- First off, I did not write this. CYBERVPM requires signatures on all posts here, so mine is at the end of this. Therefore, if you forward this, PLEASE removeMessage 1 of 13 , May 13, 2002View SourceFirst off, I did not write this. CYBERVPM requires signatures on all posts
here, so mine is at the end of this. Therefore, if you forward this, PLEASE
remove my name.
Hidden costs of free time and talent
If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing without volunteers, writes Nick
Thursday May 9, 2002
It's hard to get excited about National Volunteers' Week (June 13-20),
especially as it arrives hard on the heels of research carried out by the
Body Shop that identifies a declining commitment to volunteering.
Perhaps volunteering's problem is its Dickensian overtones: there remains
something desperately 19th century, middle class and patronisingly genteel
about good works. No wonder attracting kids, minorities or the net-literate
- aka "the future" - is so hard.
Perceived as charity perfection - unsullied as it is by grubby money -
volunteering is a hopelessly confused concept, its definition stretched from
self-sacrificing generosity through to self-serving paid jobs.
A new report - the Institute of Public Policy Research's A Bit Rich - has
confused it further, suggesting that the giving-resistant rich might be
lured into large donations not by asking for money but by urging them to
Volunteering (individual transfer of resources) echoes many of the questions
of charity (collective transfer) - not least whether over-eager assistance
allows institutions to escape their responsibilities as it treats symptoms
and not causes.
Surely a volunteer's visit to a vulnerable old lady (symptom) helps let the
state (local council, national government), community (neighbours) and
relatives (the ne'er-do-well son) off the hook of tackling poor services,
low pensions, urban anomie and family breakdown (cause).
And rather as the well meaning near-amateurs in charities leap to raise
funds and do essential services abandoned by the ne'er-do-well state, surely
vital tasks should be done by paid, trained and accountable staff, rather
than temporary, low-skilled volunteers.
Full article at:
message forwarded by:
Jayne Cravens [jayne.cravens@...]
Online Volunteering Specialist
United Nations Volunteers [http://www.unvolunteers.org]
Global portal to volunteering: [http://www.iyv2001.org]
- Someone else privately responded to this post You hold him and I ll hit him/ Funny because I think this guy deserves hearing out. (Let me just interjectMessage 2 of 13 , May 13, 2002View SourceSomeone else privately responded to this post "You hold him and I'll hit
him/" Funny because I think this guy deserves hearing out.
(Let me just interject here that he is not alone in his point of view. And
this is one of many reasons I object to forcing young people to volunteer.
Like it or not, this fellow and anyone who agrees with him has a right to
his point of view. And forcing him or his kids to betray their personal
values is just plain wrong.)
I think if I had a chance to sit down with this fellow I would say to him,
"You make a lot of great points. Much of your criticism of charities and
their involvement of 'low skill' volunteers, addressing the symptoms and not
the causes, is right on target. But your conclusion, to scrap it all and
have government pay trained people to go in and fix the problems is not the
only and certainly not the best answer. Dragging the volunteer industry out
of the 19th century and changing its vision from using 'free labor' to do
part of the work into a belief that intelligent involvement of community
members/citizens in strategic ways is the better transition."
Carter is right - we ARE for the most part still operating from the old
mission. I believe that if every one of us and our organizations stopped
doing that and started designing programs that view themselves not as
"volunteer programs" but as "citizen involvement" programs everything would
Why do we cling to an outmoded approach?
4. Lack of imagination
5. Lack of talent
6. Unwillingness to fight for it
7. Fear of public involvement equaling scrutiny
8. Being just plain stupid about "volunteers"
9. The "business bad, nonprofit good" nonsense
Anyone who wants me to add "lack of time and resources" can save their
typing fingers. A little effort here and there beats none. And you have
time to read email, so you could be using it to discuss and strategize the
new approach. Revolution does not happen during commercial breaks.
I would like to point out to Carter that in the example he uses of the poor
old lady he is right that there could be more done to eliminate the problem
in the first place, but in the meantime, and I don't believe we ever will
eliminate want, who's gonna help the old lady? She's here now and can't
wait for a better day.
But I'd love to see the word "volunteer" go the way of other obsolete terms
and replaced by the term "inv0olved community member" along with all the
empowering and progressive strategies and actions that are carried with it.
22833 Bothell-Everett Hwy #102
Bothell WA 98021-9365
Phone: (425) 398-3741
FAX: (425) 487-1140
- ... I did start to respond, but decided I was preaching to the choir . ... So, what tasks do volunteers perform successfully? How about Peace CorpsMessage 3 of 13 , May 15, 2002View SourceJayne Cravens wrote:
> I'm surprised that only one person has commented on this editorial so far onI did start to respond, but decided I was 'preaching to the choir'.
The para I found most distressing was:
> And rather as the well meaning near-amateurs in charities leap to raiseSo, what tasks do volunteers perform successfully?
> funds and do essential services abandoned by the ne'er-do-well state,
> surely vital tasks should be done by paid, trained and accountable staff,
> rather than temporary, low-skilled volunteers.
How about Peace Corps volunteers? Shipped off to the middle of nowhere
with minimal support, these people to incredible things.
I'm reminded that around the world guerillas call their soldiers 'volunteers'.
If there's anything that counts as a high skill, vital task, I'd suppose war was it.
Closer to home in my own sector, I can introduce you to a gentleman who runs
a railroad. The railroad is part of a railroad museum. It's a huge operation,
involving keeping a highly regulated industrial process (a steam engine with
a potentially explosive boiler) running, safely loading and unloading passengers, etc.
He likes to tell the story of going to some convention of railroad museums.
He was talking to his paid counterpart at another museum. The other fellow was
complaining about volunteers. When he finished, the head of the Sac Southern responded
by letting him know he's a volunteer.
This same railroad, incidentally, did something I doubt they could have done with
paid staff. For women's history month they ran the railroad entirely with women one
weekend. By having volunteers as engineers and trainmasters they also gave women
access to a skill they would have had trouble getting any other way.
Even closer to home, looking at my own logs of volunteer hours...
o An important official of the State of California's hours for being on our board
o A structural engineer's hours for doing an analysis of the best way to shore up
a historic structure. A task, incidentally, requiring a license and considerable liability.
o A system integrator's time and use of his shop to work on the foundry's computers
o A software engineer's time to work on the foundry's computers
o A trucker, his truck, and a crane he wrangled as a professional favor, moving a
7000 lb machine. Yes, that takes considerable skill.
And then we do come to '3rd saturday work day', where we organize teams of volunteers.
And one group of volunteers did cut brush, a low skill but very necessary job. We'd
rather not have the historic foundry we're trying to save burn to the ground.
A second group worked on an archeological inventory. A third shored up a building, working
under the supervision of a structural engineer.
Finally, I'm personally insulted by this. I was doing this job before I was hired.
We all realized the job needed done by one person, was too much work to do without
a paid staff person, and so I'm now on the staff.
I fail to see how my skill level changed overnight when I signed my W-4.
> One thing I do agree with is when the author says:I'd disagree with the writer.
> "Surely a volunteer's visit to a vulnerable old lady (symptom) helps let the
> state (local council, national government), community (neighbours) and
> relatives (the ne'er-do-well son) off the hook of tackling poor services,
> low pensions, urban anomie and family breakdown (cause)."
The basic contention is that somehow volunteer services are a poor substitute for
some 'community' that existed in the past.
I'm not buying that that idealized state ever existed.
I've lived most of my life in 'small town America', supposedly the
model for community. And there have always been isolated, vulnerable people in
I live in an extremely rural area, a model for the 'good old days'.
Yet I only know the names of my neighbors on one side. The reason, good old fashioned
racism. My tentative attempts to make contact with the Latino family on the other
have been met with fear and suspicion, probably based on past bad experience with any Anglo
interested in their affairs.
If you look at history, you'll find that widows often starved. I think the
notion of 'community' has always been suspect, more a product of a romanticized
vision than of reality.
Relatives - We have no indication why the son isn't taking care of his mother.
Suggesting that refusing her services will improve the situation is absurd.
If the son is serving 15 to life in Leavenworth he simply isn't going to
be available. The notion that somehow the ills of society are due to disintegrating
families, and that the solution is to force people into dependent relationships on
family members, is deeply repugnant to anyone who'se ever known a child victim of
incest, a mother who wants her lesbian daughter locked up in a mental hospital,
or a ne'er do well son who sees mom only as a ready source of cash, available for
the minor work of beating the old lady. 'family breakdown' isn't new. What's new is
that individual members of the family have more resources for escaping the situation.
Cinderella is, after all, the tale of a child caught up in the 'family services' of
One of the roots of social work can be traced to Jack 'Bee' Garland,
a reporter who interviewed runaway boys in Stockton in the 1890's. Garland
discovered that many runaway boys would return home if only they had the funds
to do so. Garland convinced the city that it would be less expensive to provide
tickets to these boys than to confine them in the county poor house. Fleeing youth
are not a new problem.
While 'poor services' are indeed an issue for the government, and while I can't
speak to the UK specific issue of 'low pensions', the government is not responsible
for urbanization. Movement of people to cities has been, and continues to be, an
individual attempt to better one's life. In the past year there have been precisely
two job openings in Knights Landing (pop. 845, where I live). One as a cashier at
the Plug'n Jug, one as a school crossing guard. And one can always get on as stoop labor.
Young people around here naturally have strong motivation to move.
Urbanization has been an issue since Shakespeare's time.
- I guess I m with Nan on this- people are entitled to their opinion and it didn t cut much ice with me. Sarah H. Elliston Senior Volunteer Resource AssociateMessage 4 of 13 , May 15, 2002View SourceI guess I'm with Nan on this- people are entitled to their opinion and it
didn't cut much ice with me.
Sarah H. Elliston
Senior Volunteer Resource Associate
2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati, OH 45202-1478
513-762-7186 (phone) 513-762-7146 (fax)
visit us on the web at www.uwgc.org
Together, we're improving lives!
- I just want to applaud Annie s magnificent post. This email alone could - and should - be the response to Carter s column. O m not sure I have EVER read aMessage 5 of 13 , May 15, 2002View SourceI just want to applaud Annie's magnificent post. This email alone could -
and should - be the response to Carter's column. O'm not sure I have EVER
read a more eloquent treatment on the subject.
Annie, if I find out where to send it, woyld you rewrite this -- only to
make it not a repokly to a listserv post, and submit it as revbuttal to
22833 Bothell-Everett Hwy #102
Bothell WA 98021-9365
Phone: (425) 398-3741
FAX: (425) 487-1140
- ... I suspect it s a couple of short articles that should be published independently. But if you can identify a place where a piece of it would fit, I d beMessage 6 of 13 , May 15, 2002View Source
> Annie, if I find out where to send it, woyld you rewrite this -- only toI suspect it's a couple of short articles that should be published independently.
> make it not a repokly to a listserv post, and submit it as revbuttal to
> Carter's column.
But if you can identify a place where a piece of it would fit, I'd be happy
to rework it into a proper article.
I wouldn't suggest using it as a rebuttal to Mr. Carter's column. I only responded to
a portion of his article.
- Volunteer striken from my vocabulary. Now using only Community Involvement or Involved Community Member Lynda Miller Operation Care Jackson, CAMessage 7 of 13 , May 17, 2002View SourceVolunteer striken from my vocabulary. Now using only Community Involvement
or Involved Community Member
- Bravo, Kim! I, too, am a volunteer. I m a Girl Scout trainer and proud to be an involved volunteer! I guess if this trend continues we ll just have to addMessage 8 of 13 , May 21, 2002View SourceBravo, Kim! I, too, am a volunteer. I'm a Girl Scout trainer and
proud to be an involved volunteer! I guess if this trend continues
we'll just have to add community involvement, etc., etc. to our
vocabularies and have expanded vocabularies. I think that if people
have to keep explaining that involved community members really means
volunteers that a fatigue factor will set in and we'll all revert
to the bottom line: a volunteer is a volunteer is a volunteer!
We need 'em and we'll keep involving them.
Barbara Crandall, Special Services Coordinator
Fort Collins Public Library
201 Peterson Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
- Volunteer striken from my vocabulary. I can t stand it anymore!! Not to pick exclusively on Lynda, but I need to add to all the various conversations aboutMessage 9 of 13 , May 21, 2002View Source"Volunteer striken from my vocabulary."
I can't stand it anymore!! Not to pick exclusively on Lynda, but I need to add to all the various conversations about "volunteers", "volunteerism", and whatever else you wish to call it. I have recently done a very informal poll with my volunteers to try and find out what they prefer to be called. Guess what? Out of the 1100 folks sent out the question to, 420 responded. More than 80% of them want to be called VOLUNTEERS! As a group they are just as sick and tired of the debate over terminology as I am. They are volunteers, and they are proud of it! Additionally, I am a volunteer as well, and I am proud to be called that. I understand that some people don't like volunteers nor do they like working with them. Well, that's just tough! I think getting others to accept and utilize volunteers is not a matter of symantics, it is a matter of convincing them that volunteers can do the job, do it right, and will afford staff the opportunity to accomplish more with less. Volunteers do not replace employees, in fact, in many cases it is illegal to do so. Well, that said, I hope you all have a nice day!
Nevada Division of Wildlife
Volunteer Program Manager
1100 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
- I guess I upset a few people by saying I was willing to use the term Involved Community Member. I jokingly said I was erasing volunteer from my vocabulary andMessage 10 of 13 , May 21, 2002View SourceI guess I upset a few people by saying I was willing to use the term
Involved Community Member. I jokingly said I was erasing volunteer from my
vocabulary and maybe I should have stressed that point. Somehow I don't
think it is that important.
I am a volunteer and have been "volunteering" or an "involved community
member" for 28 years. I don't have anything against the term "volunteer,"
if I did I shouldn't be a volunteer program manager. I do however not
reject the idea that some people have a thing against the term volunteering
and if I can use another term to get them interested...I am willing to do
that. Here getting people to volunteer is so difficult...I have been
recruiting volunteers for 3.5 years and I only have 5 that work with us all
the time. The rest have come and gone. We have volunteer committee
members and board members but I administer only the direct service
I agree some people like to just volunteer with the good ole title and don't
have a problem with it. I don't. A lesson learned for me is not to be so
quick with my response I don't take time to properly explain my position. I
am not sure this response makes a whole lot of sense I have a terrible head
If I have offended anyone...I do sincerely apologise.
- Lynda, I did not mean to pick on just you about usage of the term volunteer . I am just really tired of all kinds of people from all different sectors tryingMessage 11 of 13 , May 22, 2002View SourceLynda,
I did not mean to pick on just you about usage of the term "volunteer". I am just really tired of all kinds of people from all different sectors trying to give "politically correct" names to "volunteers". After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose!
Nevada Division of Wildlife
Volunteer Program Manager
1100 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
- Does any one who works with volunteers feel that perhaps those who benefit from volunteer services need some training in how to respect the volunteer and toMessage 12 of 13 , May 22, 2002View SourceDoes any one who works with volunteers feel that perhaps those who benefit
from volunteer services need some training in how to respect the volunteer
and to show it?
I think that many who work with volunteers forget to work "with them."
Phrases like "I really appreciate your doing---------" are the gold coin of
volunteer/staff relationships. Whoever wrote Get off the phone,
Get from behind the computer--
Talk with us volunteers
had the right idea. I can understand why the turnover occurs among
Montgomery County, MD
- Phrases like I really appreciate your doing--------- are the gold coin of volunteer/staff relationships. Yes, but what s said is sometimes more revealingMessage 13 of 13 , May 23, 2002View Source"Phrases like "I really appreciate your doing---------" are the gold coin of
Yes, but what's said is sometimes more revealing than is intended.
I myself volunteer at a museum (elsewhere than where I'm the VC), and the staff often
tells us 'without you we wouldn't be open today'.
I never hear that as a positive thing. I always hear it as,
"You all are meeting our basic need to have somebody watching the stuff,
and beyond that we don't really give a darn whether you do your job well or
At the museum I changed work assignments, mostly because in the new position
I distinctly don't get this message. I made a mistake my first day in the new
position, and the staff member in charge actually came over and suggested a better way
of doing it. He also loaned me research material to take home and read, and
encouraged my input designing an interpretive program for the caboose.
I'm MUCH more productive and much happier in my new position.
I'd much rather hear -
"Our visitor numbers are lots higher when you work here. Working the sidewalk
in front of the station is a great idea."
"I'm really pleased that we have well informed docents"
"That was nicely done interpretation"
"You're here, we can be open"