Opinion: Hot issue - Have we entered the age of the selfish volunteer?

A new consultancy report argues that more people nowadays volunteer only if they can get something out of it and add to their CVs. Other commentators maintain that many volunteers still regard what they do as a 'gift'.

NO - Helen Verney, director of finance, Jewish Care

There are currently more than 20 million people volunteering. Let's be honest, they are not doing it purely out of the goodness of their own hearts, but so what?

The fact that the latest generation of volunteers would like it credited in a more formal way is a sensible step forward in registering this unpaid work experience.

The best volunteers I've had working for me have been the ones with whom I've spent time analysing their personal objectives and matching them to some of my organisation's objectives.

If a volunteer is looking for work experience, we should be pleased.

If we have to stamp a certificate or allocate credits at the end of their volunteering, it's the least we can do.

The most committed volunteering work I've given to any organisation has been that which met both my own needs and those of the charity.

There is no doubt that being a trustee and a treasurer in my own time helps me to be a better director of finance and to relate to my employer's trustees and treasurer. It's mutually beneficial and sometimes it's even fun - otherwise I simply wouldn't do it.

Is this selfish? Is it the beginning of the end? Rubbish - it's the way it's always been.

YES - Peter Day, founder, Daytime Charity Services

I was disturbed to read the report about volunteers wanting to 'get something out of' what they do. I was equally disappointed by the response of Dr Justin Davis Smith of Volunteering England. The whole survey only goes to show how far down the road of greed and self-centredness we in the UK have gone.

We have seen generous donations to disaster appeals in recent years, but for many giving a few pounds actually costs very little. Things such as the National Lottery and charities that send out books of draw tickets at random are all fuelling the flames of the 'what do I get out of it?' mentality.

The whole concept of giving, whether time, money or goods, should be based on getting satisfaction from the knowledge that we are able to help in some way.

Of course, if the experience gained from being a volunteer can help to enhance an individual's CV, that is all to the good. However, it should never - repeat, never - be an objective of volunteering.

NO - David Brann, fundraising and communications director, RNLI

Think of the RNLI and our 4,500 brave volunteer crew members immediately spring to mind. We would not exist as a charity were it not for our volunteers.

On top of this, more than 30,000 fundraising volunteers generate nearly half our raised voluntary income. These volunteers, men and women from all walks of life, live across the length and breadth of the British Isles - not just in coastal communities, as you may imagine. So the RNLI is a good indicator for the question posed. Our evidence would suggest a very different experience.

Our volunteer crew members not only give up their time when they are called to action, but they also attend weekly training sessions and even give up their annual leave to attend specialist courses at our Lifeboat College in Poole, all of which takes time and commitment.

In any of our 233 lifeboat stations we have not only a volunteer crew, but also a whole station volunteer team that ensures the lifeboats get in and out of the water.

We exist to save lives at sea, and all our volunteers have this in mind no matter what their role. 'Selfless' is the term that comes to mind, and never 'selfish'.

NO - Fiona Dawe OBE, chief executive, YouthNet

The annual satisfaction survey from do-it. org.uk found that many of our users - more than 93,000 people to date - volunteer for a multitude of reasons.

Twenty per cent said they do it because they want to help people, 17 per cent have volunteered in order to learn and try new things, 16 per cent want to give something back to the community and 12 per cent want to feel better about themselves.

And if 17 per cent want to use the experience to enhance their CVs - so what?

YouthNet believes this research suggests that most volunteers - and the many do-it partners who create more than 730,000 opportunities for people in the UK - give their time to make a difference. Volunteering is a largely positive and fulfilling experience for all involved.

The majority of the users of do-it.org.uk choose to volunteer because they want to help other people.In turn, they have an experience that is rewarding, interesting and challenging.

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