susan112 at aol.com
Sat Dec 19 13:53:06 EST 1998
I don't have much experience with working with volunteer groups. I appreciate
We did do many of the things you said, our problem was turnout. The workdays
were well advertized by the local saddle club president and she got verbal
committments from lots of people. We scheduled Saturdays and prepared work and
refreshments for the number she gave us but got too low a turnout to get much
done. I think it was 6 people for one day which we went ahead and worked and
two for another which we cancelled because that wasn't enough for the tasks we
had. ( A third one was rained out.)
This was frustrating as you can imagine and has turned me off to using
volunteers for this type of work. As a public land manager I get to deal with
the bad side of human nature all the time. Usually it's anonymous vandalism,
poaching, illegal root digging firewood theft etc. etc. This was more face to
face and thus even more of a disappointment, especially after all the energy
and interest they showed in getting the trail in the first place.
>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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