Click here to read this article and to watch episode 1 of The Volunteer Diaries on Mamamia.
The Volunteer Diaries, aka ‘How to Not be a B!*# to Volunteers’ is a parody on volunteering in schools and clubs in Australia.
In episode 1, ‘Soccer Saturday’, our two pretentious soccer mums have nothing nice to say about anyone, especially the volunteers. They do see the light, though, but not before some laugh-out-loud moments.
Do you remember that line from the Principal in Grease? “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.” Well, it certainly stuck with me – I was never going to be an athlete, so a supporter I was destined to be.
And honestly, I have often wondered if training for a marathon would have been easier than those committee meetings that just drag on, or people who treat you like the hired help. So why do I volunteer? Why does anybody volunteer?
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. Volunteers are a misunderstood bunch.
The stereotypes and misconceptions about parent volunteers can approach mythical proportions. The legends take on a life of their own, until parents are advised, well before their children ever attend school, to stay well clear of ‘The Committee’!
As much as that legend is not reality, neither is that other myth that volunteers are the sacrificial heroes of society – the ones standing up, passionately overcoming every obstacle to make the world a better place.
Here’s the simple truth about volunteering.
Most of us aren’t in it because it’s the most fun we’ve ever had.
We’re not in it because we are heroic, evangelical do-gooders.
We’re not in it so we can turn our noses up at those who don’t volunteer.
Most volunteers don’t even do it because we want to change the world.
Most of us volunteer, often through gritted teeth, just because we think it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes (and here’s the playground’s best kept secret…) we don’t always enjoy volunteering.
I recently polled more than 200 parents about the things that frustrated them most about volunteering. Among the usual suspects; ‘not enough volunteers’ and ‘no new fundraising ideas’, one stood out by a country mile: Receiving complaints from people who do absolutely nothing.
People who say how things should be, but don’t back their words up with cold, hard help.
In a way, volunteering is the ultimate form of democracy. It’s where you get to vote – with your time – about the type of society you want to live in. The kind of society you are willing to create.
Duty so often turns to genuine enjoyment when you find out that – lo and behold – you are not working alongside the lycra-wearing dragon slayer. You are working alongside people just like you – showing up, even though they are busy, to do their small part.
Next time you are upset with a volunteer, or a committee decision, or a fundraising drive that isn’t healthy enough, by all means express your opinion. Be gentle and respectful, but absolutely speak your mind.
But don’t forget the most important part. Make sure you ‘vote’ with your time to contribute to the way things ‘should’ be.
At the end of the day, it takes a village. Be kind to volunteers.
A recovering lawyer, Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun!). Click here to learn more about school and club fundraising ideas in Australia.