“People will work harder for a cause than for cash,” according to behavioral economist Dan Ariely in Predictably Irrational.
That was loud and clear during last week’s broadcasts of The Colbert Report from Baghdad. The dedication and exuberance of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines – far from home, risking their lives to serve their country – were palpable and inspiring.
While the sacrifices of military service are uniquely profound, volunteers and nonprofit staff members devote themselves in other ways to a variety of causes here at home in the U.S. and abroad, including in developing countries. A board member whom I interviewed today told me that his job is to help support the executive team – by contributing funds, raising money, and assisting with strategy – because the staff sees every hour spent fundraising as an hour that they could spend saving lives in the desperately needy places where they work.
I think this is the appeal of volunteering and nonprofit service – to be part of a mission bigger than ourselves. We admire the courage, bravery, and sacrifice of those who serve our country. At the same time, there are opportunities for each of us to commit to something that is meaningful.