A Voluntary Post

In Questions, Randomness on August 16, 2007 at 4:06 am

Got involved into a conversation which ultimately ended in a very subtle job offer.   The job itself is BEYOND my imagination of what a job should be.  Let’s just say it’s for a ‘non-profit organization’.

That’s not what I am about to question.

The chat went on and on and finally numbers came up and I was close to having a heart attack.  It was rather huge.   No, wait, it was huge.

As I drove home, thoughts came popping inside my head like crazy.  I was suddenly in an urgent need of having a new definition for the concept of ‘volunteering’.  When I was in school, teachers taught me that ‘volunteering’ is something you do without getting paid.  If you get some money, then it’s your luck.  If you don’t, well… it is volunteer work.  I’ve never heard of leading a fabulous lifestyle BY doing volunteer work.  When your life is already fabulous (read:  similar to Angelina Jolie’s or Madonna’s), then it’s understandable for you to go on a real volunteer work, even donate loads of cash to whatever cause wherever it is.  That’s my understanding of ‘volunteering’.

But I was wrong.  Totally wrong, if I may say.

I don’t know why so-called ‘volunteer workers’ get paid so much.  Not envying them, nor saying that they’re wrong, but I couldn’t help but get a bit worried.  It’s fine if the volunteer worker does whatever s/he does out of idealism and true calling, but what some people just do it for the money?  Or are ‘true callings’ is really from the bank nowadays?  I mean, come on.  To somebody who has to work almost 20 hours a day, it just seems so convenient to start working at 07.30 a.m. and finish up at 04.00 p.m.  To somebody who has to always stand by on weekends, working with lazy ass crews and dealing with spoiled celebs, having every weekend off is quite a luxury.  Not to mention the pay and fringes.  Man.   If I weren’t thinking about actually ‘having to like’ what I do, I’d snatch the offer there and then.

My very simple mind could not be satisfied.  Why do volunteer workers nowadays have higher salary standards than ‘regular’ workers?

Or is the definition of ‘volunteer work’ has shifted?  If so, why, when and how?   And if it is ‘non-profit’, how the hell do these organization get their money?  I mean, wouldn’t it be better to donate the huge-ass cash straight to the needy rather than distributing the money to people who work in a nice air-conditioned office everyday first, before donating them?  It just doesn’t add up to me.  Yes they have rich people donating the money to the organization, but then… shouldn’t the logic be as raw as: ‘if you’re still eating out of someone’s mercy, shouldn’t you be employing any form of help?’  I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid, but the concept of getting your salary from philantrophists’ donations when you don’t really need to be in the receiving end (read: there are lots of people who need the money more than you do and you can find other jobs to avoid cutting the donations intended for them) is rather… absurd.  Is it?  Or isn’t it?

And another thing.

I heard the job would require some traveling to remote parts of the country and do helpful stuff to the people.  I’m just wondering… why aren’t we helping people nearest to us first before going off into some island?  Without disregarding people in remote locations of this country, I’d say we start from our own city.  Isn’t this logical?  Or not?

I’m really blind about these sort of things, so if my questions and ponders sound novice and somewhat stupid, I don’t care.  But really, I want to know.  Because to me, ‘working’ is always about money.  Screw idealism, because WORKING equals earning money.

‘Volunteer work’, however, is about dedication to the ones in need and self-satisfaction.

Money doesn’t have anything to do with it, and if it does now…

I still prefer to go commercial.  At least it’s guilt-free.

  1. yep, i’d prefer to go commercial, too 🙂

  2. Voluntary workers or known as volunteers, are not receiving any salary, in which you are right about the literal definition. But not all of those who work in the non profit orgization are called or can be called volunteers.
    As for non profit terms, it is called non profit because the work itself does not create any added money value like in a “production” kind of work like for instance, you produce a pair of shoes at the cost of IDR 10,000 and sell it at the cost of IDR 15,000. There’s no profit creation exist. This, is only a humble explanation.

    As for the (relatively) huge numbers you mentioned, not all of those who work in this area receive the same digit numbers as a paycheck. There are those who did not receive anything compare to what they have been given. But I agree that there are also those who received much more than what they deserve. Just like in any part of life, there is always inequality because again, managers are just human being, the same with those of the profit companies. They do make mistakes.

    On going to remote areas, not every worker goes to remote area. There are those who cover the city of Jakarta, for instance during the big flood this year. Maybe they are less exposed than those of the big disasters helpers. But they are there. Here and there and almost everywhere if one look a bit closer.

    It’s a one long huge explanation that won’t be sufficiently explained in a comment box, if I may conclude. But I’d be glad to disclose slightly more if need be.

  3. Very interesting post! So they do actually earn a lot, huh?

    On some occasions when I was feeling contemplative, I often thought about “giving it all up”, ie. give up my job and/or my ambition for a career to attend my “true calling”, where I would fully dedicate myself to help those who are less fortunate than myself, blablabla.

    In the end, I’m still here, working at the same place, aiming at achieving higher in the career ladder because I thought I “wasn’t that ready to give up on the material world”, and surely, I could help in some ways and still comfortably maintain my lifestyle.

    But reading your post made me realize how wrong I was, whahahaha… I should probably still go for a “volunteering career”. It’d be nice to end up with a better, more comfortable life (at least money-wise) and get the good feeling that I “volunteer”.

    Sarcasm aside… I share all the sentiments in your post. I used to think how these organizations were able to sustain themselves, being non-profit. I used to think how much the volunteers got paid (on- as well as off-field). Must not be that much, I thought to myself.. After all, they’re (again) non-profit and whatever funds they received would surely go to where they belonged. Your post got me wondering all over again, just what percentage of the donations would actually reach the needy?

  4. we’re living in a very capitalist system, no?

  5. bebe: like the ol’ cindy lauper say: ‘coz we are living in a material world and i am a material girl…’ HAHAHAHHAKAHKAKAKK!

    Silverlines: I do want to know more about this, because until this minute, I can’t seem to fully understand where the money comes from in these type of organization. The way it was explained to me sounded like it’s a business of its own, and listening to the benefits I’d get if I ultimately take the job was rather overwhelming (in sort of a weird ‘good’ way). Can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but then if indeed I take the job, it would purely be about the money in my head, and not about the good cause I’d do for the people. And that isn’t what I’ve always had in mind on doing ‘social work’. About helping those closer to where we are first before traveling across the country… well, it’s probably because in my cluelessness, I still see lots of sickening poverty around the city until now and was rather surprised to find out yesterday that these sort of organizations have existed since a long time ago. I couldn’t help but think: ‘well then what have they been doing all these times?’. But again, I’m speaking out of cluelessness and would be very happy to hear more about this sort of work because I really am blind.

    Tiara: Well those written in the post have actually been lingering in my head since the first time I hear the words ‘N.G.O’. Never fully understand what and why these organizations exist and whether it really pays to work for one. Because, again, in my head… working is about earning money. Social working is about helping people without the hope of getting even a cent. So if there is any further explanation that would satisfy my curiosity, I would really like to know more. Because if you were me yesterday, you too would be freaking tempted to take the job. Seriously.

  6. melly: i don’t know. all i know is i’m still living in a country where people who need to survive on $1 a day still exist, living side-by side with those earning $1000 – $5000, ironically doing social work. and that, is a confusing thing. and if i get tempted to do the job, i feel very guilty because of it. welcome to my mind.

  7. cindy lauper? thought it was madonna…. oh wait.. that’s material girl heheh

  8. Ideally, there should be no money making orientatation in the mind of people who works (or whatever term you may want to use) in this area. Ideally, that is. But of course, since we don’t live in an ideal world, and just like you said, some people likes to make it as a business of its own although you can’t say that it is what is generally happening. There are people who purely works (or even volunteers) without thinking what would they earn or gain from the activities itself, and it normally doesn’t happen to everyone, nor also it happens overnight.
    As for the poverty all over the city or even the country, before heading to those of NGO workers, you might want to ask “What has the government been doing all of this time?” Because it is their responsibility in a first place, and it is at their decision to accept or not any outsourced helps.

    But you never know, maybe one day you’ll decide to be one of the volunteers and share your thoughts of an ideal social worker so that could be a good sight for those who are not enlightened.
    Maybe. We really never know.

  9. bebe: oh yes, it was madonna! i always got their crazy hair and awful 80s costume mixed up…. hahahahakahkahk… by the way, Happy Birthday Maddie. she shares the date with my mom 😉

  10. Silverlines: So in my head the thought is still ‘ideal’. Phew. I never said it’s what’s generally happening. I was just questioning why social workers have a higher salary standard compared to people who works for regular profit-making companies regardless of their personal aims and idealisms. As for the government, well I have given up on them a long time ago anyway, therefore I was thinking that these NGOs would actually help in eliminating poverty. That is, before I know the wage standards. And now that I know, all I can say is… well poverty can still be eliminated… but probably not as fast as I thought it could be. Yes I know I should never say never, because maybe I’ll be intrigued someday to become a volunteer worker. But I’m making a pact with myself that when I do, I’d do it like Angeline Jolie and dear Maddie. Not so much the children-adopting way, though.

  11. Well, the job offer you received yesterday might have offered you a huge salary standard (of course, I believe that it could only happen after they saw and assessed your quality). But then again the grass is always greener the other side. The salary level is not always higher than those of the commercial, or profit companies. Your job offer might be only one compare to thousands of the low level ones and therefore it is not “standard” as per what you wrote.
    On being a volunteer, everyone could be one, in their own ways. You did visit the kids in the orphanage and shared them some happiness the other day. One could also visit them and just read them bedtime stories, or bring them books or toys. You could also visit those malnourished children and distribute them cookies. There’s always a way when there’s a will.
    And it does not take an Angelina to be an angel.

  12. Silverlines: Oh yes it’s not always higher than the usual offered by profit companies, but I did get a clear picture on the standards, from the lowest level of employees up to the level mentioned to me. And it’s still higher than most of those set by profit companies I’ve worked for. It still doesn’t add up in my brains. As for anyone can be a volunteer, isn’t that what I’ve been thinking all along? My question is yet to be answered nonetheless. And there’s nothing wrong in admiring Angelina and the likes of her for willing to get down and dirty and jumping out of stereotype. It doesn’t take an Angelina to be an angel, but it does take guts (and a hell lot of hard earned money) to do what she’s doing now.

  13. Oh no no, there’s nothing wrong to admire Angelina as I am one of her admirers for many reasons (including her drop dead gorgeous profile and her tattoo!) especially her being a goodwill ambassador. Am not sure about guts being of any requirement, but when one has all the willingness they can go even further than what she’s done, the guts part will be one of those that follows.
    But then again, when volunteers keeps themselves busy thinking of what other people has been doing to deserve what they’ve got, thinking of how unfair the world has treated them, they could forget to help others like what they intend to do. Focus, is what it takes.

  14. Silverlines: Exactly why I prefer to stay in the commercial side, at least until I get a satisfactory answer to my very simple question: “Why do volunteer workers nowadays have higher salary standards than ‘regular’ workers?”.

  15. The answer is, they don’t. Because volunteers don’t get any salary. Hope that answers your simple question.

  16. Silverlines: If you say so. Maybe I should ask the person who offered the job to me to get a clearer answer.

  17. Yes I guess you should. Maybe he or she is confused with the terminology and the terms of references.

  18. Silverlines: Actually, volunteers or not, I’ve always thought that people who work for NGOs -whatever the terms of reference is- are there doing good deeds. Could that be why they are appreciated more in terms of money? The better deed you do, the higher you are paid?

  19. maybe you’re refering to Humanitarian-aid workers (or charitable organization workers?). why do they get paid so high? and could that be why they are appreciated more in terms of money? the better deed you do, the higher you are paid?

    Let’s have a look at this from the economic point of view (the view that I have more knowledge of compares to any other views that’d make a sensible explanation for this). The idea is to work these NGOs as a profit organization to maximize efficiency. Say, I’m a charity and I received $100 donation this year and I only use $5 to help the needy people, how would you feel? You’d probably have less respect towards me, but nonetheless I’m helping people and it’s totally my rights to give $5 or even less. That highlights the common problems at all these NGOs… or charities or non-profit organizations. Their objective is to help people, but how good are they at helping people? $5 out of $100 is helping, $99 out of $100 is also helping. Because they lack any financial incentive to “help people more”, their objective is to help people, and not to help people by running efficient operation. So what you need to do is to run the organization eficiently, and to run it efficiently you need to run it like a company, to run it like a company you need to hire talents that are capable of expense saving. So I agree, they got a big fat paycheck. It is worth it tho, by doing so the organization can help people better.
    Now let’s go back to that old example:
    Before running it like a company, if people donate $100 only $5 will go to the needy the other $95 is all admin and operational costs. Now, you hire a guy, you pay him $50 but he is able to run it so much more efficient that the admin and operational costs is cut by 75%, so the admin and operational is now $24. So, $24 for costs, $50 for that guy… instead of only $5 now it is actually $26 goes to the needy. It is not the perfect solution and this is a dramatic example, but in reality these “talents” can push efficiency to such an extreme that it really benefits everyone. And thus, the big fat ass pay check.
    Now how to determine the talents pay? (or if want to put it in your word, why do they get paid so high?) That is done through the ‘economies of scale’, in which how would you increase the scale (of whatever) in the organization that will cause a decrease in cost. But it’s going to be a long storryyy… will tell you everything this weekend baby hehehe. Love ya!

  20. bebe: that strangely makes sense. hm.

  21. strangely makes sense… or just makes sense? 🙂

  22. Hi there, again 🙂

    Like Yodee’s explanation on operational expenses, we could look at it as the non-profit organization does not make profit, but its employees need to make a (decent) living 😉

    Perhaps we can use charity organizations as another example. Check out this website: Charity Navigator. It has some interesting information, including what percentage does a charity organization spend to raise money. The most inefficient fundraisers spend more than $0.50 to raise each dollar. This goes to administrative expenses and fundraising expenses. The Red Cross, on the other hand, spends only $0.08.

    If we can bring in a net increase on the objective, I don’t think we should feel bad to be paid quite well 🙂

  23. bleu: hi again 😀 well well, referring me to the website gives a clearer (and clever) view about this matter. but then again, i’ve made up my mind and decided to be at the giving part rather than the receiving end for now. after all, like you say… we all need to make a (decent) living. to me, it all boils down to the ‘decency’ level. to me, what’s (just) decent in the US of A might be extravagant elsewhere, especially in Indonesia. and if these administrative expenses are paid in reference to how it’s done in the US of A, i still see dollars and the demons in me said i should not do it. so i’ll be just another Indonesian digging for money from where i should be digging for the time being. that way i won’t even have bad thoughts or unnecessary endless arguments (anymore) in here. thank you for stopping by dude 😉

  24. I think nowadays a lot of charities actually outsource the fundraising and focus on the actual work. those are the most efficient. like, you get a voluntary organization to raise money for you they focus on the actual work like logistic of transporting food, aid.

  25. edit:
    like, you get a voluntary organization to raise money for you so you can focus on the actual work like logistic of transporting food, aid.

    sorry, didnt proofread my comment 😉

  26. Congrats, girl. 😉 Happy for you.

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