“Why do I do this every day?” It’s a question I haven’t properly asked myself since the early days of Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd back in spring 2011. It’s a good question to ask ourselves every now and again. Our friends at Realized Worth celebrated their tenth anniversary earlier this year by asking and answering that question. Inspired by their example, and as a way of reflecting as 2018 draws to a close, this post is my attempt to answer that question afresh.
But first, let’s address the potential elephant in the room.
I don’t do what I do for the money. Well, that’s not strictly true: I do need to pay the bills just like anyone else. But some people think that consultants are out to make a quick buck from non-profits, that we are laughing all the way to the bank to top up our already healthy account balances.
Let me assure you this isn’t true, not for me anyway. My take home income as a consultant is about a third of what it was in my last proper job and, thanks to combined VAT, Corporation Tax & income tax, my annual taxes are a much higher proportion of my income than they ever were when I was in full-time employment.
I love what I do, but I’m not in it for the money anymore than I suspect that anyone works in volunteer management or non-profits world is. None of us are buying a super yacht and mooring it in Monaco harbour!
So, if it isn’t for the riches, why do I do it? Here are three main reasons:
1. I have a passion for volunteering
2018 marked three decades since I started volunteering. It was at school and at 14 years old that I got the bug. I’ve volunteered ever since.
Volunteering has helped me in so many ways. I’ve made friends, gained new skills and done things I’d probably never have done otherwise.
I want volunteering to be such a transformational experience for everyone.
No matter who you are, there should be an opportunity for you to do more than you have to, because you want to, for a cause you consider good (credit to the late Ivan Scheier for my favourite definition of volunteering). You should have as much chance as anyone else of being exposed to experiences that will change your life as you change the life of others.
When I wake up in the morning that’s what drives me out from under the warm cosy duvet and gets me in front of the computer, or standing in front of a training group, or working with a consulting client. That belief that today I can help make it easier for someone to volunteer and make a difference for themselves, their community and the world.
2. It’s a lifestyle choice
I used to commute to London every day from Lincolnshire. When the trains worked it was a three hour round trip every day. When the trains didn’t work, I was stuck 100 miles from home with no alternative route back. For a third of the year I didn’t see my house in daylight. I did that for six years. I’d rather not do it again.
Of course I still travel. Recently I was training in North Wales. The ten hour round trip on the railway (with the associated stress of missed connections) and night away from my family was worth it to spend time with twenty-two brilliant people doing amazing work.
This time last year I had just finished a work trip to Australia and New Zealand. That’s a 20,000 mile commute, taking over two and a half days just to get there and back again. It was nine weeks away from home and family, eating alone and spending more time than is sensible in hotel rooms and airports.
But this morning my commute took me from my bedroom to my office at the foot of the stairs. This afternoon I get to take 45 mins away from my desk to walk the dog with nobody questioning my absence.
Being your own boss isn’t for everyone. The worry about where the money is coming from, being your own IT, marketing, communications, HR and finance department (to name just a few) comes with it’s challenges. But they are far outweighed by the flexibility, fun and enjoyment of doing what you love whilst still having time for the people you love.
3. I want to engage and inspire people to bring about change
2018 also marks twenty-four years since I started paid work in the volunteering movement.
Volunteer management is my vocation and my career. Through my work I’ve formed friendships that have lasted longer than any others in my life. I’ve travelled to countries I never dreamt I’d go to and I’ve worked with and for some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.
Volunteer management has seen some changes over those twenty-four years, some good and some not so good. But too little progress has been made. Many of the issues that concerned volunteer managers in 1998 still concern them today – risk, criminal record checks, whether we’re a profession, how to deal with problem behaviour, influencing senior management, whether we are the same as HR…the list goes on and on.
When I set up Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd 2011 I didn’t just want to do the basic volunteer management work: how to recruit a volunteer, how to deal with problem behaviour. I also wanted to get stuck into bigger issues. I wanted the work of people-raising to be regarded as as important as fundraising. I wanted volunteering to be a strategic priority for organisations, not just a casual afterthought. I wanted to expand people’s horizons beyond the accepted wisdom of our field, challenging assumptions, tilting at windmills and encouraging new thinking.
I’ve made some progress but there is only so much one independent consultant trainer and writer can do. That’s why the one sentence description of what I do is ‘Engaging and inspiring people to bring about change’.
I want to help everyone in volunteer management step up to the plate and advocate for volunteering and our profession.
I want to inspire, enthuse and equip people to feel confident in speaking up for volunteering, not just for the sake of it but because of a shared passion for the power of people doing great things in the world.
Why do you do what you do every day?
What gives you your get up and go?
Share your thoughts and reflections in the comments below or on social media with the hashtag #WDIDTED.