I was recently talking with a few friends and the topic of volunteering came up. Now these friends are great people, successful in their jobs, and all of them would drop anything in a minute to help anyone if needed. But there are people and places they will not help anymore. Here were some of the reasons given.
1. The place was disorganized. They did not mind helping, but many times they showed up and had to stand around waiting for someone to make a decision. The people in charge did not respect their volunteer’s time. They would have stayed and helped for hours, if needed, but they did not like having their time wasted when they have other important things they could be doing.
2. They felt like there was a bait-and-switch. They volunteered for one thing and then were roped into doing something totally different. Again, they may have volunteered to do whatever they were roped into, but they did not like being ‘tricked’ and were left feeling that the organization was not ‘upright.’
3. Once you volunteered you were ‘on the list,’ which meant you were going to be called for everything. They felt taken advantage of because they had helped before. The frequent comment was, ‘I am not the only person who attends this church, whose kids go to this school etc., so why am I the only one who seems to get called?’ Many organizations burn out their best volunteers because they ask too much of them. Whenever there is a need, they know who to call, and then they can’t figure out why that person either won’t help anymore, or the family leaves.
4. They did not feel appreciated. When they volunteered they were treated poorly. There was a list of rules that seemed to assume they were either mean, lazy or immature. Or the leaders yelled at their volunteers frequently. Even if they were not the ones being reprimanded, the environment was oppressive.
5. The things the organization did to appreciate their volunteers were weird and not enjoyable. Know your audience. There are people who never want to be up on stage, so don’t make them. Others do not see being invited to watch an hour-long teaching tape you thought was ‘edifiying’ as fun. Still others do not want to be involved in ‘group participation’ games. If you are going to thank people, try to make sure it is in a way that they will appreciate. If not they may be thinking, ‘I would love to help but if I do I am going to have to live through that again.’
6. They were made to feel bad when they said ‘no.’ They did not feel that they had the freedom to say ‘no’ without people becoming upset. They did not want to break a relationship over this, but they also had very real reasons for not being able to do things at the moment.
7. They were pressured to do things that were unreasonable, even after they explained why. Many people have professional skills, and do not mind sharing, but at times what is being asked cannot be done for a variety of reasons. It could be that their insurance only covers them on the job, and you are asking them to put themselves at a steep financial risk. It could also be that they need equipment that it not available to them at home, or that what you are asking is not in their area of expertise. (ex. My husband is an ER doctor, most dermatology concerns require a dermatologist. I have heard lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers etc have the same problems.)
8. They have to put up with jerks. While this does not sound charitable, it is Biblical to deal with problem people. Unfortunately many organizations do not and people get tired of being mistreated, even if it is by other volunteers. Since they are not getting paid, the volunteers eventually stop putting themselves through the misery. (When they are getting paid, this is a reason they look for another job…)
9. It looked like there was enough help already. Busy people don’t mind volunteering- if they are actually needed. Having a bunch of people standing around doing nothing makes it look like there are already more workers than you need. If the reality is that there are a bunch of people who show up and then do nothing, you may need to motivate the people who are standing around before others get the wrong impression. One place we do not volunteer at for this reason had us stop working after 2 hours even though the job was not done so that they could get the next group started. We assumed that they had more volunteers than they knew what to do with, so we did not feel the need to volunteer there again. This may not have been the case, and may have just been poor planning on their part…
Remember, professional people who have skills you might want to use are used to being treated well and not having their time wasted. They do not have all day to stand around waiting for you, they do have other things they could be doing and they are used to being paid well for their time (and usually thanked as well) so they will expect a thank-you when they are done. (Not that this is why they do things, but it is proper behavior to thank someone who has helped you and they know it.) If you want to keep these people involved, you need to keep these things in mind.
If you think of anything else, please feel free to share.