Give A Little Bit

Remember how I said I was going to volunteer for the holidays? I spent hours on line looking up holiday-related volunteer opportunities. I sent multiple emails to charities in the hopes of putting my time and energy to good use. And you know what? I got two responses.

Two.

As a former volunteer coordinator, this makes me very disappointed. Why put up a volunteer opportunity if you don’t plan on actually contacting the people who want to help? That’s ridiculous! One email I got was a cut and paste response, which I understand given the volume of inquiries they probably received, but still. . . it wasn’t even really about what I said I wanted to do. Another charity called me within an hour to set up my shift. Granted, she talked my ear off but she was nice and friendly and appreciative.

The saddest part? That ONE opportunity I set up outside of the non-profit I already work for (with Chatty Cathy) I had to cancel due to Snowmageddon 2008 here in Seattle. Mother Nature is dumping so much snow on us that it’s making it impossible for us to get around. (We’re not equipped for this – hardly anyone has chains, the hardware stores get salt in and run out of it within an hour, and if you don’t have skis, a snowboard or a sled, you have to hoof it. Even cabs companies aren’t picking people up on side streets. . . that is, if you can get one to answer their phone.) So, I had to call and cancel. I’m bummed. My idea to be of service didn’t pan out. I even bought gifts to donate through my church but because of the blasted weather, I can’t get them there in time.

I did, however, manage to volunteer through my work and collect donations at my apartment building for foster kids. The season of giving wasn’t a total wash. AND I am inspired to set up a regular volunteer opportunity starting in January. I just hope someone will respond! Now I understand why people were so appreciative of my promptness when I was coordinating volunteers. I thought all agencies were like that? I thought it was like the #1 rule of volunteer management. Ahem! Not for everyone apparently.

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31 thoughts on “Give A Little Bit

  1. You do good everyday, Sizzle. You’re an inspiration to many, me certainly, plus you’re hot! Tricfecta of awesome be you. o)

    Merry yule!

  2. I’ve experienced that as well — extremely offputting, whether it’s money or goods on offer. (Money seems to get a consistently positive response, of course, but that is a different department… 🙂 ) But it sounds to me as if you’re turning this situation to a greater long-term good after the holidays, *and* you got some interesting perspective on the world. So that’s all good, right?

  3. I always chalk it up to their being busy, but it is so disappointing to not hear from someone when you’re trying to do good.
    Good for you not only for trying but for getting back to people, too. Volunteers do appreciate that!

  4. Before kids I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Finding that shelter was next to impossible because they never called back to tell me if/when/how I could help.

    I think the person in charge of coordinating that is very busy and probably forgets without meaning to, but it is still frustrating!

    We are having a lot of snow too, but people here are used to it for the most part. I can’t imagine being where you are and having all the unexpected snow!

  5. It is too bad. And the sad thing is that a big reason why a lot of these agencies aren’t responding is that they are woefully understaffed, which means they could really use that volunteer help if only they had someone to coordinate it.

  6. I have had that experience when trying to volunteer before as well! I thought they would be eager for volunteers, but I guess not. It kind of made me upset.

    I’m sorry your season of giving isn’t going as smoothly as planned! I want you to know, I think you are wonderful for doing all of this. Not many people would.

  7. I think this is common. Even in the volunteer work I do with my therapy dog, things are screwy sometimes. A few of us were scheduled at this one facility for a Halloween party. We bathed and dressed up the dogs, brought goodies for the kids, etc. We got there and the facility had booked an off-site event and no one was there.

    I did get to volunteer at a cool event on Friday and will hopefully blog about it soon. : )

  8. I am totally with you on this one re. bad volunteer coordinators. Look, I get it. Non-profits do not have the manpower other companies have. That’s why they need volunteers in the first place. But, if you can’t properly respond to your volunteers, even during busy times of year, you’re either going to lose them before you even have them or they’ll lose interest once onboard. It’s such a shame. That’s partly why I chose the specific domestic violence shelter I did … because they were on top of their volunteers and made us feel we were doing something worthwhile with our time!

  9. im with you- the same thing happened to me this season. the one place that did get back to me is only available at a random time that i cant make due to work. it’s dissapointing.

    something good will come along though. i guess it just takes some extra effort. hopefully it will end up being that much more worth it.

  10. Several of the non-profits I’ve worked/volunteered for have had this problem- I think it stems from the fact that they were run by people with a passion for their mission, but without much management or financial know-how (us bleeding hearts are not always so good with the details). I have no idea how any NPO could survive without calling back their potential volunteers!

    But I’m glad your effort wasn’t a complete bust! Stay warm out there!

  11. That’s quite unfortunate–but, I am with the camp of the unsurprised. I know from prior firsthand experience that nonprofits are often poorly managed, with not enough staff and a staff that is overstretched/underpaid.
    When I tried to go back to volunteering at an animal shelter I’d worked at before, there was a new volunteer coordinator who had no record of my ever having helped out. So she started me pretty much from scratch and the training she wanted me to attend was absurd. I never really followed up, and that’s sad. I realize it probably was not her fault but come ON! I had volunteered there for over a year!

  12. There aren’t any plows around that area? I don’t know why, but I figured that the upper northwest was familiar with that kind of weather, and at least had plows. Hmm…

    We don’t drive on chains here in the midwest…not even after getting something like 6 – 10 inches. We wait for the plows to make their way around town, and then we venture out. Works for me! I bet Seattle is a bit more hilly than Kansas, though. And if there’s anything I hate running into when its snowy/slushy/icy out, its a hill. ::shudders::

  13. I’m not sure if you’re trying to reach out for particular causes, but Seattle Works is a pretty organized group that sets up various events/work dates for people. Granted, that wouldn’t help in Snowmageddon 🙂

  14. Wow. I have to say that is pretty surprising. Only two responses? I would think during this time and especially this year people need all the help they can get.

    As for the weather, no worries, it’s something way and above your control! But, *ahem*, if you possibly can push some our way I would be most grateful. 🙂

  15. I’m with the first comment, just because you get paid for what you do doesn’t mean you should discount the work you do every day. Take your tenants for example, you made all of them smile and appreciative. If you are looking for a good place to volunteer, there is a great agency I used to volunteer for in Seattle and it was really easy (although it did involve vacuuming) but I went to a person in need’s house ( i hate the term shut in) once a week to help her with the household chores she could no longer manage on her own. It was an awesome agency because it allowed people to stay in their homes and maintain their independence.

    Whew, that was a lot to say pat yourself on the back for what you already do, divine intervention was at work preventing you from volunteering.

  16. At least your other good deeds (goodies for the neighbors) worked out!

    Maybe there’s some sort of business opportunity here – maybe we need to start a non-profit that’s designed just to coordinate volunteers for other non-profits.

  17. Sometimes you just have to do it yourself. I got fed up with organized volunteering a long time ago. Show up at a senior center to visit, or sing. We collect coats, blankets and thermos containers throughout the year and then when the temps drop we get together to drive around D.C. looking for homeless folks. A thermos of hot soup and a blanket goes a long way in making new friends. Take your snow shovel around the neighborhood looking for unshoveled walks (a sure sign of older folk) and do the deed. Of course, I prefer a snow blower and my motives aren’t so pure…hot cocoa, cookies and undying gratitude are great incentives *g*.

  18. This bugs me to no end. Both at work and as a volunteer volunteer coordinator for our race here in the ‘hood, you would think that at the VERY least they could drop you an email. I just can’t imagine having the luxury of ignoring volunteers.

    Good on you for wanting to give of your time. I looking for a new project right now…

  19. I’m not surprised. And I’ve been one of those managers who were too busy to figure out what to do with a volunteer. It’s more likely overworked management, than bad management. Well if it makes you feel better they probably wouldn’t have known what to do with you if you did show up, since most of Seattle is still snowed in.

  20. That should be the number one rule of volunteer coordination (been there, done that myself). But unfortunately I think many people get bogged down in the day to day (what with the basic tenet of non-profits of doing more with less and all!), and don’t do the greatest job of keeping the big picture in mind and prioritizing accordingly. It’s triage, people!

    I love the idea of setting up a volunteer opportunity in January! I actually think that is a better time than november/december, and hopefully you will get a much better response rate. We did a food drive at work…and then got snowed in, so we have a ton of food that somehow needs to be delivered. No idea how that is going to happen, but I’m betting they delegate it to me today in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

  21. You should volunteer to push cars up hills or drive tour buses. There’s plenty of “volunteer” work to be done in this town. I say you shovel more than your little apartment complex. Shovel the whole block or shovel the street for fun.

  22. By the way, it cracks me up how some folks really don’t get the snow plow situation in Seattle. If you can’t get up a hill, then you can’t plow it or put sand down. There are a lot of hills in this town and it’s really not possible for plows to hit the vast majority of them. Seattle is a curvy woman.

  23. i’m sure i’ve told you that happened to me with at least 3 agencies i contacted through volunteer match and their websites. no email, no call, nothing.
    that was last holiday season
    this year, the agency that i was most interested in posted opportunities again, and instead of trying to contact them through volunteer match…i sent an email to the exec director and copied the development director and coordinator to let them know about my previous attempts. they all emailed me back within 1 day.
    sucks that i had to email execs complaining about the lack of communication, but it sure made shit happen.

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