Archive for November, 2006

Recruiting Board-Level Volunteers

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

PMD can always use help from more talented people who believe in our mission. We have done a good job of describing our mission and strategic plan as well as delineating the expectations for board directors and specific officer positions online in various board bank postings.

In the past week, I have spoken with three people who expressed interest in joining PMD’s board. All three are excellent candidates who have the experience and skills to fill specific roles and needs of our small board of directors. One seems especially motivated, whereas another has already (hopefully temporarily) withdrawn from consideration due to workload and the perception that he doesn’t have enough time.

We estimate the time commitment as 8-10 hours per month on average, but this is event-associated and no current members are contributing at this level currently.

The most common reason that people decline is that they say they can’t make the hypothetical time to doing the best job they could do…. Sometimes I feel like telling them that it would even be great to have 50% of the best job they could do since it would make a big difference to PMD compared to not having a position filled at all! After all, no one expects them to make PMD their second job or the top priority in their lives like I have. And, of course, I wonder why folks who don’t have enough time bother to contact me.

I wonder if it is better to underestimate the amount of time a volunteer position will require in order to attract more potential candidates, or to wait to fill needed positions until we identify appropriately talented people who really can put in the time we think it will really take.

Volunteer Leaders Should Not Feel Like Sheep Dogs

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Great volunteers make commitments to participate when they are sure that they can be available for the entire time. Volunteer leaders should not feel like sheep dogs, searching and gathering volunteers repeatedly and then not letting them escape before planned.

In my personal life, I tend to run late when I’m rushing, trying to do too much in too little time. Yet, I manage to pull myself together when other people are depending on me. Despite their good intentions, late volunteers, including PMD project managers and volunteers who depart early, inconvenience countless others who they claim to want to help.

Each time I schedule a PMD project from time A to time B, I depend on all people who sign up to commit to the entire duration in order to complete all of the planned tasks. (And for PMD’s volunteer project managers, this also means arriving earlier at a set time, cleaning up, and returning the PMD backpack and reports at a set time.) I don’t “pad” the starting and ending times, so the times advertised are the real starting and ending times planned to complete all of the needed tasks.

PMD projects have experienced chronic volunteer lateness this autumn. At last Saturday’s Family Fun Day in Cambridge City Hall, half of the group failed to check in 9:45-9:55 as directed so that orientation and assignments could begin at 10 AM. We were hugely understaffed, and our stressed-out project manager was understandably in crisis mode and calling absentees. Some late volunteers eventually arrived at 10:30 AM, but that was in the midst of many families (since the event itself was 10:30-3:00). Besides wreaking chaos with the staffing of literacy activities, latecomers missed important orientation and the opportunity to hear from and question a representative of the Cambridge Family Literacy Collaborative, which spearheads this annual event.

While public transit can sometimes be blamed (like Red Line busses in gridlock this past weekend or legendary blizzards that caused people to arrive as much as two hours late), PMD depends on responsible participants planning ahead for travel, parking, and even getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. PMD always provides site addresses, maps, and directions in advance, which is no small feat for Greater Boston neighborhoods.

Please don’t schedule your next activity so close to the end of a PMD project that you need to leave the PMD project early in order to get to your next activity. Volunteers departing before the advertised ending time, before the project manager concludes the day, has become another problem. Unless one becomes ill, it is unfair to leave the rest of the group to finish and to clean up, and very disrespectful to the recipient charities and volunteer project managers who count on everyone so that the whole group can reflect and conclude the project together.