What is a Volunteer?

    pig eating money at the troughWhat is a Volunteer?


There seems to be some confusion about what it means to be a volunteer.  So many stories are emerging of board members who receive trips at a society’s expense or entertain lavishly or book into $900 a night rooms abroad when traveling on the society’s business. 

These board members are not volunteers but actually paid by the society.


Because the law defines a volunteer as a person who gives his or her services without any express or implied promise of being paid or receiving goods or services in exchange for his or her duties. 

Could they be sued?  Yes.  But who would do it?  And as is the case in so many sectors of our society today, people know that there are no consequences to illegal activities particularly white collar crime whether that crime be through action,  immoral behaviors or unethical means. 

Imagine serving the poor in the community but the board members see nothing wrong with thousands of those dollars going for their own personal use?  Everyone else in society, with the exception of their ilk, of course, are disgusted by such behavior.

How Can They?

They can do it with impunity.  Why?  Because they can.  Bureaucrats and politicians who should be looking after the best interests of its citizens including the welfare of non-profits don’t take action because, naturally, the light would be shone on their own activities such as senior bureaucrats staying at five star hotels at taxpayers expense, traveling by the most expensive means possible and accepting gifts and favors “discretely”.  When do they cry about it?  When they are caught.

Non-profits were designed to help people, animals and other sectors of our world who need help and support to function or improve their condition. 

Volunteers were  the people who gave freely of their time, resources, expertise and services with no expectation of return in a spirit of altruism.  The “gifts” were inward.  Not only was there the gift of knowing they had made a positive difference in their community, but, they as humans, connected at a deep level with others.  The “return on investment” was tremendous in ways unimagined.

Are There Any Honest Volunteers Left?

Are there any great volunteers left?  Thousands.  They are the ones who don’t make the news for doing a good job or get the detailed and important reference letters or would ever think of “stealing” from their non-profit.  They give – some every day.  

What’s Your Responsibility as a Volunteer?

What kind of volunteer do you want to be?  Do you believe that the “thieves” should be dealt with severely?  If so, what are you prepared to do about it in order to keep the spirit of volunteerism healthy and honorable?

As sure as robbing a bank, these “robber volunteers” take money for purposes other than intended.  A bank’s money is the customers’ money and fees paid are to safeguard that money as well as lend excess to others who need a loan and pay interest to customers for the money invested with the bank. 

A non-profit’s money is designed to help humans, creatures and our environment to thrive at a dire point in their existence, not to provide expensive “perks” to those who need the money the least.

Something to Think About

It’s something to think about seriously.  Why?  Because your value as a volunteer is being seriously undermined by those who use their volunteer positions for personal gain while those in need continue to wallow on the edges of our social consciousness denied a “hand up”. 

Not so long ago, citizens would never have thought of suing their own governments.  Increasingly, however, citizens are banding together and suing governments for what citizens deem to be cheating, lying or other dishonest acts.  Could it be that volunteers may eventually sue the government for a lack of due diligence when the governments allow such indiscriminate acts against society as a whole? 

Volunteering is a responsibility as much as it is a treasure.

Lorraine Arams

volunteer power







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