latest moment of volunteer management madness

Many of my blogs and web pages are inspired by first-hand experience as a volunteer or as a volunteer manager. And, sadly, it’s often bad experiences, usually as a volunteer myself, that lead to new blogs and web pages.

Of course I don’t name the organizations that inspire these blogs, and I try to put a very positive spin on these, to help other nonprofits, NGOs, libraries, schools, public sector agencies and other mission-based organizations to not make the same mistakes I’ve experienced. I consider them learning experiences, and I want others to learn from them as well.

Here’s some of these blogs and web pages that were inspired by my own experiences as a volunteer:

Here’s the latest moment-of-volunteer-management-madness inspired by a real organization:

This particular multi-state organization has leadership volunteering roles, on the local level, to handle the organization’s project management, including the management of local volunteers, in individual communities. But often, some of these local leadership roles are not filled, because no one is interested or no one has the time to do all of the tasks a particular role requires. Therefore, the lead volunteer for all other leadership volunteers in that community gets saddled with all the roles that aren’t filled, in addition to all of his or her other volunteer responsibilities.

One group of leadership volunteers in one community had a brilliant, oh-so-logical idea for lessening the burden on the lead volunteer and getting necessary tasks done: allow volunteers to commit to completing individual tasks, rather than the entire, hard-to-fill, leadership roles. For instance, allow one volunteer to be in charge of the online community for local volunteers, another volunteer to be in charge of updating the web site, and another volunteer to help with designing paper fliers – which, altogether, are most of the duties of the communications manager volunteer.

There were people ready to assume these much less-intensive volunteer roles. That means all the tasks of that role get done, the local lead volunteer manager – a volunteer herself – wouldn’t be overburdened trying to do these tasks as well as her other responsibilities, and maybe, after a few months, one of these task-based volunteers would decide, hey, I think I could do the entire job myself – I’m ready to commit to the entire leadership role! It’s a fantastic opportunity to cultivate new leadership volunteers – people who might get a taste of the experience and decide they would love to take on a more substantial role.

So, great idea, right? Well, not according to the organization. An employee representative who attended the local meeting where this idea was introduced quashed the idea. She said that the entire role has to be filled by one person and absolutely cannot be divided among several volunteers. Since no one is going to take that role in its entirety, all those tasks are going to be assumed by the already over-burdened team leader.

What a mistake! What a missed opportunity to cultivate new volunteers and new leaders!

Well, at least I got a new blog out of it…


2 thoughts on “latest moment of volunteer management madness

  1. Your friend

    I love all your blogs-I just hope the right people are taking notes and making their organization better than this one!

  2. Anonymous

    Twice, reps of organizations that were NOT the subject of such a blog wrote and said, "OMG, you don’t mean us, do you?!?" The organizations that shouldn’t worry because they are so awesome and inspire me regularly with their awesomeness are the ones that always think it’s them, while the organizations that SHOULD take notice don’t read my blog at all!


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