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Laura Goodwin on Volunteering

Laura Goodwin has graciously given me permission to repost this essay. More of her writing can be found at her site at http://lauragoodwin.org/.

Some people actually seem to think that volunteering means giving without expecting anything back, but that is so wrong.  When you volunteer, you are working for a cause.  That "cause" should not be taking from you and giving you nothing, or it's not a cause that's good for you (or for us). The "cause" should acknowledge and reward volunteers: without their labor and faith the work would not get done. 

People do not become organizers and leaders to invite criticism, they do it to help the cause.  People who make their work harder by attacking them and working against their efforts hurt the progress of the cause and are as intolerable as any other enemy of the cause.  It doesn't matter if the attacks come from within or without: attack is attack, neglect is neglect.  It's most noxious when a person who has enjoyed the benefits the volunteers have provided responds by being disloyal and harmful in return.

That's why volunteers get "burned out".  They become disillusioned, heartbroken and disgusted.  I hope you all can see that discouraging the volunteers who work so hard for our benefit is a serious matter and is not just one of those things we have to accept like there is nothing that can be done.  There's actually plenty that can be done.

1) Don't participate in malicious gossip sessions.  Don't pass gossip on. Question the validity of tall-sounding tales, and the motives of people who tell them.  Don't be too quick to take sides in a disagreement: evaluate the situation thoughtfully.

2) Give hugs and praise to your hardworking activists, organizers and volunteers. Send them a thank-you card.  Bake them a cake.  Give them medals and trophies. Speak kindly to them and well of them.

3) Get involved in helping your club to be better by doing some of the work.  Keep criticism to yourself unless you are prepared to do something to correct the situation. Realize that if you totally hate your club and the people who run it that you have the option to start your own club: you may leave instead of hanging around and bitching.

Every member has a right to present a complaint or verbalize their dissatisfaction with any situation in the organization... but before a person brings a problem to the powers that be they need to have a reasonable and workable solution ready to present at the time they verbalize the gripe.