As members of Junior Chamber International (JCI), one of the very first thing we learn in JCI is that membership in the organization is purely voluntary. We cannot force someone to join us, we cannot force them to be active, and we certainly cannot force them to stay. Everything we do revolves around the voluntary action of each member. Each member decides on their own to give their own time, resources, and share their own talent and skills. Many of the tenets of JCI revolve around the principle of volunteerism. The organization as a whole cannot function without people volunteering.
However, when the demand of volunteerism goes up against the demand to earn a living, many mistakenly believe that they have to choose between the two. Many cannot imagine the two co-existing, or many have trouble balancing both in their lives.
One of the reasons why JCI is such a great training ground for future executives and leaders is that JCI has all the trappings of a corporation but none of its inherent advantages. JCI leaders do not have the advantage a corporate executive has when it comes to demanding obedience and prompting people to work towards a goal. JCI leaders cannot force their members to work upon the threat of being fired, nor can they entice members to work upon the expectation of being paid a salary. Yet JCI leadership structure imitates that of a corporation. There is a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, and a Board of Directors. And every member, from the newest, to the oldest, to those who have leadership positions, is expected to work towards a common goal: that of creating positive change within their communities.
It’s a hard goal to achieve, especially if your members are not your employees and you cannot simply demand obedience or compliance by virtue of authority or the enticement of financial compensation.
So JCI leaders discover that in order to be successful, one must be able to convince people to work towards a goal purely for altruistic reasons. Members who rise to leadership positions gain insight on how to lead others through persuasion, inspiration, and respect rather than through tyranny, horse-trading, and fear. Because JCI is a non-profit organization, it does not have the resources a big corporation has, prompting JCI leaders to be creative and ingenious in their organizational drive.
Going back to the dilemma of volunteerism vs earning a living, JCI leaders must realize that the same principles required of them to lead, are also the same principles needed in balancing the two opposing forces each member experiences.
Members don’t have to choose between their jobs or JCI, they can employ a balancing act. Being a volunteer organization, JCI respects and recognizes each member’s right (and need) to earn a living. In fact, the two doesn’t even have to be diametrically opposed, as both can be in harmony in many instances (for example, many members have gotten better opportunities in their jobs or businesses because of JCI).
What every member must realize, is that for JCI, it isn’t about choosing between the two, it’s about learning how to maintain a balancing act. As I mentioned earlier, JCI is a great training ground for future executives and leaders. Not only because it prepares its members in becoming leaders, but also because it teaches its members to manage their time and resources wisely.
Meanwhile, members must also realize that even though JCI is a volunteer organization, work must still be done. And no work can be done without anyone giving their time, talent, or resources. And since they have pledged to “faithfully and truly perform my duty, and uphold and promote the objectives of Junior Chamber International,” then they are morally obligated to uphold such pledge, and work to fulfill such promise, to the end result that they must work, and work voluntarily, freely and with gladness in their hearts. For any work done in bitterness will taste the same, and any work done in joy will taste sweetly.
In the end, we all do this thing we call volunteering because we believe in the power of positive change. We believe that promoting good isn’t only for others, but ultimately for ourselves. Personally, I have followed the logical conclusion of altruism to its very end, and in my analysis, discovered this: if you do good to your fellow man, all the good you do will come back to you. How? Every man you help will be one less person wanting to rob you, kill you, rape you, or mindlessly do you harm. If you start a project helping people who have drug addictions, then you lessen the people who will do all those drug-related crimes. If you start a livelihood project, then you lessen the people who rob and kill for money.
So when you look at me and I tell you I’m all-in about altruism, understand that I am just being the selfish person I am, and all I really want to do is leave a better world for my son, where he will not fear being killed, robbed, or harmed because people are destitute or crazily high on drugs. To that end, volunteerism and earning a living are all the same to me – a means to an end.
First published in Bicol Mail December 2015.