Pay-lunteers, anybody?

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A middle path between trying to motivate volunteers and hiring professionals.

CISV takes a lot of pride in being a volunteer organization. In fact, in Germany we always tell new families, how the IO ist he only place we're paying people to work for CISV. Of course, this is not entirely true, and there are several places , where the „volunteer-dogma" is being breached:

  • Many NAs employ people as national secretaries. It seems, as this job is both so time-consuming and dull, that no volunteer would do this for very long
  • The friends website was designed and programmed by an external company for quite some money
  • In CISV Germany a traditional kitchen staff is often complemented with a full-time professional chef.
Whether to find somebody to do a job as a volunteer or pay an outside professional to do the job is best illustrated in the question, who should best re-design CISVs website (which is an actual project these days):
The natural solution for our organization would be to find a volunteer, that is a professional, to do that job. From the back of my head, I know at least 3 people with the necessary competence. Furthermore, you can expect an intrinstic motivation in a long-time CISVer to give something back to the organization that gave him fantastic experiences. However, there's a whole bunch of problems associated with volunteer solutions: People sometimes accept jobs that they later find out, don't have the resources to do. Then there is a problem of holding them accountable, if stuff isn't completed in time, because, after all, it was just a volunteer job.
The other logical option, would be to find a company, to do that job. Usually a contract is signed, with deadlines, and agreements, so you can be sure to some extent that the job is done with the quality and in the time agreed upon. However, these people will have no emotional connenction with the organization, and since CISV is usually not the number one client on the list, similar problems can appear as with volunteers. Finally, of course, professionals are more expensive than volunteers.

But, instead of thinking in black an white, there is also a third way, to solve this problem: Many a volunteer may be willing to donate a bigger chunk of effort into time-consuming projects, if payed a small compensation. Think of students, who need a student job anyway - why not have a student job with CISV? People could feel more responsible for doing something, if they receive money for it - even if it's just a small sum.

I'd like to coin this solution "pay-lunteering". A few examples:

  • Swantje/GER used to be the national Summer Camp chair in Germany, when the position as national secretary became vacant. She dropped her usual student-jobs and works for CISV Germany next to attending University.
  • Bebbe/SWE could probably be called "Paylunteer No.1", since he is employed by IO as the administration officer. While most other people at the international office became acquainted with CISV during their job interview, Bebbe is a long time Seminar Camp expert.
  • Nic/GBR, formerly NJR and now trustee for Britain, spent a number of months in Stockholm, working at CISV Swedens national office as an EVS volunteer. In fact, this is probably a win-win-win solution because a) Nic got to spend a year abroad, b) CISV Sweden got a motivated staff and c) it was mostly payed by the EU.
Jobs inside CISV that could work out through „pay-lunteering" will have to be chosen carefully, and there is also the danger of spreading into all levels: If we start paying all leaders and staff, board members and kitchen staff, the „volunteer-concept" will soon be lost, and participation fees will have to rise.

Nevertheless this „third solution" should be kept in mind, when delegating new jobs, and especially, when volunteers are difficult to find.

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I think that for some project in CISV this is the only way to go. On some level the organization reached a critical volunteer mass and would be hard to develop more without paylunteers...

We essentialist need a paylunteers jobmarket online in which the organization offers money and tasks and people could bid for them.

I think that for some project in CISV this is the only way to go. On some level the organization reached a critical volunteer mass and would be hard to develop more without paylunteers...

We essentialist need a paylunteers jobmarket online in which the organization offers money and tasks and people could bid for them.

I've always loved this idea, because it acknowledges that our volunteers have a certain expertise, and shakes up the vision we have of volunteers without deciding to hire a lot of employees that we may not need 100% of the time.
I would see it done not by roles, but by tasks. I think this would make it a lot easier for the freelancer (CISVlancer? mmm maybe not) to justify spending their professional time on the project because we are showing them by giving them an honorarium (which usually fall below the taxable income, at least here in the USA) which, although lower than what they would get paid in their job, shows how much we appreciate their expertise.
For instance, I know a woman from CISV who is a magazine editor, but she doesn't work on any of our publications because that is how she earns a living and CISV is her break from that. But for a little financial recognition, maybe she would be willing. It can professionalize CISV, which is a very popular yet complicated idea these days, without losing the volunteer spirit that is at the core of our organization

Sarah, I think your point is pretty valid, that professionals some times are seeking a break from their usual tasks. But I'm afraid that in that case, it's a lack of motivation, that may not be overcome with financial compensation.

I thiny Paylunteering is a dual edge sword. In some areas I would say it is natural to have paid workers, be they from a volunteer background, or purely "hired off the street".

Nick outlined the areas:
- Tedious work that must be tended to every single day. (CISVers typically work a lot when they work, but can disappear from the surface for longer periods when other parts of life require attention.)
- Critical work that must be done on time and flawless. (Examples would be accounting and auditing.)
- Work where it makes "business sense". (Example could be a professional cook at a camp based activity, where the someone will improve quality of the food, while potentially reducing the overall cost.)

The grey zone is generally project based professional tasks:
- Graphical Design - especially when project based (Rebrand) rather than ongoing (prev. CISV News several times a year).
- IT Development - question is always what is too big for a volunteer to complete in a given period of time (and what is the risk of the volunteer giving up before being done). Also; are very specific - hard to aquire - skills required where it is unlikely that a volunteer will be able to reach the necessary level?
- Research - we have always augumented our EDR team with a paid external educational consultant.

The grey zone is not an issue when we hire external professionals to do the work. The qualms come only when we start paying volunteers for something they could do for free. Paying a volunteer for working full time on a project for a month is one thing, paying for a few hours a week in the evening something else.

If to be done on an international level we should have some guidelines. Essentially; what are the terms and conditions under which somebody can get paid to work for CISV. Maybe some degree of "no cure, no pay" is needed.

Hmm, I think I would like it better if people (except the national secretaries and IO) wouldn't get money in cash but in "we pay the AIM for you". Let's say someone would normaly get 500 Euro for designing something. Isn't it better for CISV if CISV would spend 500 Euro in a flight and accomodation to/at AIM instead of giving the one the money in cash?
Maybe the metaphor doesn't work, but if a homeless person asks me for some money for food, I never give him/her money, but I buy him/her something to eat. I'm too suspicious of him/her, that my money will not be spend for food, but for alcohol. In the end I helped him and we have a win-win-situation.
If we pay paylunteers with trips to RTFs, AIMs or some other national or international meetings, we avoid the trend to become a less volonteering CISV than before. Far from it!
(Damn, I was horrible redundant (in the linguistic meaning)).

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This page contains a single entry by Nick published on May 31, 2010 2:42 PM.

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