Volunteer Culture

I reacted, perhaps over-reacted, to a twitter post from a trust inviting people to volunteer to help them clear ground. Maybe it's an unfair view but I've become increasingly wary of the 'volunteer' culture. It seems taken for granted now that it's ok to ask complete strangers to give their time, energy and sometimes expertise for nothing to help organisations that do have paid - sometimes very well-paid staff. The organisation that provoked my reaction has management posts advertised from between 28k to 55k. Is it really not possible to offer minimum wage to those prepared to help them in their work? If the person then wished to donate that back to the 'cause', or stated that they did not want to be paid, then fine, that's their right and I hope they would enjoy the experience. However, it just seems an all-too-convenient path to go down to ask people to come along, enjoy it, be made very welcome and feel worthwhile - oh, but we can't pay you.

Our developing Green Oval Tree Care business has had two jobs recently that involved clearing ground in the parish as well as cutting back hedges and overgrown bushes and trees. On both occasions we were asked if we would use volunteers to help keep the costs down. The answer both times was no. We don't hide the fact that we are a business, we take pride in our work and want the villages we work in to look better for our attention, but anyone who works for us is paid. It's a principle, but it also helps maintain standards of professionalism and safety. I know some smallholders like to invite people to stay for a weekend and help them for free. While I would never advertise for free help on our 7 1/2 acres of pastureland and woodland, it is a struggle to make ends meet and I can understand that a private individual or couple doing their best on very limited resources can use a pair of extra hands. That's a very different matter to a trust which has enough money to pay its executives very well being willing, in my view, to exploit the generosity and curiousity of people who want to get out in the open air and have, perhaps, a taste of a different kind of life for a day or two. There are still a lot of people looking for jobs who would be pleased and proud to have that kind of work. The volunteer system prevents them from having that opportunity and it's all too easy to say, ah, well if we had to pay people we couldn't do as much good. Possibly, and possibly not, but the fact is that more and more organisations of all kinds are now asking for volunteers when paying workers and training them to improve is, with a little effort and reorganisation, viable - and responsible. End of rant. (View of Bob - not necessarily any of the rest of us!)


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