Open communication is key to good service project development, particularly since we at PMD are good problem solvers, plus tap resources and connections when things are not going as planned. Most of the partner charities PMD assists need more than simply volunteers recruited to help them.
For example, last year one of our long-time charity partners asked for our assistance with a new activity, we were excited to expand to something different, and many people signed up to participate even though an earlier-than-normal start time required many to leave paid work early. However, when I arrived 45 minutes before the project began, I learned that 90% of the envelopes, a progress-limiting supply, was missing. Had I learned about this sooner, I could have brought a few hundred from home (since I often have card stock around given that I’m a letterpress journeyman) and informed the charity how it could easily order and have more delivered from Paperworks. Finding out the problem upon arrival was too late for me to be of assistance, and our volunteers would have completed the task in a matter of minutes, not three hours as scheduled, which is unacceptable when people make time in their busy lives to volunteer. (Fortunately, at our urging, additional charity staff identified alternative work for our volunteers that still made a real difference, just not what the volunteers originally expected.)
Another example is a previously town-funded, environmental effort that sadly was not funded this year. PMD volunteers loved volunteering for this service project in 2007 and 2008, and we already had nine people signed up for the 2009 project when we were informed that it was canceled due to lack of funding, only three weeks in advance. Had the funding problem been shared with me 1-2 months earlier, I would have fundraised to make this popular project possible in 2009. We could have asked the dedicated volunteers and companies who participated in this project in years past, as well as small foundations known to support environmental efforts like this. Sadly, it’s too late to save this project and too late to schedule an alternative service project to help another charity on the date we reserved.
So you don’t think that PMD is lost in the theoretical land of “should of, would of, could of”, we’ve purchased and solicited donations of sugar pumpkins and delivered them for past community Halloween parties for Hawthorne Youth & Community Center when the pumpkins they ordered did not arrive as scheduled. Furthermore, during our service projects, PMD project managers are empowered to purchase additional supplies should the absence of a supply limit volunteers’ progress.