A few years ago I was a membership chair for a large writer’s group. One of the questions on the membership renewal form was are you interested in volunteering? If so, how? Once I received an answer that gave me pause, and then I became offended, then down right angry. I realize know that the answer probably came off more inconsiderate than it was meant, but it hurt and stung.
At this time, we had nearly three hundred members and less than a dozen active volunteers. Many of us were doubling, tripling duties because there weren’t enough volunteers to go around.Pleas for help were often ignored and many of us were stressed because we were overworked and underpaid. What do people not get about the word ‘volunteer’?
Each of the volunteers were part of the organization for the same reason those who didn’t volunteer. We wanted the community, to learn about the craft of writing, the industry etc, etc. We were there because we were writers.
An organization, such as the one I was involved with, runs because of the volunteers, without them there is no organization. When there are few volunteers the workload becomes heavier for those who do volunteer, which means eventually something has to give. For the bulk of us, it’s the writing that gives. We can’t just shove our kids to grandma’s house and pick them up in a few years. I had spoken with the former president of the organization about her writing. It was non-existent. Here she was a promising author but because she stepped up to the plate and volunteered her dream of publishing was set aside for the four years she served.
Those volunteers also get a bad rep because they aren’t doing things they the members think things should be done. You wouldn’t believe the stuff that goes on behind the scenes. My mom had worked in the complaints’ department with a large insurance company. I remember her coming home in tears. Yeah, that’s kind of what it was like volunteering. After several years I was thankful when my position was handed to someone else. And I actually shied away from everything, even quit participating in the loops and became a lurker before eventually allowing my membership to drop. It was just too much.
I wrote this because the major reason people give for not being able to volunteer is because they’re too busy. Yeah, I get that. I’m busy too. So are all the volunteers who keep our cherished organizations running. They have families. They have full-time jobs. They homeschool. They go to school themselves. They have ill parents. Some are fighting illnesses themselves.
At the time I was volunteering, I was homeschooling, dealing with a troubled teen, helping hubs run our upholstery shop, taking full classes at a local college, dealing with an auto-immune disorder and trying to write. None of that included any of the day-to-day drama. As a mom and housewife, I had to run my kids to their activities, do laundry, dishes, clean bathrooms and make dinner.
I am not saying this to show all the things I do, because honestly, if I can get by without doing the laundry, I will ;). What I am saying is that the volunteers in our organizations are no different than you and me. They have busy live and many of them are writing under contracts. They have deadlines.What I am saying is that if you see a need within the organization maybe God is calling you to volunteer. What I am saying is if you’re asked to volunteer and you don’t feel led then don’t, but show some appreciation. Too often volunteers are overworked and underpaid. Too often their work goes by without any thanks.
This can apply in all aspects. Too busy to volunteer at church? Too busy to volunteer at your kid’s school? No joke. I was the snack coordinator for room parties for several second grade classes. I believe there were four classes. They made on coordinator for all classrooms because they couldn’t get any of the parents to volunteer and I had a difficult time getting any of the parents to send snacks.
I’m just saying, if you can’t volunteer, try to show appreciation.