Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Volunteer Blues

I have been a volunteer in many capacities.  I have served on parish councils, headed youth ministry, chaired many a committee, been on boards of not for profits and I am currently the Secretary of the PTO. I have planned Science Fairs, Easter Egg Hunts and Family Picnics. I have hosted ChristmaHanaRamaKwanza shindigs, and Not So Scary Halloween Parties. I have directed plays and conducted musical groups.  I understand that not everyone is cut out for this type of work.  I am happy to take on the role. What frustrates me the most is the "helpful" comments and "constructive" criticism from the arm chair quarterbacks that feel that it is their right to do post game analysis when they had zero role in the planning and execution of the event.  If you aren't going to contribute, then don't criticize.  At every event, I have my own running list of what could have gone better, what went well, and what could be changed for next time.  I don't need anyone to point it out to me after the fact.  It is really not at all helpful, and will cause me to mutter curse words under my breath.  

All of the below have been actual comments made to me over the years. As a public service I will share them in hopes of making the world a little better for all of the harried volunteers our there.  

1. "Why don't you hold a bake sale, car wash, or pancake breakfast?" 

Um we do.  Every year, several in fact. We fund raise in many different ways, continually.   We carefully chose the events we did based on our talents and interests, and what we thought would give us the greatest amount of return for our time. If you would like to plan an additional fundraiser that you would plan and execute, feel free to do so.  

2.  "My other group had a wonderful consignment sale, hosted a conference, put on a full scale production of Into the Woods."

That's great.  Again, would you like to chair it? I have already bit off more than I can chew. Adding another huge event would likely send me over the edge.  

3. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if our Pastor/President/Principal would MC, get in the dunk tank, or play Dumbledore at Harry Potter night."

You know, I had the same thought in my initial vision. Unfortunately our Pastor had an unexpected funeral, our principal had a District wide board meeting, and our President's kids got sick at the last minute.  These people tend to go above and beyond in their jobs. It is wonderful if they can give more time, but if they can't it is okay for them not to. 

4. "I didn't hear anything about the event. You should do more publicity"

We have meetings, we have a website, we have a Facebook page, we have a newsletter. Emails were sent. Flyers were posted.  There is a giant banner outside of the school advertising the event. We sent a note home with your kid as well. While I can understand a physical note may not have gotten to your hands, there are other means of getting the information. Please use them before criticizing us for not getting the word out.  

5. "I know I forgot to RSVP but can I possibly sneak in at the 11th hour?"

If the people planning an event request an RSVP, they do so for a reason. It is nice to know if we are having 14 or 40 or 400. Food has to be ordered, photocopies made, swag bags stuffed. When an Easter Egg Hunt is put on, be sure it is not the actual Easter Bunny hiding all of those eggs.  It is nice to know how many people to plan for.  On the flip side, it is good to know if there is no interest at all in our event so that we can cancel, and spare ourselves the pain of planning the event only to have no one come. Once we cancel though, no whining, as we gave you the opportunity to sign up.  

6.  "I was on my way out the door and I called/texted/emailed to ask you a question about the event, but you didn't answer."

So sorry I failed to answer your question in a timely manner.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off setting up said event. It is very unlikely that I will have a moment to check my email or hear my cell phone. 

7. "I know I volunteered to help, but I didn't realize that I would not be able to also watch my kids."

Oh really, you don't think a hot, crowded kitchen is a good place for kids to be. Because I don't have 3 of my own, including a set of twins that are way younger than yours. Meanwhile I now have my husband scooping ice cream to replace you and I'm hoping my 14 year old neighbor is actually watching my kids like I begged her to. 

8.  "How come we changed venues/vendors?" or "How come we use the same vendors every year?"

There are a lot of considerations that go into event planning.  Was the date available? Does the venue require insurance that we don't have? Does the park have public bathrooms and/or a pavilion in case of rain? Does the bouncy guy have a law suit pending? Was the clown we used last year arrested for selling marijuana? Or maybe we use the same place over and over because they give us a deal. Or maybe the known is more comfortable for the person actually doing all of the work. 

9.  "It seemed like you could have used more help." or "Why weren't they passing out programs at all of the entrances, not just in the rear?" or "Why did you have to close some of the tables?" or "Why were there 12 year olds running things?"

It may seem like we were short staffed, because we were, which is why I spent the last 3 months of my life begging for volunteers. 

10. "I know you took a poll/vote, in which I did not participate, but now that you made plans based on the majority, I am going to crap all over what was decided."

I often ask people for feedback. I have done Facebook polls or used Survey Monkey. Which night of the week works best?  What time can everyone be here? Which restaurant should we hold our Mom's Night Out at? I want to be successful, and therefore attempt to do what the majority wants.  Not voting, and then telling me 6pm is too early, or that the restaurant that had the most votes once gave you food poisoning is not at all helpful.