Volunteering as Democracy

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”

-Author unknown

Silhouettes of hands raised
By No-longer-here from Pixabay

I’ve always liked this quote, but my experience is that volunteers are a pretty homogeneous group in many organizations.

Perhaps volunteerism is the nonprofit sector’s version of voting rights. Who has access to vote through service in our organizations? Who doesn’t? How can we increase not only access but welcome, voice, and authentic participation in our cause?

The good news is that we have the ability to influence access to service in our organizations. The bad news is that many of us overlook volunteerism as part of equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts. Or we focus on increasing diversity (representation) and omit the essential companion work of inclusion (shared power and voice) and equity (removing barriers to ensure fair access and opportunity).

What does “voting” look like at your organization? Does it create the community you want to live in?

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