Real responses to real-life questions
Nonprofit experts Gary G. Godsey, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, and Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, have teamed up to create MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the authors' personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.
I have lost the desire to help out my local nonprofits. How do I find a charity or organization that appreciates my hard work?
I’m so frustrated with volunteering! For the past three years, I have volunteered at several local charities and the result is always the same: disappointing.
Here are the five problems I have encountered:
- Lack of formal, relevant training that brings me up to speed as quickly as possible. I often spend my volunteer hours trying to find something to do or waiting for instructions.
- Poor communication: either too little or too much regarding upcoming volunteer needs or events. I’m either barraged with reminder emails and texts, or it’s "radio silence."
- Constant requests for donations. I am donating my time, which is all I have as a student. In the future I would donate money, but not to any of these charities!
- An overall sense that my time and and the care I am donating is not utilized in the best possible manner. It just doesn’t seem appreciated. The thanks are too few and the sense of accomplishment is nil. And I don’t want my name read out at a gala — just a simple acknowledgement that I am there and trying from the executive director would be fine with me.
- No one seems to try to make me even a small part of the team. I care about the missions of these organizations, but I also volunteered to become part of my community. I’ve felt like an outsider at all these charities, and I’m friendly and easy to get along with.
When I hear that local nonprofits are seeking volunteers, I am no longer so eager to sign up. And I have friends who have had similar experiences. I wish you would pass this feedback on to nonprofits. They need to change their ways.
Gary says ...
Unfortunately, the level of sophistication in the non-profit world varies wildly, according to the organization where you choose to invest your volunteer time. Doing your research regarding when, where and how often you volunteer will probably yield more positive experiences for you. It really isn’t about small and large organizations. It’s about finding a good organization that understands how to manage the entire volunteer experience. Ask questions about how they utilize volunteers and their training techniques before you decide to commit.
There are great volunteer opportunities out there. Do your research, look at the record of accomplishment of the organization and talk to others who have been part of the organization before making a final decision to be involved. That way, you will have a higher likelihood of not being disappointed.
Kathryn says ...
All the nonprofits out there that work hard to train, support, use and recognize volunteers are cringing right now. This is one of their worst nightmares and they have worked hard to include volunteers in their organizations and in the greater community.
The truth is that building and maintaining an excellent volunteer program is intentional, well planned, carefully (and dare I say, lovingly) executed. It takes time and commitment. It comes from a deep respect for what folks like you are giving and a clear understanding of what you deserve in return.
It’s not a question of size — I’ve seen the smallest of nonprofits excel at volunteer management and the largest fail and vice versa. It comes down to making that commitment to volunteers and making it happen.
I am so sorry that you have had such negative experiences. My advice? Take a break and try again. You’ll find that great nonprofit who cares about and supports their volunteers. And you may be surprised to encounter one of the most rewarding high points of your life.
Now, your take!
Lalita H. says ... If we are disappointed after investing our time, it is chiefly because of someone's conflicting individual interest(s) that continues until the situation is noticed and remedied. But it's important to remember that all volunteering starts with great attitude to be a part of something good.