Is Mandatory Volunteering Really an Oxymoron?

Is required or mandatory volunteering - often called community service - really an oxymoron?
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It’s often called “community service,” and it’s a requirement for many high school and college students, depending on their programs, as well as individuals who have received court-ordered service for breaking the law.

We can debate all day about the pros and cons of creating a culture of requirement and punishment around giving back. But since I’m sure you’re as busy as I am right now, let’s skip past the ideological elements and focus on what’s relevant for your day-to-day work.

Many of us might instinctively feel wary of volunteers who are required to show up. Logic suggests they won’t be as engaged or connected to the cause, that they’ll only do the bare minimum, or that they will simply count down their hours and then disappear.

Logic, however, often doesn’t apply when it comes to the emotional connection volunteers form with a cause or organization. Bottom line: Just because they are required to start volunteering does not mean they won’t become dedicated supporters down the road.

The worst mistake you can make is treating these volunteers any differently than those who are not doing “community service.” In fact, you should take special care to show them the impact they can make during their time with you, and how much you appreciate their work.

And when their mandatory volunteering time is over, invite them to stick around. Offer them more responsibility; show them how easy it could be to make this a permanent, rewarding part of their lives. And eventually, you’ll both realize that it doesn’t matter why they started volunteering – it only matters why they continue.

Have you worked with “mandatory” volunteers? Tell us about it below!