Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vicarious Volunteers, Part 2

Vicarious Volunteers is a new idea, I believe, and was not only born from my roommates fascination with my lifestyle choices but also from several needs I have come across in my volunteering efforts so far. I've worked with, and within, several non-profit organizations in the past and know first-hand how, well, awful they can be in their administrative organization and overall ability to operate successfully for those they serve, as well as, those who volunteer for them. Not all, but in my experience, most. My experience is no different now with the over 14 different non-profit organizations I volunteer through in the Los Angeles area each and every day. There are simply too many people involved who don't LOVE being there and serving in whatever capacity they are supposed to serve. They are there because they receive a pay check, like anyone else in the private sector. Yes, for all those of you who do not know, non-profits do, in fact, pay most of their staff salaries with benefits and/or hourly wages. The unpaid volunteer force enables the non-profit to do what it says it does, but most everyone else is paid to be there. Except, the accountability you would usually find in a for-profit business is usually missing and people remain employed even when they are hardly competent to do what they are supposed to be doing. There are so many non-profits limping along in a manner so many degrees below where they could be with some love and basic competency.
However, the volunteer, for the most part, LOVES what they do. They are there because they LOVE what they do. I feel as if the relationship between the paid and unpaid hands of any particular organization has a lot to do with the fact that 1 out of every 3 volunteers do not continue volunteering from one year to the next, or even one month to the next. And this is a problem considering the amount of volunteer help needed in our society. For example, The Corporation for National and Community Service states that in the year 2007, 15 million children were in need of mentors. I mentor 2 children myself and I know that one of the organizations I mentor through currently has 5 children actively seeking mentors and I am the 2nd volunteer to show up this year. There are over 200 children who have sought out mentoring with this organization but they can only take 5 at a time because there are so few volunteers. There requirements for time spent with the child...a whopping 8 hours a month!
The CNCS also states that 15% of children across our country live below the poverty line and tens of millions of elderly people need help living independently in their homes, but where are the volunteers? I volunteer through a non-profit that helps the elderly live in their own homes by assisting them in the areas of their finances, food, and living environment . There are 6 of us, I'm the only one under 65 years of age and there are approximately 450 elderly people in the 12 mile radius we work within who are in need of such assistance. We are able to assist 23. The need for people who want to serve others is there, always. What isn't there are the people willing and able to serve them. Vicarious Volunteers looks to change that.