I love volunteering.
Love it, love it, love it.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes a poison that comes from the top that makes it less fun.
People who run volunteer organizations, PTA events, and other organizations where the members are donating their time and money take heed:
Volunteers are not slaves.
After college, I joined a bunch of local volunteer and professional organizations because
I was crazy I didn’t have kids or a family and, therefore, plenty of time on my hands.
I made rich friendships and wonderful memories. It felt good to give back to the community and learn from civic leaders.
While I certainly didn’t need a pat on the back, it would have been nice for some of the higher-ups at the organizations to once say “thank you” or acknowledge everyone else’s hard work instead of clogging my social media feed with self-indulgent posts about how awesome they are.
For them to remember the volunteers who were gratuitously donating their time and opening their wallets and essentially the backbones of the organization.
One lawyer organization particularly sucked my time and energy. Hosting judicial panels, flipping burgers at fundraising BBQs, and discussing new case law got to be a bit much of my time.
It was mostly thankless.
After I had a family, I found myself apologizing for missing these lawyer meetings because my kids had ear infections and, frankly, I didn’t want to sit at yet another meeting after a long day at work.
Half the time the meetings started significantly late because the other volunteers were busy making small talk about whatever they did over the weekend that nobody else cared about.
No, I don’t want to watch another video of your five year-old counting to 100. I want the freaking meeting to start on time so I can go home and vegetate on the couch, in my pajamas, with my family.
I found myself getting conned into weekends where I was volunteering for literally 8 hour days and being met with an eye roll- instead of a “thank you”- when I arrived ten minutes late.
I found myself receiving phone call after phone call once I quit my full time lawyer job. The higher-ups figured they hit the jackpot and assumed I’d want to spend even more time volunteering with the organization now that I wasn’t working as much.
The Chair of the organization was a complete tyrant who 1) literally had temper tantrums when something minute didn’t go as planned and 2) routinely snubbed the younger volunteers. He thought he was a local celebrity and his self-importance was amusing.
Eventually, I realized the organization wasn’t on my Give a Damn List so I bid adieu.
I’ve heard similar stories about women who donate their time to the PTA and are occasionally ridiculed by other members who are rude and ugly to the volunteers who don’t perform something [irrelevant] to their satisfaction.
Let’s be honest- we all hear stories like this.
Here’s an inconvenient truth for some: volunteers are not slaves.
They are people with lives.
They are people who are dealing with life’s stressors that include sick kids, needing to go grocery shopping, paying bills, having careers, engaging in other hobbies, and simply having other things to do.
They are people who are not receiving financial compensation for their work.
They are people who are spending time away from their own homes to help build an organization and service the community.
Volunteers are human beings and should be treated with consideration and decency.
If they don’t get it, there are hundreds of other volunteer organizations that would appreciate their time where they can go.
Organizations are nothing without the support of volunteers.
It won’t kill a higher-up to be kind, say thank you, and show authentic gratitude.
To all the volunteers out there: you are seen and you are appreciated.