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December 5th, International Volunteer Day, is a good time to reflect a little on “volunteering”. Actually a clear matter and also a bourgeois matter of course. I even claim that every society that knows and cultivates volunteering is a successful one. And societies that don't know about volunteering, the so-called baksheesh societies, can never be that successful either.

I only became really aware of this recently when I had an actually very positive conversation with a professional politician who actually couldn't understand at all that there are people who do something "for free". And so it was also a matter of course for him that he could not only live well through his "voluntary work" and the commitment he showed, but also, deservedly, secure a carefree future for himself.

That is why I would like to come back to the actual basics of voluntary work in this article. Voluntary work is engagement in public functions, which are legitimized by election and is carried out by the officials free of charge, i.e. without any payment or other material benefits.

Volunteering is ideally supported by further civic engagement, such as: B. the voluntary services, supplemented and thereby completed. That's why societies that have such committed citizens are so successful, because these citizens do many activities "for free" and thus significantly advance a society.

The typical honorary posts are club board members, aldermen and municipal councillors. Altruism, the opposite of selfishness, can certainly be imputed to these citizens who accompany such offices. And this also clearly shows why such companies are simply more successful.

In the meantime, however, it has become common for us that many honorary posts are associated with so-called expense allowances, which, according to the original idea, were supposed to reimburse the incumbent for the costs of transport and necessary office supplies - which counteracts the idea of ​​honorary posts - and more and more a very good earning opportunity for the incumbents. If it's a larger club or association, it's happy to spend hundreds of thousands of euros a year on expense allowances, or at least, as with local councils, can ensure an income that is above the average for society.

The federal government put it as follows: "Volunteering has many faces: In Germany, 31 million people volunteer. You are making an important contribution to our society.” 

The crux of the matter is that it is no longer an honorary office if the holder is remunerated for it, and one can no longer assume that the holder of the position has altruistic motives, but must assume that they are precisely the egoism that dominates the baksheesh society.

And it is precisely the lack of altruistic motives that destroys the idea of ​​voluntary work and thus also destroys its actual meaning and purpose. I maintain that we have long been on the way to a voluntary baksheesh society and that volunteering will soon be just an empty term that you use when you want to sugarcoat something.

What can we do if we want to save our society?

First of all, we have to ensure transparency and add the respective price tag, especially for "honorary positions". And the second thing we have to do is make honorary posts back to being such.

I am fully convinced that there are still enough citizens in our country who would also support such honorary posts and would also be proud to be able to work for the benefit of our society - the honor would certainly be reward enough for them.

"Get people to share stories about work they do for nothing, the causes and community groups they or their family are involved in, or used to be and would still support if they had time. … You could learn more about your fellow workers in ten minutes than in the last ten years.”

Patrick Dixon, Building a Better Business (2005: 3)

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