If you have been watching television lately, you might have seen the recent resurgence of the Muppets. Kermit the Frog isn’t crooning with the latest musical sensation or running away from Miss Piggy’s overbearing affection this time.
The famous amphibian is donning a hard hat and building a house, all in the name of volunteering — and a free day ticket to Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks.
The newest volunteering incentive is Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” program, where volunteers who dedicate their time will receive a one-day pass to a Disney theme park. Those who sign up can search through volunteer opportunities on the Disney Web site and manage their volunteering accounts.
Susan Ellis, president of Energize, Inc., in Philadelphia, said the Disney giveaway and other days of service “validate that you only have to do the minimum. Go do something for one day and get in.” Firms offering these volunteer days and incentives mean well but might be sending the wrong message, according to Ellis.
The number of days of service is growing. “Every day we turn around there is a new day,” said Ellis. The Corporation for National and Community Service since 1994 has used the national holiday associated with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a day of service. The campaign is to “Make it a day on, not a day off.”
People are encouraged to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a good deed, with an official designation as a National Day of Service and Remembrance in 2009. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pushed a little further for an 81-day commitment for the “United We Serve” campaign.
Should the nonprofit sector be creating its own limitations for service? Even the Mandela Day campaign, celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of humanitarian efforts, asks volunteers to give just 67 minutes of service. “I think that’s obnoxious,” said Ellis. Using the Mandela Day example, she questioned why not ask for 67 hours or 67 days of service over a three-year period.
Ellis explained that organizations should want more than an hour from volunteers and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Nonprofits should try to develop life-long volunteers if they want to properly tackle the problems they hope to resolve. “What can you do in 67 minutes to change the world? That’s a problem for our field,” she said.
This article is from NPT Weekly, a publication of The NonProfit Times.
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