I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at a local ski sale. This is a community event for anyone to drop off their outdoor gear that they would like to sell. They set the price, and if it sells, they receive 75% of the profit. The remaining 25% is split between the ski club and the volunteer ski patrol. This is the largest event run entirely by volunteers that I have been intimately involved with, and it is an amazing feat to behold.
Over the course of three days, 225 people dropped off gear, there are over 110 volunteers, and in only 3 hours for the actual sale, about 800 people spend thousands of dollars on gear.
In just three hours following the sale, volunteers managed to have checks cut to all of the people that dropped off and sold gear. Everyone who dropped off gear comes by that afternoon to get a check for anything sold and they pickup anything not sold.
It is a phenomenal system that has been improved year after year for decades. Some of the volunteers themselves have been a part of it for decades, spending hours upon hours over those days and in the weeks leading up to it.
Watching the dedication of these individuals raises the question: why do we decide to volunteer our time? Why do some and not others?
I think it is demonstrating the power of feeling useful. When there is a natural disaster communities come together and get great benefits from that sense of community despite the damage what other negative outcomes.
About 25% of the population spends time volunteering in the United States. Meanwhile, about 20 percent of millennials report having no friends, and this number seems to be increasing despite (or maybe because of) social media ‘friend/follower’ culture.*
Perhaps there is a huge opportunity to reach out to disengaged individuals and welcome them into a community where they can volunteer their time for the benefit of something greater than themselves, meanwhile giving them perhaps what they need most in life.
Personally, I know that I am always hesitant to ask people for help, simultaneously knowing that I appreciate being asked. Sound like you too? Maybe the favor is for us to do the asking, accepting a no if it comes.
*I did not go into depth on the sources of the statistics cited here. I would have a lot of questions. For example, what is considered volunteering? How much must one have to do to be counted? And what counts? For millennials having no friends – I don’t think the source is very reliable. Still – I think it is ultimately true that the community of being involved in something greater than oneself as a volunteer would benefit many people, which is my ultimate point.