processing through my motivation for volunteering

My leadership development group is this morning. Or today rather. Looking forward to that. And I get to go back to Jazzercise this morning for the first time in like a week. Man, those mornings got eaten up. It’s nice to have things in the morning instead of the afternoon – but then jazzercise bites the bullet. I’m not sure there’s a happy medium here – it might be that I just can’t do everything that I’m excited about. So lame. I’m pretty sure I need to get back in the networking game…I hate paying for those things though. But I’m not sure how else to meet more people in the industry. I also need to start speaking up about what I’m looking for from the groups I’m already involved in. I need to start talking about that. Regularly, I think.

Speaking of the groups I already am involved in, let’s talk about volunteering motivation. Some folks are motivated to give back – I hear that phrase all the time. I get it – but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way. My motivation is… less clear. Usually, it’s that the project sounds fun and I know I’ll like doing the work. I never volunteer for things I don’t like doing. I feel like if I was ‘giving back’ I wouldn’t enjoy all of it.

Also, a lot of the pro bono work I’m doing now feels strategic. It’s all centered around getting Gambit off the ground. It’s creating relationships, it’s networking, it’s boosting my experience(s). It feels like going to work, just without the paycheck I guess. There’s a small part of me that wonders if strategy is a less than worthy motivation. Like I shouldn’t be getting something out of it. It should be true altruism or something.

I’ve just never been motivated by giving back. Maybe because I’ve never been the recipient of other’s volunteer work? Ways I have been invested in I do feel a bit about ‘it’s my turn to play that role’ or whatever – but that’s not usually through volunteering. It’s usually giving someone money they can’t otherwise access, or in providing a backstage look at the industry, or about providing a listening ear, or giving someone a shot at doing a job they’re not an obvious fit for. It’s never doing my work for free.

Is that a weird thing about me? Or are other people lazy with their use of “giving back”? Or have I just not experienced the same sort of investment of free work that others have?

And why would it be more acceptable to self-sacrifice instead of coordinating something mutually beneficial?  The sustainability aspect certainly favors the mutually beneficial motivation. And as I think about it, if I was in the chair of the listener I think I’d rather hear that. I’d rather hear that you don’t consider me a charity case that you’re giving too, but instead a potential partner. Someone worth investing in.

The whole point of this particular navel-gazing exercise is because I’ve been feeling awkward saying I volunteer to give back – it feels untrue. And I haven’t been sure what to replace it with, so I just end up mumbling the giving back words like everyone else. But! I think I’ve found my new answer. I’m going to say that  I’m a little bit selfish – I do this work because I enjoy it. And because I benefit from it. It’s fun, I learn things, I meet people and I’ve found it helps my business.

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