Super greatness from those who show up

PMD volunteers who show up as planned, on-time, for the entire project, are super great! We had just such a group preparing our eleventh annual Thanksgiving meal on 11/18.

I just read a guest posting in Tactical Philanthropy about volunteers who don’t show up and create other problems.

PMD strives for 100% attendance. We carefully plan our volunteer projects so that we match the right number of volunteers to the tasks needed and work spaces.

Having the expected number of people to complete the tasks needed is important. We know from experience that too few or too many people, or people arriving late or leaving early, compromises effectiveness and satisfaction.

PMD achieves 90%-100% attendance is because we clearly

  • Explain how volunteers will make a difference
  • Require and thank them for a firm commitment 10-30 days in advance (and have found that most people cannot commit reliably more than 30 days in advance)
  • Confirm and then communicate details in advance
  • Articulate the effect (on charities, clients, and the rest of the volunteers) from not participating as planned
  • Repeatedly provide clear instructions on what to do if one discovers s/he cannot participate as planned, since this happens occasionally to the best of us.

If someone is unexpectedly absent, the project manager and I follow up to find out what’s up, and I go so far as to describe the negative impact of someone’s absence.

If it happens again, I caution the potential volunteer to be sure s/he can reliably and responsibly commit in order to do more good than harm. And if it happens again, I remove the person from our lists until assurance of changes that will ensure reliable participation.

Doing more good than harm is one of the expectations that PMD regularly communicates to volunteers. This helps clarify the impact of not showing up or not following safety measures.

Putting things in perspective helps, like when you’re new and you find out that a charity’s clients are looking forward to the meal you help cook because past PMD volunteers did good to engender this positive attitude, or that not giving money to a client will keep things uncomplicated for the PMD volunteers who follow you.

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