“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served
Perhaps when one thinks of volunteer work, a common idea which comes to mind is simply participating in community service or outreach projects such as giving donations to an indigent community or relief goods to a community badly affected by floods or earthquake. And the participation to such project may be in a form of physically handing out the goods or giving monetary donations.
To be involved in such activities is said to be very beneficial. Mark Horoszowksi, in his article “Surprising Benefits of Volunteering,” mentioned five benefits of volunteering: (1) it makes one feel like they have more time, (2) it develops new skills, (3) it helps the body to be healthier, (4) it helps build the experience and (5) it makes one feel more love. And I want to add that these benefits are better achieved when the involvement in the volunteer organization is consistent.
For the past five years that I have been doing volunteer work with the Rotaract Club of Manila, a socio-civic organization for young professionals, I have gained new skills and went through different experiences in activities such as outreach projects, project management, public speaking and even travel and tours planning. And what keeps me hooked in this organization is its diverse membership, collaborative nature and exciting activities.
Rotaract stands for “Rotary in Action.” Established in 1968, it is a program of Rotary International that caters to young students and professionals ages 18-31. The objective of this organization is to bring together young people to exchange ideas with leaders in their community, to develop their leadership and professional skills, and to have fellowship through service. Around the world, there are roughly 10,904 recognized and registered Rotaract Clubs. And these clubs are sponsored by Rotary Clubs.
In each Rotaract Clubs, the members decide how to organize and run the club, to manage their funds, and to plan and implement activities and community service projects through the leadership of elected and appointed officers. Their sponsoring Rotary Clubs provide guidance and support on how to manage the club and facilitate the activities.
The motto of the Rotaract program is “Fellowship Through Service.” This concept is the core of all activities and service projects, and it unites every Rotaract member (Rotaractor) anywhere in the world. In Rotaract, the clubs conduct service projects while building and refining good working relationships with like-minded people. And this is how we establish effective teams within the organization.
In the book “Culture and Organizational Behavior,” Sinha (2008) quoted McGregor (1960) on the characteristics of effective teams. Some of these characteristics are: (a) the atmosphere within teams is informal, relaxed, and comfortable getting the members quite involved and interested in the team; (b) the team has lots of free and frank discussions in which all members participate; (c) the task or objective is well understood and owned by the members; (d) members listen to each other, every idea is given hearing, and members feel comfortable in placing any idea without being afraid of looking stupid; (e) members are free to disagree; (f) criticism is frequent, frank and is taken in good faith.
Perhaps it can be said that is it easier to unite members in a volunteer organization since each individual is drawn to participate in activities because of their shared interests and values. Their collective interest and passion spark good communication among members. And having good communication forms good teams.
However, good teams can be further enriched to become effective teams through fellowships, simple activities that engage and motivate members further. With more engaged and highly motivated members, an effective team is formed, and we are practicing this in Rotaract.
Fellowships can be as simple as sharing meals, going for coffees, unwinding after work, or sharing tasks in service projects. In doing such activities consistently, we build and strengthen relationships in the organization. We become comfortable in working with each other and really expressing our ideas and inputs. Hence, planning and implementing of service projects in the Rotaract Club are more enjoyable and exciting.
Looking back at the characteristics of an effective team, the key to having an effective team is doing fellowships. It is in knowing and understanding the members of the team outside functional tasks that we are able to establish and strengthen good working relationships. And it is in having working relationships that we have collaborative and effective teams.
For anyone who wants to be involved in making communities a better place for everyone or those who want to develop their professional skills, Rotaract is a good avenue to experience all of these and meet like-minded young professionals.
Karla Patricia M. Ravida is an MBA Candidate of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University (DLSU), and currently works as an Associate Consultant for Ipsos Business Consulting. She dedicates time to do volunteer work as the president of the Rotaract Club of Manila, a socio-civic organization geared towards developing young professionals through nation building and community projects. She can be emailed at [email protected]. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.