weird thing: Or how not to get people to volunteer more

I went to a conference for a volunteer thing.

While I was there, an organizer took the podium and yelled at people for not being there all day and had even harsher words for those who weren’t there.

Then for those of us who were there, zie yelled at us for not doing more.  And for not engaging with the speakers more.

It wasn’t cajoling, it was scolding.

Once again, xkcd really says it best:



16 Responses to “weird thing: Or how not to get people to volunteer more”

  1. Catwoman73 Says:

    Sounds like a fun way to spend the day… fun in a ‘root canal’ sort of way…

  2. Leah Says:

    WTF? Weird.

    When I worked for a non-profit as an intern, our bosses organized a bunch of “how to non-profit” days. One of the best ones was grant writing, but a close second was “how to treat a volunteer.” I assure you that these techniques were not in that lesson. In short: value any contribution they do bring, and always have a running list of (reasonable) things to do so that volunteers don’t sit around when they come. We had a whiteboard with tasks separated into short, medium, and long-term. Any time we we thought of something, we popped it up on the list. We had a cadre of very content, happy, and delightful volunteers.

  3. Miser Mom Says:

    Ah, yes, I once sat through a surreal faculty meeting where the dean ranted in front of all those present about how sparsely attended the meeting was, and how it’s our job to come to these meetings. Of course, the dean was ranting to exactly the wrong people, and moreover wasting the time of the people who actually did care. Our dean needed Leah’s training . . .

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Right now I’m seething because I volunteered for a university service assignment and instead of having their automated system check for obvious conflicts of interest (that is, is the nominee in your department), they want the volunteer to check after the assignments have been made. And there’s a dept that is intertwined with mine so I feel like I have a COI even though that isn’t an automatic COI. So I got my assignment and it is 100% COI. I emailed and said it was a COI and the woman in charge emailed back and said that departments that are not our own are not COI. “That is the rule.” And I looked at my new assignment and instead of 50% from my dept and 50% from the other dept, it’s now 80% from my dept and 20% from the other COI dept. So I emailed back and was all, this is still all COI. Everyone from these two dept are COI for me. And if that is a problem, I can unvolunteer. And that was days ago and the thing is due in 3 days and no response, I still have only COI in my in box. The university has literally hundreds of dept and it seems to me a solution would be to check for obvious COI BEFORE sending out assignments.

  4. chacha1 Says:

    I’ve been part of a local chapter of a national nonprofit (USA Dance) for going on 13 years. The local boards are notoriously bad at recruiting volunteers (it generally comes down to “it is easier to do it ourselves than to train/supervise people we can’t even count on to show up”). But now I’m on the other side: I’ve stepped off the board, but am still a volunteer to serve as registrar for the annual showcase. And what I have very quickly learned is that when people volunteer, the organizers need to actively manage it.

    I am about to send a love letter to the board telling them “if you have someone who has volunteered to handle a certain task, it is YOUR job to manage that volunteer; you can’t expect them to check in every ten minutes asking for instructions, or to keep dates open, if you never contact them.”

    Note: I was always proactive with my *own* volunteers! But there hasn’t ever been a volunteer-management protocol for our organization, and clearly we need one.

  5. Paul Lamb Says:

    It’s true, and yet it’s wrong. In my long years as a volunteer, I was never talked to in this way (and even then I finally burned out).

  6. moom Says:

    Reminds me of a former girlfriend who was a physical therapist. So, I’d report to her that I went on a bike ride because I thought she’d be happy about that. Instead, she would rant about how I need to do more exercise…

  7. Cheyanne Says:

    Yep! I have some serious “How to Treat a Volunteer (From a Volunteer’s Perspective)” posts planned for National Volunteer Week.

    So many organizations just really get things WRONG.

  8. Abigail @ipickuppennies Says:

    Wow, that’s bizarre. Who yells at volunteers?!

    And I wonder how much the other person in the comic donated to malaria research? Yes, I know it’s just a vignette, but I always wonder about people who are that judgmental. Do they practice what they preach?

  9. AccountantByDay Says:

    I am volunteering for this event that is in its second year. Someone must have told the organizer to be appreciative of volunteers because every email ends in the same cookie cutter “I really appreciate you coming to this meeting/doing this task.” I laugh at it, but it still works to get the point across that he is acknowledging you are doing this as a volunteer.

  10. Tulip Says:

    I volunteer at a food bank and I have in the past donated lots of produce from my garden. This year, when donating produce, it must be washed and when we bring it in we must put in these plastic containers (lettuce goes into plastic clamshells) etc. They want to make the experience of going to the food bank more like a store.

    I guess that’s good thing, but it makes a lot more work for me. This year I’ll just give the extra produce to my neighbors. They’ll even come pick it themselves.

    Now, when you drop things off, or when you volunteer for a stocking shift, you get emails like the one AccountantByDay mentions. But, it doesn’t make up for increasing the amount of required work to donate produce.

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