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The Hidden Cost of Volunteering: Balancing Passion and Responsibility

Last week marked Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu - National Volunteer Week, a time dedicated to honouring those individuals who selflessly contribute their time and effort to community causes, sports clubs, and various organisations. It's a celebration of the often-unseen heroes who keep the wheels turning without expecting much in return. However, behind the accolades lies a complex reality that deserves our attention.

Volunteering is more than just a noble act; it's the backbone of many institutions, including our beloved club. As we reflect on the recent legal challenges faced by a Schools Board of Trustees over a tragic incident during a school trip, we're confronted with the sobering question of accountability in volunteer roles. How do we reconcile the immense responsibilities placed on volunteers with the inherent risks and complexities of governance?

In our yacht club, like in many similar organisations, volunteers undertake critical roles that ensure our operations run smoothly. From organising races and regattas to maintaining facilities and resources and overseeing governance, these tasks are fundamental to our existence. Yet, the burden of responsibility can be daunting. Volunteers not only contribute their time and skills but often shoulder significant accountability, such as legal ramifications in the event of mishaps.

The essence of volunteering lies in its voluntary nature—the willingness to give without expectation of direct monetary compensation. It's about passion, community spirit, and preserving the traditions and values that define our club. But as we approach WBBC's centenary, we face new challenges. The sustainability and growth of our club depend heavily on volunteers. Their dedication ensures that we weather storms, both literal and figurative, and emerge stronger.

However, amidst discussions about outsourcing tasks to paid professionals to ease the burden on volunteers, we must pause and consider the implications. While some functions may (and do) benefit from professional oversight, outsourcing core operations risks diluting the very essence of what makes our club unique—its community-driven ethos and member engagement, and will add financial costs.

The [understandable] reluctance of some members to commit to volunteer roles highlights a broader societal shift. The demands of modern life, coupled with increasing expectations of accountability, can deter potential volunteers. Yet, the alternative—relying solely on paid staff—threatens the camaraderie and shared responsibility that define our club culture.

As we navigate these complexities, it's crucial to acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable contributions of our volunteer army. They are the unsung heroes who ensure that every race is organised, every pie is ready to serve, and every safety protocol followed. Their efforts not only sustain our operations but also embody the spirit of our sport and community that defines sailing as more than just a hobby.

So, why discuss this now? Because the future of our club hinges on our ability to adapt while staying true to our roots. We must find a balance that respects the contributions of volunteers while embracing innovation and efficiency. Our club's longevity and relevance depend on active participation and collective stewardship from all members.

In conclusion, volunteering isn't just about what we give; it's about what we gain as a community. It's about fostering a sense of belonging, stewardship, and resilience. As we look ahead to the next hundred years of WBBC, (or even just ten years) let's remember that our strength lies in our unity, our commitment, and our shared passion for the sport of sailing.

Let's continue to honour our volunteers, support their efforts, and ensure that WBBC remains a beacon of community spirit and sporting excellence for generations to come.

Together, we sail forward. [gotta love those cheesy sailing analogies]


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