dhogaza at pacifier.com
Sat Dec 19 00:44:56 EST 1998
In article <19981218193549.22518.00001325 at ng154.aol.com>,
Susan112 <susan112 at aol.com> wrote:
>I tried to work with equine special interest group volunteers for trail
>maintenance but rapidly found out that they were only interested in trail
>riding, not trail maintenance. We got very poor turnout for workdays and I
>have given up on that route for maintenance.
This is really too bad. On the other hand, I have to be a thorn in
your side by asking if you've used other volunteer groups effectively?
A whole bunch of my life is based around using volunteers in efforts
in which, as it happens, I myself am a volunteer (not that it matters
that I am for what follows).
The first mistake most folks using volunteers make is that they think
an interest in volunteering automatically translates into useful
It doesn't. Unguided, it simply turns into an opportunity to have
fun (trail ride, perhaps?) And, who can blame them?
How many PAID workers, without adequate supervision, positive feedback,
education as to plan, etc, won't revert to play? Not a very high
percentage, I'm afraid.
Volunteers are motivated by a willingness to help, true, but they
aren't motivated by money, which for most of us means they aren't
motivated by a fear they'll lose their ability to survive.
You've got to treat volunteers as employees in all of the most
positive senses of the word. By this I mean you have to show
them that you'll provide adequate planning and supervision so
that they have confidence they won't be doing the Army equivalent
of digging a ditch just so the next squad can fill it in. They'll
want to see some sort of metric - if layabouts are allowed to
continue to "work" week after week, there's really no motivation
for hard workers to continue to work hard. This is true in
pay and volunteer situations, both.
Finally - reward systems. Volunteers normally don't expect, but
secretly covet, recognition of some sort. Why shouldn't they? They
could be home watching football, making love to their spouse,
working to make money, or any number of things rather than spend
their time with you. Make it worthwhile!
At Portland Audubon, we have literally hundreds, perhaps a
Every year, I have a volunteer task that at first seems dreadfully
hard to find people for. It is at 6:30 AM the morning after Thanksgiving,
to help mark the floor for booth space, and to wire electricity for,
our chapter's annual Wild Arts Festival (which NETS 70K+ for us for
a short run of 5-9 PM Friday, Saturday day, and Sunday 12-4). It's
a lot of work - stringing about 1/2 mile of wiring, for instance - and
at an obnoxious time for most people after their family feast.
Yet, I have the same people come back year after year (with slow
turnover, a reality of volunteer life that can't be avoided, because
lives change and free time disappears, if nothing else when a
newborn hits the house).
How? First of all, the job is well-defined and well-organized. Folks
show up knowing they will be put to work on specific tasks, and they
know that if we don't succeed, the whole show will flop (no lights,
no organized floor layout). Secondly, I *personally*, out of my own
pocket, by everyone breakfast at a nearby restaurant friendly to
our society, a bit of a hang-out. We take an hour break after
working about two hours, then go back and work hard for most
of the rest of the day (except those who have to work the
Friday after turkey-day). We're talking 6 folks here, it costs
me about $40 with tip. Good investment.
My point is that if you are personally involved and showing
personal concern and leadership with volunteers, set up a
reward system (doesn't have to be monetary, a simple sign
on a trail will do), "fire" those who fuck off (if you
don't, those who work will feel like their work doesn't
matter, just like real paying jobs), etc - you can build
an effective volunteer force.
The thing that doesn't work is to just point a group at a
trail and say "fix it".
- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at pacifier.com>
Nature photos, on-line guides, at http://donb.photo.net
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