Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{May 9, 2011}   burning bridges

As a Volunteer Manager, I pay attention to what people are saying. I listen to the volunteers and I listen to the staff. I hear the complaints of the staff regarding tasks and time management so I try to connect the volunteer with the set skills and ability with that staff member to alleviate some of that stress.

As I move out of “Management” and into “Coordination”, I’m finding that staff would rather eliminate the volunteers who have been helping them over the course of the past 4 years and re-absorb those tasks back on to their shoulders instead of having to build a relationship with them or heaven forbid, talk to them or “manage” them.

I sent an email out to several volunteers today saying we were undergoing a staff change and that their tasks would now fall under staff instead of volunteers. When I was working directly with it the past 4 years, it seemed to work out fine, lots of work got done, volunteers were happy, staff was happy. Now that I’m not doing it, no one’s doing it.

Its very sad. No one wants to feel that things will fall apart when you leave or aren’t there to head it up…although sometimes people want to believe that it might…they don’t want it to really happen.

I know this is part of my transition, but I’ve built relationships with the volunteers who are doing these tasks and now I’m the one that has to tell them and say goodbye to them.

I guess it’s better to hear it from me who has cared about them and what they have been doing for us then the staff involved now anyway. The staff would  probably burn that bridge and not look back.

I don’t get people some days…


A friend and I were talking the other day about volunteering. I’m moving out of the management of volunteering and focusing on the coordination of volunteers. It’s a scary thing, because the management will now fall under someone else who may or may not know the delicate balance there has to be in the management of volunteers.

The first and most important thing is that volunteers don’t want to hear about the day-to-day drama. They want to come in, do good, and go home. My sister had told me of a time where she went to her local animal shelter to walk dogs and refill water bowls only to be met by a staff who put the pressure on the volunteers of that day that if money wasn’t raised than 8 pitt bull puppies would be put to death that night. She practically was given the choice of standing outside a store in a strip mall with a donation can or to cough up cash then and there.The staff’s job was stressful, they wanted the volunteers to know what they go through every day.

It wasn’t what she signed up for, she didn’t want the drama, didn’t need the pressure, she was so turned off she left and didn’t look back. When we volunteer, we want to do good, we want it easy, we want to make a difference in a positive way and feel good about it and share our happy stories. We don’t want the drama. If you are on the inside of volunteer management, remember that volunteers are seeing a side that “normal” people don’t usually see. Just because the dirty laundry is there doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it.

As in any management position, transition is hard, for the former manager, the future manager and all of those who are being managed. I shielded and protected the volunteers from a lot of the day-to-day drama that they can over hear and see when they are in the trenches with us. I just hope it continues.

Volunteering in any environment should be fun and enjoyable and worthy, even if  “working” in the same environment isn’t.

et cetera
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