The Waiting Game

11Feb10

I’ve always subscribed to the notion that “Communication is key” when it comes to being involved with projects or ideas, an idea I feel even more strongly about when it comes to volunteering. If I’m trying to get information out of an organization because I want to help…it’s usually because I want to get involved. Common sense, right? Having said that, it baffles me when I don’t hear back from organizations. Especially ones that put out the cry for help. As a volunteer, it’s confusing to me – do you or don’t you want my help?

A glaring example that sticks out in my mind was a recent incident in trying to plan a group activity. A little backstory: I volunteer with my alma mater’s alumni association as one of the people who puts events together for the thousands of alumni who live here in the county. So we put the feelers out months in advance with an organization to do a pretty simple cleaning up the roads type of project. We waited, followed up, waited, followed up…eventually we had to mark the project dead on our calendars and move on because nobody got back to us with the information we needed. This also makes me think of the time last fall I sat through the orientation for an animal adoption group. I love dogs, so I was really excited about this one. Gave them my information and went so far as to sit through their 2 hour orientation. Came home with a whole folder of papers about their programs…and then never heard anything about how I can regularly volunteer beyond an initial email recapping the orientation. I still get their emails about what’s going on there, but never anything about volunteering.

All of this leads me to ask this very important question to the organizations of Atlanta – Why? Let’s have some real talk here: If you’ve got people who want to help you, why not talk to them about it? If I’m offering up my spare time to help you, especially with no strings attached, why should I have to chase you down to get the information to know what you need? Honestly, it’s not something that I’m willing to do very often (if at all). I get being short-staffed or sometimes people’s information gets lost in the daily grind. You may be the greatest cause on Earth but from this volunteer’s perspective, I feel that your lack of communication skill reflects poorly on your event or organization. I often find that whatever initial enthusiasm I had about volunteering exponentially decreases with the amount of time I sit around waiting to hear back from you. Remember, people are more than three times more likely to spread the word about a bad experience versus a good one. I try my best to keep it positive here in DoinGood…but sometimes I get tempted to put these organizations on blast here out of sheer frustration.

I’m just glad that this situation doesn’t happen all that often – there are some orgs that are really great about keeping in touch, even when former volunteers reach out after some time has passed. I had one such positive experience yesterday, in fact, with an event that I cannot wait to write about next month.

I guess my point here is that, as a volunteer, I just want to know what’s going on. Don’t string me along, don’t make promises you won’t keep, don’t just randomly stop all communication. Volunteers want to know that you not only value them, but that you respect their time as well. I want to help – just tell me how!

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