December 29, 2010

Are you a member or a volunteer?

Members are the strength of any organization for they provide the inspiration, funding, and volunteer coordination for a variety of community service projects. However, there seems to be a trend towards the ubiquitous volunteer over the focused membership model. Have you ever stopped to analyze the difference?

  • Volunteers and members give their time to their causes for free. 
  • Volunteers and members give money to causes they support. 
  • Volunteers and members perform projects that enhance their communities. 
  • Volunteers and members enjoy satisfaction from knowing they have helped others or made a difference. 

Wow, they do sound the same. What is the difference?

To answer the question, I took a look at Google's new Ngram viewer to see how the two  words have been viewed over time in literature. Take a look at the chart comparing the two words from 1900 to 2008. The red line is Member. The blue line is Volunteer.  Click on the chart to enlarge.

It is very clear that 'member' meant something special to authors of modern literature with peaks around 1920, 1940 and 1970. During those times it was normal to seek acceptance and belonging was key to career  and social advancement.

While there is a decline in 'member' after 1980 and again in 2000, 'volunteer' has not kept up the pace. It appears that fewer people are belonging and volunteering.  Or perhaps, fewer authors are writing about either. 

No matter which word we use, no matter which scenario we choose, the trend is one we need to reverse. We need to write, talk and volunteer. As for me, I like to belong to a group that shares my desire to do good today and has plans to continue to do good tomorrow and beyond. I like being a member of a community who just so happens to volunteer my time, talent and treasure. 

Let's hear it for the membership model for members belong; and as a group, they strive for understanding and generate love and a sense of pride. They have-your-back when you collaborate to invest in a better tomorrow today. 


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