The Value of Volunteers

Some months ago, Wayne Bulpitt made some comments in his blog comparing volunteer Scouters to paid employee’s, stating how much he valued the volunteers who give up their time for Scouting and saying “The only real difference between volunteering and employment is that the latter is paid.”


I’d like to take it further- for what we do in Scouting, a volunteer structure is *better* than paid employees.


Scouting is an inclusive organisation and Scouting for All has always been a mantra to live by- a paid employee costs and those costs have to come from somewhere. Yes, occasionally it feels like some parents see us as a cheap babysitter, but low relative costs have helped bring everyday adventure to thousands of young people over the world.


More importantly, no-one volunteers for an organisation unless they believe in what that organisation does. Every one of our volunteers clearly feels passionate about what they do; they wouldn’t give up their time in doing it otherwise. Of course there are disagreements and heated debates over the best way to do things, but those disagreements often come about because both sides of the argument have a real passion for what they are doing and I would far rather have that than apathy any day.


Former scout Rosie Ellingham is a great example of how a passion for a cause is hugely important. As an openly gay scout, Rosie faced more than her share of prejudice growing up. Determined that young LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t face the same issues she did, she now fights hard to tackle homophobia and has appeared on TV alongside Will Young and at conferences with Ian McKellen tackling exactly these issues.

Last year Rosie was named Stonewalls Young Campaigner of the Year a huge accomplishment which she somewhat makes light of.

“Becoming Stonewall's Young Campaigner of the Year was never my mission. My mission was simply to give kids a better life than mine and those of lots of other LGB&T young people. I know we're getting there, but until we are there I know I won't stop the fight for equality – and I'm sure all my new friends won't either.”


I have felt huge benefits in volunteering for Scouting. I once commented on an online forum about the benefits I’ve felt from Scouting and how it makes me more and more enthusiastic about what I do:


“Through Scouting I've had some incredible adventures. I've walked on glaciers in the Alps and helped work at an orphanage in Russia. I've eaten handmade cheese on a Swiss mountaintop and gone whitewater rafting in Austria. I've jumped off waterfalls and drank freshly brewed beer in Belgium. Volunteering has brought me closer to my family and introduced me to the wonderful woman who became my wife.

I've seen young people go on from Scouting to do incredible things. Forget the images you might have of Scouts with shorts and silly hats. It's an everyday adventure.”


I want to share that feeling with others and I think it’s a huge shame that across the country there are around 38,000 [1] young people who can’t take part in Scouting for a lack of groups and adult volunteers. If you know someone who you think will have what it takes and would love to join the Scouting family, make sure you offer to get them involved. Bring them as a visitor to see what we do and make the most of the fresh perspectives new people bring.


Scouters are there because they care. That’s a hugely important quality. People spend more time and take more care over tasks they enjoy and the outcome is a better quality of activity for our Youth members. Volunteering is rich and diverse. These large and small acts of giving your time for others, given freely, are what bind communities together. Volunteering is helping, not hiring; giving, not taking; contributing, not counting.


In the end, we cannot and should not put a cash value on volunteering. How can we put a monetary value on ordinary people doing extraordinary things?


The value of volunteering is priceless.

[1] Scout Print Centre Infographic September 2014


Dan is a Scouter in Sheffield and the very proud leader of Norfolk District Explorers. When not running the Explorers, he also runs the group website, is the Assistant GSL, County Brand Adviser, Exec Member and Young Leader Co-Ordinator. Somewhere in the middle of all that he finds time for a full time job, wife and daughter. Dan and Becki met through Scouting together and she is more understanding than most about the adventures and mud!

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