Mission accomplished? Three Views of Volunteering.

Story 1: Can’t find No Volunteers

Two weeks ago, I was in need of a few helping hands. It was an immediate need. The job was short-term: a couple of hours. It could be done in the comfort of your home or office, or with peers over pizza and beer.

I made the first “error” relying on a generic “call for volunteer” email blast.

I made the second “error,” a few reaches to “safe” people I knew.

Then I went outside the box. I did a search of members within 10 miles of the office. I didn’t include ones from my main volunteer list. I send each a personal email. I gave them options. Was specific about the commitment. I even addressed concerns like “but I’m not qualified.” I told them why I needed them. I began calling. Before I got to the third call, I had 7 commitments from “new volunteers” plus 8 additional replies that while they couldn’t due to schedules, please put them on the list for future opportunities like this.

I sent the new email with a note of who was coming to my regular volunteers and pulled in two for the party and two other regular volunteers formed teams in their office.

Mission accomplished. Lesson learned.


Story 2: Got time to give, no-one to give it to

A high schooler needed community volunteering hours to complete the school commitment – now. Didn’t have a lot of time (school, sports, music commitment). Didn’t have a specific set of skills so wanted a “here’s a set of hands” job.  Lived in a large county with easily 100+ nonprofits. Had a car.

First step: ask the school. Little help. Did get a copy of the guide for teens volunteering in the county from fall 2010.

Second step: a visit to the county volunteer center’s office. Told to check the website.

Third step: visit the website and created a “profile.”  Great resource for looking but not so good if what you are looking for is a drop-in, no-advance-orientation-needed volunteer opportunity.  Signed up for a few only to find out that the information on some opportunities lacked some important details.  So began emailing – but the finding the contact info, not so easy.  Then, began calling – lots of voice mail.

Then a call gets through. Bingo. Great opportunity.  Had a “spontaneous volunteer” category and an immediate placement. Thank you American Red Cross!

Mission accomplished.  Lesson learned by high schooler: no-one really wants teens or wants to help teens find a fit.


Story 3: What’s the point?

Three of us were swapping stories about our respective volunteer positions on three different committees. In the beginning of the year, all three of us wanted to give time to the association. We pondered the opportunities available. Went through the official “call.” Jumped in. But as we talked about our individual experiences, as the year draws to a close, a theme emerged. It seemed that none of us could clearly – or with much enthusiasm – describe what was accomplished by these three different committees. Admittedly, at the start of the year, the project plan wasn’t clear. The measures of success were undefined. The position description was clear on the measure of responsibility but not so much on the actual tasks. Still we accepted. We took on the position.

We wondered what the point of being involved was. We didn’t move the needle in any measureable way. We did have a little fun along the way. We did get some small things done. But really were we or the committee or the association different in some measurable way for the volunteering?

Mission (serving out the term) drawing to a close. Lesson learned: this volunteering isn’t worth the time.