?

Caller: My name is Victoria calling from Festac

Bekeme: Hi Victoria. Thank you for calling the Good Citizen radio show. Have you been volunteering?

Caller: No, that is why I called. Speaking for myself and others, I don’t think we understand what your topic is. Are you encouraging us to volunteer into what you want to do – maybe you are planning a program or something and you need volunteers? Please throw more light so we can understand and know how to come in.

Bekeme: Ok, so what we are saying is it’s the end of the year and it’s the season of thanksgiving and all of that and we are talking about encouraging volunteering. Last week, we talked about opportunities for volunteering and now we are saying sometimes there are challenges with volunteering and that discourages a lot of people from volunteering so we are talking about lashing out whatever challenges there are thereby encouraging people to volunteer more. We typically have volunteering opportunities but right now we don’t have any but there are some organizations do have and if you are interested in any I can hook you up. Are you?

Caller: I don’t know whether I would have the time because my work takes almost all my time but I would listen over the radio.

Bekeme: Basically that is also what we have been saying. It doesn’t always have to be you going to the place. Sometimes it can be online, it can be via counselling, it can be a contribution in some way. If you are a graphic artist you can design; if you are a communications person you can always write an article; so those kind of things. You can volunteer offline if you want.

There are all kinds of opportunities and if you can send a message on our WhatsApp number, I am sure that we would be able to find an opportunity for you if this is truly want you want to do, because when you are blessed in some ways it’s always good to give back.

Caller: I would like to volunteer so give me the WhatsApp number pls

Bekeme: Ok. The number is 09062634111. please send us a message on social media @goodcitizenng, thank you for calling Victoria.

If you have been listening and you want to participate in some way, please send us a message. I am also looking for volunteering opportunities, even though I had volunteered already. We had our last outreach two weeks ago in church. We didn’t manage to do our event this year, I am not going to name names from my team who did not make it happen, so I am dragging them in with me as well, so if you got a credible opportunity that you would like a team of young intellectual people to help you with, by all means hit us up, and if you have had problems volunteering in the past and you think that you would want to discuss this also call. If you are not in some way happy with the volunteering experience you have had, if you have become disenchanted in some way I am sure that we can find a way around it, and if we have solutions for people who want to volunteer in some way, if you have volunteering opportunities, call us and we would get our listeners to participate in some way.

If people are consistently compelled to volunteer or if a program is consistently disorganized, or there is back and forth or there is a lot of bad blood in a setting, you find out that a lot of people would quit in discouragement. This is not something that should happen because the work is just too much for people not to be utilized for it to happen and the lack of interest can cause a domino effect, because if you leave a place disenfranchised and you keep on talking bad about the place to the next person, it doesn’t make anybody look good at all. I started volunteering many years ago, it wasn’t by choice, I am sure many of us knew about the ROTARY club; it was just a group of people all over the world who are committed to humanitarian services, professionals who actually put out their money to it. It is disheartening now to see a lot of young professionals now who are totally apathetic, they don’t even know the value of service, I mean paid services is one thing because you are forcing people to do what they are being paid to do. Now the attitude towards volunteering is like it’s for people who don’t have work to do meanwhile in the olden days it’s the correct people who actually volunteer, it was all the people who thought they were so smart they were looking for opportunities to and places to pour all that they had in them. Till date when I hear leaders invited to an event and the first thing they talk about is how much? and you say, this event is for children in need, breast cancer awareness and how to solve those problems and the first thing that comes to the person mind is how much? Hello; you are going to use your voice to solve a problem, why are you thinking how much? I think that it’s a huge problem when people don’t actually see that they are a part of the solution free of charge. The fact that you are breathing in air with no hitches is something to be thankful for. You know this Christmas season is something that we must think about carefully. For those who have non-profits and other charitable organizations and they need volunteers, we would suggest that you look through things carefully, make sure that you have a proper structure for engaging people. Make sure you have someone in charge of the volunteers who communicate regularly with the volunteers, you can have a group either WhatsApp, Facebook group and try as much as possible to communicate, share your visions, your expectations, your challenges in a very clear manner. Do it in such a way that they (volunteers) become ambassadors, that they don’t have to wait for you to tell them what to do. Also if you want, you can sign a formal agreement because people forget intentionally or not, they forget when something happens so you have to be structured. Also try as much as possible to arrange training opportunities, train them and let them know what to do. Have a feedback system: we all know that volunteers are critical to our organisations, so they have to be encouraged.

For those who are interested in participating in volunteering you can send your name and areas you are interested in to 09062634111. You can also send us a message if you have some work that you would like us to support.

Follow us on @goodcitizenng on social media if you would like to throw us suggestions. It’s been nice talking to you. I am your host Bekeme and the show happens every Friday at 8pm on the number 1 primary radio station Inspiration FM 92.3. Thank you to ACT Foundation and the team at CSR-in-Action for making this happen every week. Do have a great weekend. God bless you.

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