Volunteering in itself can be a very fulfilling activity. Whether you are volunteering your time, labor, expertise or even the mere power of your physical presence in the life of others, it all boils down to one thing; caring. This is the common denominator which strings together every form of volunteer activity, and lies within its core. It is quite simple; if you don’t care about anything, you are less compelled to offer yourself in this manner. To get a broad view on volunteering, I will go further to highlight two of the main forms/intents of volunteer work.
Volunteering with Return: With this kind of volunteer activity, the volunteer expects to also gain something in return. This is often seen among upcoming professionals who identify volunteer work as an opportunity to gain real world practice in their field, while at the same time doing something to benefit people other than themselves. There is typically no exchange of funds or any form of financial compensation involved, hence, the return obtained by the volunteer is purely experience-based. Individuals studying in the medical field often volunteer their time and expertise in helping a medical team at free clinics, emergency situations following a disaster, severely understaffed regions (typically in underdeveloped nations) and more. Personally, I have been involved in this form of volunteer work while in college. I volunteered my services as part of a media production team which produced a non-profit Spanish language TV show. This show focused on interviewing members of the local Spanish community in the Worcester, Massachusetts area, and discussing issues affecting them. While I wasn’t financially compensated for this, I gained valuable experience in television production.
Volunteering Selflessly: This is when you volunteer your time or expertise with no intention of getting anything in return. You are not compensated for your time, neither are you out to gain basic experience to launch yourself into your field of endeavor. This is often harder to commit to by many, and often requires a higher level of concern for the benefactors of that particular volunteer activity. An example would be a financially well-off individual who volunteers at a local homeless shelter to help the residents and staff of the establishment in everyday tasks like serving meals, doing the dishes, taking out the trash etc. However, there is one caveat to this particular example. If the said individual is doing this to get some form of photo-op, or has secret plans to run for office, then this ulterior motive automatically moves his volunteer efforts to the previously mentioned category. To truly fall under this selfless category, there can not be any predetermined gains for you.