Archive for March, 2007

No Time to Waste

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know anyone who has excess time to waste. With the preparations for PMD’s 15th anniversary, several grants to write, several corporate projects to develop, and running PMD’s regular service program, I’m working 80 hours a week and not happy about it.


So I’m irked when meetings start (and thus end) late or I read about another Big Dig fix at “no taxpayer cost “ (that will cost precious time to many drivers due to reroutings and delays in order for the fixes to be completed).


While wasted time seems to be the status quo, at least PMD service projects start and end on time. We try to respect people’s limited time and their commitment to participate for an entire PMD project. Likewise, we, particularly our volunteer project managers and recipient charities, appreciate when volunteers respect our policies about timeliness. To aid volunteers with this, we ask that they arrive 5-15 minutes in advance of the advertised start time to check and settle in, and we also provide fairly detailed directions and maps with time estimates.


Arriving late or not at all are some of the most stressful things volunteers can do to our project managers. Assignments are incomplete. Orientation must be repeated. As a result, late people don’t enjoy volunteering as much and tend to be more critical despite their being responsible for their lateness, our volunteer project managers are unnecessarily stressed, and the on-time volunteers have to compensate.


Now if only I could get PMD’s board of directors to respect each other’s time and to treat their meetings like PMD projects…. Special kudos to Martha, Danielle, and Karen, who worked with me until 10 PM to complete the invitation mailing last week.

What, Why & How volunteers should learn

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

When people volunteer and connect to a charity, its clients, and/or an issue, they typically become more committed and likely to participate again and are less likely to check off their involvement as “volunteer with PMD” alongside “pick up dry cleaning” and other tasks that they complete and never think of again.

How do volunteers make these connections? PMD incorporates learning opportunities in its project descriptions, info packets, and during every service project.

Although PMD shares key facts, links to charity web sites, and/or current news articles about the relevant topic, the truth is that few people do more than skim written materials in advance. Most often, people-to-people interactions during their volunteer experience make the difference: when a project manager repeatedly articulates that the completion of these specific tasks enables this charity to carry out its mission of helping some needy group, and when charity representatives describe their missions, answer volunteers’ questions, and share their personal stories about how they came to be involved in this work.

Most charities don’t have enough staffing to spend time with each volunteer or group, so I think that video is becoming increasingly relevant when people want to develop a greater understanding beyond their individual volunteer experiences assisting people in need. To fill this need, PMD has used excerpts from MonkeyRay Productions’ Growing Old documentary (now available on DVD!) to encourage people to consider aging and its challenges by watching relevant conversations with elders, professionals, and doctors in Greater Boston and learning about key trends.

If you or your group volunteer with elders, I recommend integrating viewing of this documentary to provide important context to the direct services you provide to individual elders. It is also a great starting point to discuss these complex issues.