volunteer points

What’s the point?

300 hours. 250 points. Now that’s what I would call a dedicated volunteer.

Or maybe not.

When it comes to defining a committed volunteer, the only thing that seems to matter for many people is the hours and the points. We’ve come to value the meaning of volunteering in numbers rather than the experiences.

But it’s not as if these systems of tracking are inherently corrupt.

In fact, point and hour systems can be beneficial for club participation. For example, Key Club and Interact utilize their point and hour systems to encourage their members to volunteer and fundraise by requiring a certain amount of points to attend their more popular and fun events. Other clubs, such as National Honor Society, hold members accountable through their point systems, enforcing a minimum point requirement for continual membership.

Theoretically, these systems ensure that a club presents enough members for each event and by tracking the activity of each member on an objective quantitative scale and limiting or expelling members who do not maintain a consistent point record, recurring members can be guaranteed spots at events over flaky members.

Beyond holding students accountable for participation, another purpose behind these point systems is to instill a value of service in its members. Continually volunteering develops this characteristic, which members cannot gain through one experience. By creating continuous volunteering ethic through enforced point systems, volunteer clubs can keep their promise to promoting these values.

So what does the quantification of volunteering negatively affect then? It’s not the clubs that host events or the organizations we volunteer for that lose the most, it’s us.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, to volunteer is defined as to “freely offer to do something.” By implementing hour or point systems, do we change the original meaning from genuinely offering our services to fulfilling the bare minimums or benefitting ourselves to gain positions or recognition? The common answer seems to be yes, but the real answer is: only if you let it be that way.

Ultimately, we can’t depend on point systems to help us discover the value of community service. The true purpose of these clubs lies in serving the community not in the points. It is our responsibility to find meaning in our own work.

By Kevin Arifin, Staff writer
Editorial cartoon by Jason Yen