This past year, my family and I have been volunteering for Lutheran Social Services to help refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan relocate to Savannah.
I admire the work that Lutheran Social Services does with refugees. It’s a huge job and they do so much with so little. And because of a lack of resources, they rely heavily on volunteers.
One of our jobs has been to help coordinate volunteers.
And I learned something this past year. Volunteers, well, they just aren’t reliable.
It’s not that they are flakey, it’s just that volunteers, even retired ones, have very busy lives. I would say the amount of time we have spent just trying to coordinate volunteers to help is many more hours than we have spent directly assisting refugees.
I confess, I don’t get my “volunteer kicks” by doing administrative and menial tasks. You might be the same. And while as a business owner, I know the critical role of administrative tasks, I don’t enjoy being on the phone begging people who have “signed up” to show up.
As fundraising consultants, one of our common recommendations is that the nonprofit “engage their donors with volunteering opportunities.” I now understand why the typical response from the client when they hear me say this is a sigh and roll of the eyes. It does seem the amount of staff time, effort and resources to recruit, train, coordinate and manage volunteers just isn’t worth the result.
And that’s a shame.
If your organization is going to engage volunteers, you owe yourself a few minutes to read this.