What is the first thing you think about when you think of the word "volunteer"?
Here are some responses from a recent facebook poll:
"Knocking on doors getting people to donate canned food."
"Doing something good."
"Not paid - but that's OK." (Thanks, Mom!)
"To give away your time and energy with no tangible reward or recognition."
"It's always more hours than you anticipated, but sometimes there are unexpected results that make you glad you did."
"Giving up your time to give back to those in need."
"Civic duty, college applications."
And several people thought of Tennessee basketball.
Some common themes to these definitions were this: It's something I do here or there. It's helping out. Collecting goods, moving boxes, handing out food, filing, passing out fliers, cleaning bathrooms. It's something I do for college applications.
What I discovered is that, without a serious face-lift, the word "volunteer" has little sex-appeal. And almost always "volunteer" and "leader" are not used in the same sentence. Volunteering is something you do for or with leaders but it is not generally thought of as leading in and of itself.
But why not? How did leadership and volunteering get put in separate categories?
This is why I think volunteering is a good place to start, but eventually we must shift from volunteers to vigilantes.
[vij-uh-lan-tee]: one who is alert, watchful, takes responsibility of.
Vigilantes are people who don't wait to be recruited. They don't serve a little here or there. They don't help a cause. They own a cause. Vigilantes are volunteers who lead. They say "this is something that needs to change and I'm not going to stop serving until it does."
We need volunteers. But we're desperate for vigilantes.
Posted on Mon, February 22, 2010