My last blog, I’m a volunteer & you should just be GRATEFUL I’m here!, talked about the entitlement volunteer, that person who feels he or she shouldn’t have to go through an orientation for new volunteers, shouldn’t have to be screened at all or his or her credentials confirmed, and shouldn’t have his or her volunteer or pro bono work supervised nor held to any standards.
But there’s also another volunteer: the frustrated volunteer wannabe. He or she is the person who is happy to go through all the orientation and training required to be a volunteer, and would really love feedback on what he or she is doing as a volunteer – the feedback is more valuable than a pin or a coffee mug thank you. So why is this person frustrated?
- He or she can’t find information about volunteering – at least not easily – on an organization’s web site
- Organizations this volunteer contacts because of postings on VolunteerMatch or other volunteer-matching site or volunteer centers never get back to him or her, despite the posting that said the organization needed/wanted volunteers
- Organizations this volunteer contacts, by filling out their volunteer applications through their web sites or even going onsite, never get back to him or her
- Organizations have orientations and trainings on a day and time this volunteer could never attend, and the organizations offer no alternatives that would better fit the volunteers’ schedule
- The volunteer isn’t certain what he or she is supposed to be doing, and receives little direction or support when showing up for a project, an event or for a shift, or workig on a project from home
- A staff person at an organization claiming to need highly-skilled volunteers puts the kabash on involving a volunteer he or she fears, because of the volunteer’s skills or experience, or because the volunteer asks questions that makes a staff person uncomfortable about his or her own job performance or skills
And I have a confession to make: since I’ve been back in the USA, for more than two years, that frustrated volunteer wannabe has been ME.
I have tried to volunteer sooo many times since September 2009, when I moved to Oregon. Key word on tried. Same for my husband, who has also tried to volunteer since coming to the USA. And then there are my friends, who have frequently expressed frustration to me at their attempts to volunteer – for instance, I got this in an email from a friend just last week:
I once tried to volunteer at some big music event that NAMEOFORGDELETED was putting on. I showed up at the assigned spot, and no one was there to tell me what to do, so I left. I volunteered again during their pledge drive, but generally found it unsatisfying. Never went back.
A benefit of my own attempts to volunteer, as well as the experiences that have been shared with me by others, has been the inspiration to write a lot of blog entries and web pages over the last two years, which I hope might help organizations who want to do a better job of involving and supporting volunteers:
- How to get rid of volunteers
- No excuses for not having the word “volunteer” on your home page!
- What is impressive, what is not.
- The volunteer as bully = the toxic volunteer
- A fire station turns away volunteers – and how it could be different
- A missed opportunity with volunteers
- latest moment of volunteer management madness
- When the volunteer coordinator needs an improvement plan
- How to handle online criticism
- Walk the Talk
- Is your organization a buzz kill?
- What you say vs. what you do re: volunteers
- What is “too much” from an online contributor?
- How do I get to you sans car?
- How easy is it to volunteer at your organization?
- What really happens when someone wants to volunteer with you
I doubt any of the organizations I’ve tried to volunteer with know that these blogs are about, or inspired by, my experiences with them – it would never dawn on those organizations to follow their volunteers on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to a blog – even a volunteer who wrote on her volunteer application that she’s a trainer and researcher regarding volunteer management – or married to such.
But let me add that, on the rare ocassion when volunteering has worked out for me, it’s REALLY worked out – thank you, BPeace!
Trying to volunteer over the last two years has taught me more about volunteer management than any book, any workshop or any conference I’ve ever attended. I believe it’s made me a much better trainer and writer regarding volunteer management and community engagement. It’s also shown me, more than ever, why there has never been a greater need for volunteer management consultants.
Also see: a listing of what I have done as a volunteer (and why I volunteer).