The privilege of volunteering

November 04, 2021 Meteor: scicomm with impact Season 1 Episode 6
The privilege of volunteering
Show Notes

No one can decide what you do for free but you. 

Volunteering is often a portal into relationships and career experience. It’s also a way to give back to our community or professional environments. But, unpaid labor is often exploitative (or not possible for some of us). It’s a rotten conundrum. ⚖ 

An equitable system should do away with volunteer opportunities and every opportunity should instead come with payment or other meaningful compensation. 💸 

However, we gotta recognize that the system will not change overnight. So even if people believe that everyone should get paid for everything, there will still be volunteer opportunities out there today and tomorrow. You have to decide whether you’re going to volunteer yourself and if you’ll ask people to volunteer. 🤔 

Here are a couple of factors we usually weigh: 

  • Bethann has figured out that some things can’t be done for free, or she’ll wind up resenting the project, especially if it’s being done for colleagues/professional friends. 
  • Virginia reminds herself of the priorities a project needs to hit using a modified version of the passion - prestige - pay triangle that folks often recommend for freelance gig decision-making. 
  • Sometimes volunteering really will make a difference in your life. Maybe you want to transition to scicomm, like we both did. We did both volunteer in lotsa ways while making that transition, even in order to make it. 
  • On the flip side, there’s a whole different calculation. What if you have an opportunity but you don’t have the funds to pay people for it? 

Dig in with us this week. Examine your process: 

  • What do you do for free? 
  • What would you ask someone to do for free? 
  • How do you decide so that your actions match your big-picture goals? 

BONUS! 🎁 Bethann’s running a workshop in January on big picture goal-setting. If you want to sign up, visit

*** Join this conversation: follow us here and say hello (how do you juggle 🤹‍♀️ the whole volunteer thing?) on Twitter with @MeteorSciComm ( 

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