On being a volunteer

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Day Care & Education

As the parent of a school aged child, there will be many, many, oh-so-very many opportunities for you to be a volunteer. I have been a popcorn popper, chaperone of countless field trips (helpful hint for other moms: always sign up for the fire station one!), run concession stands, painted playground equipment, been ticket taker at sporting events, and served on the PTA.

It's been my experience that people in charge sometimes forget that volunteers aren't actual paid employees. This is an unfortunate mistake and one that can make or break a person's willingness to help out in the future.

Here are some characteristics you might encounter in your volunteerism. Perhaps realizing you aren't the only one dealing with a no-doubt-good-intentioned-but-inept leader will provide comfort. And remember, the more bizarre the volunteer experience, the better the story you'll have for later!

The My-Way-Or-The-Highway Leader : The great thing about volunteering is that among the myriad of people you'll meet, there's usually someone who comes up with a creative or more efficient way of accomplishing the task. Unfortunately, this leader sees innovation as a direct threat to their authority and quickly squelches streamlining techniques, no matter how brilliant they might be.

The Martyr : This brand of leader feels the need to repeatedly remind everyone how much they worked on the project, how it wouldn't be possible without them, and how they are getting nothing in return and don't even have a child in this event/school/function, they just do it for good of all. (In the meantime, everyone else is actually completing the task at hand.)

The Independent : This person insists on doing everything themselves, seriously it's no trouble at all it will just take a second, it's so much easier to just do it than to stop to explain what needs to be done. Willing volunteers thwarted at every helpful opportunity quickly lose interest and leave, so the Independent often turns into a Martyr.

The Historian : A variation of the My-Way-Or-The-Highway, this person isn't worried about losing their authority as much as they are terrified that changing the process will result in losing the historical significance of the act. So if the popcorn has always been served with the red plastic scoop with the chip in it, you better find it and not try to pass off the shiny metal scoop from the school kitchen as an appropriate substitute.

Dazed and Confused : This good-hearted soul stepped up to help without realizing how much deadlines and pressure would affect their performance. If you're with a good bunch of volunteers, it's easy to quickly pitch in and rectify the situation, but someone needs to step up and act as leader in Dazed and Confused's place. (They will thank you profusely later.)

Natural Leader : A rare and beautiful sight, this leader listens and implements new ideas, delegates tasks efficiently, finds a useful task for all volunteers, and offers sincere thanks for making the event possible and running so smoothly. This person should run for public office but are too busy raising a family for the rest of the country to benefit from their skills.

Did I miss any? What have you encountered in your volunteerism?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.