Volunteer Leaders Should Not Feel Like Sheep Dogs

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.

Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest