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November 21, 2017

The Way We Think About Volunteering Is Dead Wrong: Part II

It’s true that the world conspires against some people and not others.

I’m not generalizing “people” here. I’m referring to 3 specific subsets of society:

    • Takers
    • Matchers
    • Givers

Earlier I wrote about the differences between each group. As a recap, it basically looks like this:

Success Ladder graph with givers, matchers, takers, and givers

[Image from Madeline Blasberg]

I call the Givers on the low end of the chart “Bleeders” and the Givers on the high end of the chart “Providers.” Their distinction makes this interesting.

Let’s first talk about the Providers. They give (duh). They volunteer. They donate. But they do so strategically.

It always seems like the world is on the side of Providers. You admire these people the most.

What sustains Providers? Self-interest.

Now let’s talk about everyone else — The Bleeders, Matchers, and Takers. These are the people the world conspires against.

In Part II of The Way We Think About Volunteering is Dead Wrong, I’m going to destroy 2 more false scripts you tell yourself about volunteering. (Missed Part I? Read it here).

And in doing so, you’ll learn how to grow your business by giving back like a Provider.

Script #1: “Volunteering isn’t pure if you’re getting something out of it in return.”

People who work for a nonprofit or a higher purpose must work for less money, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Yet we’ve somehow bought into this fallacy that the people who work for nonprofits can’t possibly earn more money than the rest of us. We blindly follow this rule, that “Total Impact Made” must negatively correlate to “Total Income Earned.”

Another way to phrase it: Your impact is fake if you’re making money.

There are also those who say that volunteering is dirty if it’s not a 100% selfless act. That’s like saying if you help another person and benefit personally from doing so, you really didn’t help that other person. You just helped yourself.

There’s only one winner. Classic zero-sum.

It’s this argument that allows some people — Takers and Matchers — to justify not taking any action in the first place.

Now what about the Givers?

The Givers that give selflessly are the Bleeders. (Remember those people at the bottom of the success ladder?)

They bleed because they give out everything and completely burn out. You look down on Bleeders because you see people who give with all their hearts, yet failed to reach the levels of success that you have.

Personal note: It still amazes me that people believe being selfless is somehow the best way or the only way to be altruistic.

Bleeders give Providers a bad rep.

Providers are those that give strategically. (Remember the people at the top of the success ladder?)

Providers are scientifically proven to be the most successful human beings on the planet.

Providers get something in return from giving. No blood involved. Not only are Providers the single greatest Givers on the planet, they’re also the most successful human beings on the planet.

Here’s the lesson for all entrepreneurs:

To really succeed in building “Giving” relationships, you must absolutely get something out of it or else you will stop giving.

But use caution. As I explained in my last article, give too little and you’ll miss out on the happiness and growth that comes from giving because you never gave enough to begin with.

Script #2: “Volunteering takes time away from work or making money.”

I once had someone compare an afternoon of golf to an evening of volunteering. We both took 3 hours to do something important to us. Isn’t that the same thing?

Yes. Both golf and volunteer work are discretionary free time activities.

Yes. Both take time away from business and family.

Yes. Both golf and volunteering are phenomenal ways to build relationships based on common interest.

But that’s it.

Volunteering at its core is about helping other people. Golf? That’s your own self-interest.

It’s not a judgment on golf. It’s a judgment on the comparison that both activities are equivalent in terms of giving. (Which they are not!)

Did you know?

The sheer act of volunteering is scientifically proven to reduce job stress.

People feel happier, more competent, and more at ease when they feel like they’re making a difference in the world… even if they aren’t making a big difference in their job.

The same statement cannot be made for the sheer act of playing golf, or any self-interested activity for that matter.


Golf can certainly reduce personal stress, but it doesn’t cure unfulfillment in the workplace. If your employees are stressed and unmotivated, you need to get them volunteering.

The last point I want to make:

Do NOT equate time spent volunteering with time spent working. That’s missing the big picture. Let’s face it, when the primary purpose of a business is profit, your employees don’t experience true fulfillment.

Your employees are more fulfilled when they volunteer. More fulfillment means better performance at work. That leads to increased retention, higher productivity, and reduced costs.

All great things for your business.

Volunteering isn’t just good for our communities, it’s damn good business.

I’m not just preaching this to you, entrepreneurs. I’m also challenging your employees. Everyone deserves to feel awesome about coming to work for you. Every. Damn. Day.

Volunteering helps them, it helps you, and it helps grow your business. Win-win-win.

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