I've noticed that when we seek to understand the benefits of volunteering, we often do so in two ways: either positioning volunteering as a means to an end, or as an end in itself.
I want to just look at these two approaches and try to understand how these approaches contrast and sometimes contradict each other. But also look at how these two approaches complement each other, so that we can make the strongest possible case for volunteering whoever we're talking to: policy makers, funders, senior managers in our organisations, or even potential volunteers.
It was a post by DJ Cronin on i-volunteer.org.uk that got me thinking on this. His post gives a bit of context, i.e. raising awareness about the personal and social benefits of volunteering and the specific responsibility of those in volunteering development and management to get out of their "cocoon and educate".
Volunteering as a means to an end
"Volunteer is a pay rate, not a job title" - @ChanceUK
John Ramsey's recent post on the Association of Volunteer Managers website "The conflict between want and need" made the case that it makes more sense to view volunteering as a means to an end. He uses the specific example of managing volunteers for an organisation like Age Concern:
"Volunteering is part of our ethos. However, we are not 'about' volunteering, we are 'about' the health and well-being of older people. Volunteering does of course play a crucial role in the health and well-being of older volunteers but we do not exist to provide volunteering opportunities per se."