If you want to make a real difference, then you have to be contributing more than the resources you are consuming in the process.Â Otherwise, awareness building aside, it would be more efficient for charity staff to carry out the tasks.
VolunteerÂ time + donations > staffÂ time + resources used
Today’sÂ Wall Street Journal article about the “Helping Hordes” strainingÂ New Orleans charities that the volunteersÂ purportedly seek to help describes problems that are not, sadly,Â unique to the Gulf.
I am fortunate to work with individual volunteers and select companies that really understand this. Every time PMD cooks a meal, we use donations from the actual volunteers and our otherÂ donors to purchase all of the groceries from top-notch purveyors. This removesÂ the burdenÂ of time and fundsÂ a charity would have to spendÂ grocery shopping so thatÂ volunteers could cook a meal. Most charities simply cannot accomplish this unless they employ a full-time cook and supporting staff for their kitchens, and since PMD tends to help the small, grassroots charities, our resource-committed role is essential to feeding hungry people.
In April, McKesson did a great job with its annual Community Day for which PMD organized the volunteer projects for their Newton, MA, employees. Together, we plannedÂ for and provided all of the tools and materials, as well as feeding lunch and giving t-shirts to the nearly 60 volunteers and the dozen charity staff who worked with them. We had funds remaining in our materials budget, so we purchased needed itemsÂ that recipient charity Cradles to Crayons identifiedÂ on theÂ regularly updated,Â “TopÂ Ten Most Needed Items” on its home page.
This weekend with PMD’s organizing help, Cornerstone Research’s Boston staff will converge to give a “yard makeover” to a residence for frail, formerly homeless, elderly women, followed by a do-it-yourself ice cream social that will enable volunteers and the women to interact after several hours of hot, yard work. I’ve spent quiteÂ a bit ofÂ time purchasing all of the materials (flowers, composted manure, mulch, etc.) and tools for 30 people to garden simultaneously. And I’ve becomeÂ quite the penny-pincher since I want to get as much value as I can for each dollar Cornerstone is contributing.
I could share many moreÂ PMD examples sinceÂ PMD chooses to work with companies that believe in creating more net value.Â Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time attempting to convince other companies that this is The Way to do things.Â Many businesses justÂ don’t get it, and want to believe that participation fromÂ their group is enough, despite the obvious associated costs, even their internalÂ organizing capacity. I find it odd since they seem to reserve this thinking for their volunteer activities and not their meetings and business activities, yet expect even greater productivity and enjoyment from their volunteer activities. Maybe this is like childish wishing one can “get something for nothing”?