I have been a volunteer on a number of non-profit boards since 1997 and have found that there is an assumption made by paid staff and other volunteer board members that because the time volunteered is free, it is not valuable. This is false and insulting. Like most people, I do not like having my time wasted even if it is freely given.
When I have paid work that is either a waste of my time or is overwhelming I can get philosophical and say ‘At least I am getting paid for this’. But when I am placed with tasks that are tedious or overwhelming as a volunteer, I get uptight. The time I spend as a volunteer is both an investment and reward and if I am given volunteer tasks that are unpleasant or unsatisfying, then I am losing whatever reward that I can get from the effort.
Managing volunteer time and responsibilities is just as important as managing paid staff time and responsibility, perhaps more so. At the minimum, staff get a financial reward which creates a contractual obligation of their part to get the job done. For volunteers, the journey is the destination. The time they give is free, but should be treated with value. Our volunteer and non-profit sector needs to develop better practices in caring for its volunteer resource.