I don’t get which part of the commitment, people don’t get.
I feel like there are whole stereotypes accrues to the term « volunteer » and in order to make the experience worth trying for our youth or professionals, I guess every volunteer coordinator or non-profit leader should understand it is time to forget about them and build a new volunteering culture.
1- A volunteer doesn’t have spare time to waste
When dealing with a volunteer, whether he is in an entry or senior level, I have noticed that most non-profits leaders allow themselves to drop last minutes’ additional tasks or re-schedule without further notice. I guess they are assuming a volunteer has all the time in the world to just wait for their commands or do what they desire to fulfill his spare time.
What about all the interview answers about the purpose of choosing your organization and why addressing specifically these issues.
Any non-profit leader MUST understand that volunteering should be a mutually beneficial relationship. If the balance wasn’t reached, then it is not worth for both parts. Assigning tasks to the wrong person won’t only waste that person’s time or maybe his expertise in another field but also affect negatively the organization’s mission and reputation. I don’t want to exaggerate but I heard many times, young people and professionals avoiding working with certain enterprises because of one person’ bad experience so why to consider non-profits in guard.
One of my experiences, last week, pushes me to write this post actually. Nothing to brag about being a busy person, but I consider myself a very organized person with a tight schedule. I was totally disappointed when my high motivation to help a youth center where I am aware how my expertise is urgently needed, was faced with a non-responsible attitude by rescheduling our meeting twice without an advanced information. The representative simply didn’t show up and every time with a silly excuse!
2- A volunteer isn’t a loser or lost
I always encourage my mentees and students to get involved in community work and live a full- volunteering experience in order to prepare themselves for the « real life », the tough one where mistakes are less tolerated than in a strict work environment- even if, I realize it’s not the case anymore, enterprises nowadays tend to offer more and more growing and learning opportunities too, which is just awesome!
This advice will always be on the top of the « first-steps-to -take » list to anyone who wants to find his path, build his vision and improve his communication or soft skills.
Yet, non-profits, wake up!
It doesn’t mean that anyone who is looking for a volunteer opportunity is in a desperate need of abuse or just here to receive. Most people make the choice where to volunteer according to their interests and skills. Even if they may seem shy or hesitating, often in their first experience, they are definitely coming with a package full of ideas, talents, energy … you better invest on it and ignore that he is just a starter, here for a short term, especially the famous « he is just a volunteer »… A non- profit needs volunteers most to bring a new perception and synergy to her space. Behaving passively with your volunteers will only make them run away and never look back.
I remember when I had to lead a workshop for a small organization’ leaders to support their community. I noticed that the attendees were less than communicated first. When I asked the coordinator, he answered that because it was free, they didn’t even bother to check my resume or lend my reputation, they assumed ONLY because it’s free and voluntarily that I would deliver a low-quality content or that I am in a desperate need to promote myself! Proudly, once communicating with their colleagues who attended the training’s first day, they came next day begging to join the rest of the training but it was too late. I believed their needed lesson was to learn to respect and stop taking for granted goodwill people who just want help.
3- A volunteer requires professionalism too
I left this point to the end because as much as the two first are often acted by the non-profit leaders, my personal experience showed me that this stereotype command both.
I can’t understand how a non-profit appeal for volunteers if their leaders or, at least, the volunteer coordinator don’t have a clear vision about what they expect from? Which profile? What kind of skills needed and can be developed in the experience process?
Strangely funny, some non- profits don’t even check their applicants’ profile or interview them. They don’t provide any giddiness, mentoring programs or a follow up after each activity or event. They are definitely sending out the wrong message. The volunteer would feel himself a consumed object or an occasional replacement rather than part of a cause or belonging community.
In the other hand, unfortunately, many volunteers behave with non-professionalism too. They think that because they do it voluntarily then they are not committed to following the rules, the communicate or worry about achieving expected results. Some can go beyond that, they believe that because there is no obligation or penalty in a volunteering contract then they can quit whenever they want, they can just not show up or stop answering emails or calls. Sadly, I have seen several high qualified professionals behave completely different as a volunteer or in a work environment. The only thing that comes to my mind is « why »? If you are looking for a hang-out or commitment-free activities, there are so many other opportunities that you can catch other than disappointing people who may be raising their hopes on you.
I remember once I had to deliver a motivational speech to a youth group at a university. The group was so interested that they couldn’t stop asking questions. I didn’t mind and stayed more than the speech time, of course after making sure we don’t have any other obligations for the conference room or agenda.
Yet, I was shocked by the organizer’s reaction. He was upset claiming that I took it “too much seriously”, saying, “it’s just a non-paid session, why do you have to do that?” I was going through a very tough day and empty-stomack since morning, but the students ‘ interest and eager to learn, as they can’t afford a paid training, encouraged me to continue. He just couldn’t get it, all he cares is organize another paid session. As if we can’t bring more added value!
Some other regressions, were mostly about why am I doing this overseas? It’s not even my home country that I am serving. Some people link volunteering with sharing specific bounds with the beneficial.
Well, my answer is maybe because when you consider volunteering to help others with what you believe can create a positive change or be an inspiration in their lives- no matter how small it can be-, and you really enjoy it, not expecting something in return, you don’t care what’s the other person’s religion, or nationality or ethic. You just do it. Because it brings balance to your life. Like getting fat because you eat so much and you don’t exercise enough. It’s much healthier to choose whether to reduce the amount of food you eat, share it with others or start exercising.