Once upon a time communities would get together and do things – build a community hall, hold a cricket match, fund raise for the local school. The work was shared The job was done.
These days it is called ‘volunteerism’. There a courses available on how to get people to volunteer. The greedy and the litigious have forced a whole complication of rules and regulations around trying to undertake the simplest things. Thousands of more or less worthy causes try and grab some of your time. Sometimes grey egos, with personal agendas, try and enlist you in their paltry dreams.
We live busy lives. We spend more time at work than we have for generations for relatively less pay. Everything is more expensive than it was and everything is a whole lot more than it was. Once we could carry everything we owned in a small skin bag tied at our waist.. The numbers of people willing to help out are dropping and the those left are aging and overworked.
Is there is a looming crisis? Is ‘What’s in it for me?’ taking over from ‘How can I help?’.
The problem is exacerbated by groups with careless, inept leadership. Organisations that want to reach out and need volunteers, need competent, generous warm people at the helm. The grey, self righteous, egotistical and bureaucratic quickly sour people and chase the willing and creative away. You may think your organisation is worthy and does a job that needs to be done but does the community agree with you? Does the community even have a clear idea about what you do? Are the aims and role of your organisation codified and clear in the minds of your management team? Have you examined them lately?
If you are getting paid for what you do and enlisting volunteers to help you. You have a special responsibility. You will be taking the credit for what your organisation does with your superiors and peers. Be very sure to acknowledge your volunteers
Boards and Committees of management that use volunteers – be very careful what you ask them to do. Is it the best use of their time? Is the job leading to a well considered outcome. Have you scoped the project with an expert? Have you consulted the community at large? Are you providing adequate resources in support – tools, clothing, food, drink, first aid and public acknowledgement? \
Some issues to consider for management committees-
You want to run a fund raiser, – you decide to run a cake stall. A volunteer volunteers 90 minutes of time and $10.00 on the ingredience and then some one volunteers two hours of their time selling it. You sell it for $2.00 a slice = $16.00. Cost of cake including (notional) labour costs and on costs = $40.00 plus fraction of the sellers donated time. It would have been more economic and volunteer useful to ask the person to donate the cost of the cake and your committee use the volunteer’s time for something of a more lasting value
Do you realistically acknowledge the contribution of your volunteers? You run a sausage sizzle or a market stall or even a market….. You use ten volunteers for 6 hours and you make $2,000. Your volunteers have effectively donated $200 each (minus on-costs) to your organisation, because without them you would not have the funds. The people who purchased items walked away with something of value. Your volunteers used their very valuable time to raise money for the organisation. Be careful how you spend it! Be very careful how personal, extensive and fulsome is your praise for your volunteers. They might not do it again.
Considering a fund raising option? An important point to consider – if you apply a monetary value to your volunteers time as an hourly rate. Say $15.00 per hour. Will the amount of work undertaken in hourly/dollar terms be equal or similar to the amount raised or the value of the job done? Is the outcome worth it? Is it a sensible project or are you just burning out your volunteers?
Enlisting volunteers to do a job? Have you got the right tools available, are your plans complete, is it scoped for safety? On going jobs like web page/news letter editors – is your committee supplying them with regular interesting and informative material? The tough jobs like secretary and treasurer – is the committee right behind them and offering support?
As a community organisation how do you relate to your volunteers? A two line general ‘thank you’ form-letter doesn’t cut it, you need to acknowledge your volunteers, by name if practical, both at your events and in publications like The Clarion. You need to make sure your workers are cared for when they are working for you.. Contacting your membership only when you want something, doesn’t cut it. Consult with your membership/volunteers about what they might want to do or see done. Position the aims and activities of your organisation to be in line with the aspirations and needs of your community. Run your organisation in an open and transparent way. Be fair, nepotism and playing favourites turns people off. Taylor the activities of your organisation to make it easier for your volunteers to do what they have to do. Maybe volunteers are not volunteering for your group because there really is nothing in it for them!
Are you considering volunteering? There are really two sorts of voluntary organisations that need volunteers. Bestow your valuable time carefully.
1. An organisation that is raising funds primarily for the benefit of the organisations members.
2. An organisation raising funds for the community at large or specific cause with community benefit.
In this community there are still many individuals who work tirelessly for the community, filling many roles and in many ways. I would like to pay tribute and give thanks, on behalf of all of us, to all you people who volunteer.
This year has been the busiest for many years.
We have done a great deal and we have done well.
Keep the faith, keep volunteering and use your collective voice to keep your organisers on track and not wasting your time.
Happy New Year