“You volunteer? Why would you do that?”
That was most of my friend’s reaction when I told them at age 23 I was volunteering 3 hours a week to help the local credit union. I was working full-time in an admin role for another company.
“Why would you work for free”?
“What even is a Credit Union?”
Initially, I volunteered to help a friend with some admin work, but as time went on, I learned more about the credit union and its goals to promote thrift amongst the community by giving people the tools to help themselves. Saving small amounts regularly soon added up and gave the “members” access to small affordable loans. No corporate types were earning big salaries (there still isn’t), and I could see the immediate impact on the people using it.
I could see the vast social-economic benefits (although, at the time, I wouldn’t have understood what social economics meant) but, I knew this was something good.
As someone who grew up with the “Provvie wummin- Janice” doing weekly visits, I could relate to the struggle my Mum suffered, always trying to make ends meet and there never being enough money to go around. I always thought Janice was a family friend, but I soon came to understand the huge profits that were being made from often the most deprived and financially excluded. That made me angry and want to make a change.
The more I volunteered at the credit union, which at the time had 500 members, the more passionate I became about helping even more people. I was inspired to get the message out there that there was this organization run by genuine community-minded people who only wanted to help people become more financially stable, have options and not be judged.
Why didn’t everyone know about credit unions? A fire had been lit in me…
The more time I spent volunteering, the more I learned…
As a Cashier, I gained insight into customer service and the need for empathy and discretion when dealing with personal information. Data Protection, GDPR and Money Laundering training were all delivered.
After six months, I became the volunteer treasurer, learning about financial accounting, profit and loss, and reconciling a bank. The credit union put me through my HND in Business Accounting and Management to support this role.
As a member of the Board of Directors, I gained knowledge and experience in attending board meetings, minute taking and strategic planning.
After two years of volunteering, an opportunity came up to work for the credit union full-time, so I took a leap of faith and left a full-time job with a good salary and went to work for the credit union on a funded post for 12 months on £2k less a year.
I have never looked back…
Mark Twain had it right when we said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
As the credit union grew, I grew – up through the ranks to become the Chief Executive in 2016.
I have learned so much and continue to learn daily with real-life experience and on an academic level with Right Way Credit Union (RWCU), currently supporting me with a BA in Business Management at UWS. I am still as passionate today about highlighting the benefits of the credit union to the broader community we serve. Today Right Way Credit Union has over 5000 members spread over the West of Scotland.
To find out more information about credit unions and RWCU click here.
It is not just me who benefited from volunteering…. several of our volunteers have gained employment through the experience they have gained from working in the credit union.
Director Conor McCart
When Conor graduated from UWS with an accounting degree, he struggled to get an interview in the financial sector due to a lack of work experience. After volunteering for six months in a Cashier role, he secured a job with Nationwide 6 years ago, and he still volunteers with us today as a Director.
Volunteer – Stuart McCabe
For Stuart, the credit union has become a second family. At age 18, he started by volunteering, gaining a host of skills, having social contact and becoming an integral part of the team for over 16 years.
Volunteer to Office Manager – Louise Surtees
Louise started volunteering with RWCU in 2008 to support her HND accounting studies at college. She enjoyed volunteering so much that she kept doing it after her studies ended. When a post for paid employment became available, Louise was perfect for the role and has worked her way up to Office Manager.
If our examples are not enough to convince you of the benefits of volunteering, studies also show that volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those who do not.
Here are some other benefits of volunteering:
- increases self-confidence
- provides a sense of purpose
- helps you stay physically and mentally active
- can advance your career by learning new skills
- connects you to others – helping to combat depression and loneliness.
- It brings fun and fulfilment to your life
You can contact us here if you want to volunteer with Right Way Credit Union.
Or, if you fancy doing something a bit different, there is a host of volunteering opportunities that can be found on the volunteerscotland.net website.
So the question to ask is
Why NOT volunteer?