volunteering, mistakes, & "when we get the least signaling about it"
September 17, 2021 9:54 PM   Subscribe

"We have to be willing to let someone else make mistakes and do it worse sometimes." Marissa Lingen reminds us that it's important to step back from particular volunteer jobs if you've been doing them for a long time -- for your own sake, and for the health of the organization. And: "Also of concern, and very hard to bring up: sometimes A’s skills slip for one reason or another. Yes, you. Even if you’re A.....we never think it’s us. We never think, I bet I’m the problem here."
posted by brainwane (42 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been having conversations with my 80 year old mother about how she really needs to be letting go of her "duties" at her church and let younger people take on roles she's been clinging too. She's starting to listen to me, but it's been a decade-long conversation at this point, and I'm afraid she's going to end up not passing along all her knowledge by mentoring others who can take on the job.

I do keep talking to her about it, though. And she's hearing me, bit by bit.
posted by hippybear at 10:03 PM on September 17 [8 favorites]


This is really important, but it’s not just a matter of stepping down and letting someone else take over. It’s important to create a volunteer culture where nobody is completely in control of something. If you run the children’s program, you have someone work with you on it, partly because two heads are better than one, and because that helps prevent/postpone burnout, but also so there’s someone else who knows how to do it and when you start to get burned out, they can gradually take on more of it.

It’s hard because one of the things that motivates people to volunteer is a feeling of ownership and responsibility. There’s a great feeling of pride of having a community project that's yours. But you can’t let these projects become fiefdoms. They’re not there for the sole purpose of making volunteers feel important. It’s a hard thing to balance.
posted by lunasol at 11:20 PM on September 17 [18 favorites]


While the message is good, there's definitely an elephant in the room the article is dodging, by framing the matter as one of "you need to have people know these skills in case you're gone." And that's simply that fiefdoms are bad because there are people who volunteer for the wrong reasons, and letting them become entrenched will harm your project. Part of that is because the piece is addressed to volunteers, but part, I think is because it's uncomfortable to think about entrenched fiefdoms in volunteer spaces where the person in control is wielding that power wrongfully.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:40 PM on September 17 [14 favorites]


This somehow reminds me of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:59 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]


Some related pieces I like (by authors I know):

Camille Acey's six short lists of reasons, reactions, and more regarding leaving responsibilities

Christie Koehler's set of 9 "questions I ask myself to help navigate the process of identifying whether or not it’s time to let go of a project"

If you're worried that you're being selfish, consider this counterpoint by Mary Gardiner

NoxAeternum: the major framing of the piece -- including its title -- is that you, the reader, may become entrenched as a volunteer in a way that could harm the project. It is true that Lingen assumes that the reader is not being deliberately malicious or power-hungry but could be declining or neglectful.
posted by brainwane at 12:31 AM on September 18 [12 favorites]


Not just volunteers, but good advice for everyone in any role.

It’s a big world. Life’s short.
posted by sudogeek at 3:27 AM on September 18 [11 favorites]


I’ve seen more than one organization crumble when that one person who makes everything happen isn’t around anymore.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:17 AM on September 18 [13 favorites]


Banks often require all staff to take at least 2 consecutive weeks off every year. It's a firewall against those who are running scams (a lá nick leeson at Barings in the 1990s) and also serves as early warning for those you "can't live without."
posted by chavenet at 4:35 AM on September 18 [30 favorites]


I was recently bullied out of a volunteer organisation I was nominally leading by the treasurer of 20+ years standing I think because I refused to carry out something he wanted me to do which would have been fraudulent. He is over 85, his decision making is still good on a day-to-day basis but his confidence in his ability to beat the financial market is misplaced, and his attitude towards other volunteers is consistently awful. He is overwhelmingly thanked and praised by other members of the organisation and I expect him to die in post. The next treasurer will probably have to do a lot of work to unpick things.

In another organisation, the volunteer that does not do a good job anymore and should really quit is me. The reason that I don't is that I am worried that the organisation will fail catastrophically if I do as we already struggle to get any volunteers. I could let it fall apart and deal with my immense sadness and sense of failure, but then someone who I care about would lose their job. And so I continue to hold the same role, while trying to cultivate any volunteers for anything.
posted by plonkee at 4:54 AM on September 18 [8 favorites]


I've been having conversations with my 80 year old mother about how she really needs to be letting go of her "duties" at her church and let younger people take on roles she's been clinging too. She's starting to listen to me, but it's been a decade-long conversation at this point, and I'm afraid she's going to end up not passing along all her knowledge by mentoring others who can take on the job.

I can understand her hesitation to let go. Her work at her church gives her a purpose in life. Getting older can feel as if you are being pushed-aside by society, and having something that still connects you and gives you purpose becomes a very dear thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on September 18 [19 favorites]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs? Like, why don't we expect everyone to move on after they've gotten good at their job, because in the future they might get bad/break their leg/develop dementia? (I mean, I kind of wish we would, because my resume full of 2-year stints would look a lot better.)

I guess I'm just not sure I buy the premise. I do like chavenet's idea of requiring people to take time off each year (whether it's paid work or volunteering) as a safeguard against relying too heavily on one person. But the rest of it...idk, I've worked with a lot of volunteers and a lot of them are sweet but not at all helpful. When I have a good volunteer, the last thing I want in the universe is for them to leave just because it's time to "let go", because the odds that they'll be replaced by an equally competent person are incredibly low. (And the odds that they'll be replaced by someone who is trainable in a reasonable amount of time aren't a whole lot higher.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:49 AM on September 18 [15 favorites]


I've seen so many user groups fall apart because the one person who did the thing died. It's a shame that the governance orgs for whom non-profits and industry groups shell out $$$ for people and process reviews don't give things back to the zero-budget groups. Leaving some papers out there saying "Hey, maybe consider rotating your board every N years, have understudies, get some knowledge management in place before it evaporates on you" might help people plan volunteer roles
posted by scruss at 6:48 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs?

I question this premise. There are many artistic and labor (e.g., mechanics, plumbers) crafts that only improve over many, many years of repetitive involvement. And, there are certain personality types who desire sameness over novelty, and whose focus is mastering a defined set of skills.

All of this aside, there is still a need to ensure that any functioning system includes cross-training and overlap. I have an older friend who talked about being in a traditional American marriage, where her husband managed all of the household finances, which was fine until he had an accident that put him in the hospital for almost a month. After that, she insisted that they alternate paying bills and balancing checkbooks every other month. It was a life-lesson to me that critical functions within any system should be shared between two or more people.
posted by Silvery Fish at 6:48 AM on September 18 [9 favorites]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs?

…because if you suck at your job, your boss can generally fire you. At volunteer organizations, the fact that someone is willing to help usually means they get the position.

I’ve been there, I’ve seen this in action. A whole group of people volunteering to help a program, but the bulk of the work falls on the same few who keep doing it, and resistance to change is so ingrained that you burn yourself out trying to get them to see that doing something different once in a while might be worth the risk. (And if you’re one of the few that can do stuff, the people who need stuff done will keep piling work on you until you crack. Again, personal experience. After reading this, I immediately shared it with a few people who were there with me in the trenches.)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:06 AM on September 18 [13 favorites]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs?

This is getting away from volunteering, but I have a report who is talking about retiring in the 2-3 year range. We had a frank conversation about that, since their job is complex and full of details. I asked them to involve one of our junior members in the decision making process, so, when the time comes, they can hand off their duties cleanly. Everyone is on board, but we have a very close-knit and supportive unit.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:15 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


The organization that my wife and I both do some volunteer work for went from a "Person A will do everything because she's always done everything" to "we have a set of roles with the expectation that there will be a three-ish year cycle where someone apprentices to the role, takes the role, then trains an apprentice for the role" juuuuust in time to have everything going smoothly when A (who did not take the shift gracefully, and in fact stormed out of the organization) passed away. We are in much better shape now to handle the inevitable rounds of new jobs, grad school, babies, health crises, etc, among the volunteers, because we have built succession plans into the organizational ethos.

It is a little different than full-time work - for one thing, a lot of this kind of work is seasonal or event-based, and it's an intense committment for a short period every year. That can be 100% doable for a given person one year, and 100% impossible the next. For another, as caution live frogs points out, it's often much harder to fire a volunteer, and usually much harder to do it if you have no other source of institutional memory for that role. If finding volunteers seems hard, try getting a volunteer to train their replacement when they get fired.

And for truly long-term things - church events, sci-fi conventions, stuff where someone could realistically do the work every year for a lifetime - having a single person running things has a very strong tendency to cause the whole event to calcify and become hostile to newcomers. This is a chronic problem in science fiction conventions in particular - it's very easy for the organizers to start to think of them as an annual party they throw for their friends, and to not want to worry about what people they don't already know might think and want and need. This is one of the biggest barriers to things like adopting actual safety policies (and procedures, which are harder but even more necessary than the written policy) or accessibility changes. The change to the org I work with came about when the org's Person A brought on my wife as a safety coordinator because she knew it was the Done Thing and then could not cope with the revelation that the biggest hazard to the safety and comfort of young, attractive women was the older dude she'd had a hopeless crush on for thirty years. And suddenly she got a whole lot of resistance from people who had previously not really wanted to get in her way.

The whole thing was hard and sad and I wish it could have gone more smoothly, but the organization is 1000% better for the restructure and we've been able find and bring on a whole bunch of new people with skills and ideas the org simply never had access to when it was a one-woman show. And we don't have to burn out our existing people when they have other commitments - they can scale back, hand off, and stay connected with the org with zero hard feelings, because it's both expected and encouraged.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:00 AM on September 18 [19 favorites]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs?

It's not an accepted idea that people are only good at a job for a few years, and organizations aren't structured that way - we still sort of act like people are going to be with a company & at a job for their career. My observation in a lot of companies, though, is people often only stay in a position for about 2-3 years due to reshuffling, promotion, moving to another company, being laid off, or whatever.

Historically I've changed jobs or gotten promotions or something roughly every 18 months to 3 years. For me there's a ramp-up phase of learning a new role, then a period of being productive + creating a framework, and then a realization that it's time to do something else or take on more or whatever. (Often literally a new role as I've taken a lot of "nobody did this before but the org is growing..." roles.)

But I work in tech and there's always a lot of change organizationally and with technology to support people moving around and moving upwards or sideways or out to new roles.

On the other hand I think the constant churn is bad for organizations and some people. I've observed, for example, a number of people who do really well at skating from job to job with grand visions and plans... but actually executing is an exercise left for the next person who gets stuck with the bag. So they build up a long tenure with a lot of disruption but little to show for it.

And other people who'd be great just chugging away at a specific job keep getting thrown into chaos with org changes and process changes. One of the things I see a lot of orgs struggling with is the "if you want to do X, your career stops here. You can only advance if you go into management."

In engineering roles we're finally seeing some parallel tracks for ICs into "consulting" roles that are equivalent to senior director or even VP roles. But if you're, say, a really senior technical marketer ... well, tough. It's either management or stagnation for you.
posted by jzb at 8:15 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]


Up or out is a thing in some industries/professions. Whether it's good or not for the individual or the organization is a different question entirely.
posted by meowzilla at 8:55 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, I literally just last Sunday had a conversation about this, with a current volunteer of a nonprofit which I’d project managed for five years until early 2019 when I had something of a breakdown (and epic autistic meltdown on-site). It was actually the longest conversation I’d had about the fact that I simply must have been holding other people back by doing so much of the ongoing organizational work for so long. (My breakdown happened even after we’d started offloading some of my responsibilities to other volunteers.) In the end, I left the project very abruptly, although I did meet to have something of an informed handoff of things. Still, had I loosened my grip on the reins earlier, I might nonetheless have had a breakdown anyway, but the transfer would have been far smoother.
posted by bixfrankonis at 9:54 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]


If it's actually true that people can't be good at the thing for more than a few years, why don't we act this way about jobs?

Broadly speaking because there are usually external pressures that mean that declining performance has consequences and so there's a stronger desire to address it, coupled with management structures that enable it to be addressed. But it's not unheard of for an organisation to have an employee that is considered "indispensable" who is replaced at some point (they retire, they find a better job etc) and the replacement brings fresh ideas and make things better.

Also, in organisations that rely on volunteers to both lead and carry out activities, the volunteers have different motivations, different sense of ownership and different priorities and so may behave differently than people in other kinds of organisations.

Or alternatively, I have witnessed the phenomenon described in multiple volunteer organisations - that someone is not good at a role they have volunteered to do despite/because of having done it for several years and it is treated like the proverbial missing stair.
posted by plonkee at 9:57 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


The other thing our ogranization consciously thought about was that we could turn our need for volunteers into a wider community good by a) setting up and maintaining training for various roles in our type of org and b) choosing not to monopolize the volunteers we trained. If someone moves and can't work with us any more, but they can then volunteer somewhere else and use the skills and knowledge they picked up with us, that makes everything better! And if they had a good time and ended it pleasantly rather than under immense burnout, they stay an asset to the community, rather than a casualty.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:33 AM on September 18 [8 favorites]


On a sorta-related note: (website limits clicks)

"The Hillsborough County Republican Party alerted federal election regulators Tuesday that it may file its monthly campaign finance reports late because a key member of the organization died Saturday from COVID-19.
Prior to his death, Gregg Prentice developed and maintained software that electronically tracked donations to the Hillsborough County GOP and supplied data for the organization’s monthly finance reports. None of the other officers knew how to operate Prentice’s software, the party told the the Federal Elections Commission."


Herman Cain Award shenanigans go on beyond that.... but there's an excellent example of "only one guy could do X and now that he's gone...."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:15 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


See also: The last surviving COBOL programmer.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:29 PM on September 18


Wow, I really feel this. A few years ago, I took over the presidency of a non-profit where a dearth of volunteers and a communal fear of working with numbers had resulting in the organization having the same treasurer for ten years. When a new person finally took over, they uncovered a pattern of decisions and interpretations that advantaged the organization's senior management at the expense of its clients and stopped just short of outright fraud.

The poor predecessor had no idea--"all he had done was trust them." After a decade in the position, after all, they were all close friends.

So now we try to rotate people around positions more often, and I'm thinking of having a formal policy that nobody can stay in a position for more than say, three years. But, the problem is that not enough people come forward to volunteer, and it seems counterproductive to discourage someone who steps up. Another issue is the fact that many of our volunteers tend to come from privileged groups, while our clients are more diverse. Should we be discouraging some people from coming forward in order to leave space for others? But what if nobody steps forward?

None of these are easy issues, but I appreciate the chance to read about how others are grappling with them. Thanks for posting!
posted by rpfields at 3:11 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


But, the problem is that not enough people come forward to volunteer,

At the non-profit I volunteered at, our treasurer moved on and no one wanted to step into the role because of the hours commitments. Finally, I and another person agreed to be co-treasurers, alternating months with a 30-minute hand-off review conversation when the months changed. Given this conversation, I’m sure you can see the benefits we discovered. Additionally, on the “off” months we each were able to contribute to a different part of the program without feeling overwhelmed, or pitch in at a different org. I was personally surprised at how much the system reduced the weight for me.
posted by Silvery Fish at 3:34 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


I and another person agreed to be co-treasurers, alternating months with a 30-minute hand-off review conversation when the months changed

Silvery Fish, that is a great idea that I might explore with my group. We need to shake up our ideas about the way things have to be done.
posted by rpfields at 3:39 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


Finally, I and another person agreed to be co-treasurers, alternating months with a 30-minute hand-off review conversation when the months changed. Given this conversation, I’m sure you can see the benefits we discovered.

It's worth remembering that a standard anti-fraud practice in the financial industry is simply requiring that all workers must take at least one week of vacation a year.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:53 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


But, the problem is that not enough people come forward to volunteer,

This is the rock I'm butting my head against right now. In my nonprofit, I went from taking on one role to two, and now this year I've added Treasurer. Makes me think that recruitment is the apex responsibility of a volunteer staff.
posted by storybored at 5:44 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I don't quite sympathize with the Hillsborough County Republicans, but - I have been in volunteer roles where I thought, "a database would make this so much easier!" And then I thought about what would happen if/when I left and confined myself to Excel. Which was very much for the best, because I did leave and my successors were not baffled and missing federal deadlines. Good grief.
posted by mersen at 5:48 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


chavenet: “Banks often require all staff to take at least 2 consecutive weeks off every year. ”
I couldn't find it because even on Bing searching for G.A.A.P. and vacation only brings up articles about accounting for vacation pay, but most of the outfits I've worked with have a vacation policy similar to the FDIC guidance as an internal control against fraud for any position that has access to the organization's accounts. To the point where I really think it is a G.A.A.P.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:30 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


This is a fantastic discussion. In smaller communities you often see the same pool of people contributing to the activities of multiple volunteer organizations. The decline in memberships, across the board, over the past 25 years is pronounced. I look forward to reading the comments and linked information closely, because building capacity in a volunteer group can be hard. Some members are determined to have a very casual connection: they want well-defined roles that require them to show up and do the task/s, and if you push their comfort zone too much they will simply go elsewhere.

Over time I've seen a big shift in how youth leisure time either gets sucked into a screen (mostly unsupervised) and/or becomes completely managed (organized activities). Parents who might get involved in some capacity are now flat-out committed to their kids' hockey/soccer/dance group. I think those with disposable income are more often spending that income on toys and trips, I can't say I've studied the data to prove this but the number of Harley Davidson bikes, high speed watercrafts, and people going on one or more vacation trips per year is certainly much higher now than 15+ years ago.

This discussion raises some great points, I'm just experiencing the larger shift in my life where there is insufficient renewal in the ranks. Exactly this morning, I read an email asking me what I think we can do to encourage more members to take on a certain role (there are two of us performing the role presently) and I don't think it's about encouragement or training at all. It's the fact there are maybe two dozen active members on a good day, and half of those members contribute a lot, and there is no-one available to step up to take on more stuff. I hate to turn this into a late-stage capitalism thing but I think this is what you get when generations grow up to think acquiring things and living "the good life" as per the signal we get from birth, is just the way of it.
posted by elkevelvet at 9:05 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


I think, frankly, the middle class (who have leisure time and enough money) has shrunk enough that a lot of things that volunteers used to do simply can't get done any more because the people who would do them now need to have a second job/work 60-hour weeks to just get by.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:10 AM on September 19 [11 favorites]


Let’s not forget that many of these types of organizations are structured to depend on women’s unpaid labor and now many more of those women are in the workforce.

This is particularly timely since I just had my first PTA meeting. My kid started at a new school. There are over 650 kids enrolled. There were 14 people on the video call. All of them women. Most of them already current board members. I said I’d take one of the roles that doesn’t require talking too much to people (I didn’t say that part out loud). I am concerned.
posted by bq at 9:39 AM on September 19 [9 favorites]


Yes (@restless_nomad), just so. We could say "late-stage capitalism" is an umbrella term for these realities (compression of the middle class into a vanishingly small reality, attacks on organized labour to disempower the working class, and control of media by the owner class to constantly mold our beliefs and manipulate us, often into pursuing whole-heartedly policies and behaviours that are directly opposed to our own interests).

My focus on individual choices, and visible consumption, stands in parallel to this. I have a sense of what it took to establish homesteads in my area not 100 years ago, I know about the co-operatives to establish early phone service and electrical service to rural communities.. There is an illusion in my lifetime that we can all get by on our own resources, and volunteerism has definitely reflected this shift.
posted by elkevelvet at 9:51 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


@bq, this is such a huge part of the picture. I see this in just about all the organized youth activities in my community.. some men, but so so many women make this stuff happen. On a personal note, the Lions club in my community finally folded the women's group (Lionesses) into the single club and dispensed with the arbitrary distinction and club executives (in the 1990s!).
posted by elkevelvet at 10:57 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


This is a great discussion, and I wish that it had been available for a couple of volunteer situations that I was witness to/part of some time ago, both of them involving organizations that had recently undergone some significant (and to some people, traumatic) changes. The first one was a crisis hotline that had recently had a big exodus of volunteers; they had a recent change of professional (paid) staff, and as one of the new staff explained to me, the volunteers had previously been very cliquish and were upset that the new staff hadn't come from their own ranks. Of the few volunteers that remained, one of them, who I had the misfortune of being shadowed by when I was training, was one of the bitterest, least helpful coaches that I've ever had in any professional or volunteer position ever, and seemed mostly interested in getting me to quit. (I didn't.) Another was much nicer in person, but simply ignored most of the rules, especially regarding chronic callers who were calling for reasons other than crisis, information, and/or referral to other agencies. The agency didn't have much of a choice at that moment, but once they'd replenished their volunteers, they gently encouraged these legacy volunteers to leave.

The other situation was an amateur musical group that I belonged to in grad school. The group's founder had recently retired, and his replacement was a talented musician in his own right and relied on a group of fellow musicians to help guide the group, but they soon ran afoul of a married couple who'd basically done all the organizational and financial stuff for the founder/predecessor. This couple apparently decided, ex cathedra, that they'd be effectively running the show, and attempted to facilitate this by a) putting the group in debt and b) then insisting that the group members had to give up more of their free time in order to take paying gigs; things came to a head when the couple wanted the rest of us to give up our New Year's Eve for an out-of-town gig that would basically have us playing all night. (It also didn't help that the husband chewed out one of the musicians during a rehearsal for accidentally damaging an instrument.) They left, and we kept on keepin' on without them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:31 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Interesting and thought-provoking. I made it my Summer 2019 task to finally shift the mantle of convener for our Science Café onto other shoulders. I looked at the regular attenders, put them into an order and contacted them each in turn. One by one they all turned down the offer. I really needed to go because I'd run out of puff, and was doing the group no good. Two months ago, I finally passed the baton to another bloke even older than me who will, if nothing else, have a different network to tap for speakers each month.

If O'Farrelly's Rule [in any voluntary organisation, 10% of the members do 90% of the work] is true, then for small organisations it may be effectively impossible to find shadowers, sharers and inheritors.

Years ago, I volunteered [our family] to be Newsletter Editor[s] for our Network. I put a lot of work into that: soliciting copy, writing copy, pasting up and getting the thing printed and distributed 4x a year. One afternoon at publication time, a neighbour/member came round and I saved a stamp by handing out a copy of the latest issue. Neighbour folded in quarters and stuffed it in their back pocket. I was aghast! But it was a salutary lesson that nobody was as invested as me in the berluddy newsletter. The next editor went colour, had a lot more pictures and used glossy paper. Not my cup of tea but change is good.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:44 PM on September 19


ob1quixote: "
chavenet: “Banks often require all staff to take at least 2 consecutive weeks off every year. ”
I couldn't find it because even on Bing searching for G.A.A.P. and vacation only brings up articles about accounting for vacation pay, but most of the outfits I've worked with have a vacation policy similar to the FDIC guidance as an internal control against fraud for any position that has access to the organization's accounts. To the point where I really think it is a G.A.A.P.
"

Here is the NY Fed from 1997:

One of the many basic tenets of internal control is that a banking organization ensure that employees in sensitive positions be absent from their duties for a minimum of two consecutive weeks. Such a requirement enhances the viability of a sound internal control environment because most frauds or embezzlements require the continual presence of the wrongdoer.

posted by chavenet at 2:11 PM on September 19


The last question is, what if no one else steps up? And the answer is: that tells you something about the health of the organization, right there.

OK, so now we know the organization is unhealthy: now what?

If I stopped leading my Girl Scout troop, I don't think that the troop would continue; my co-leaders are great but wouldn't take on all that I do. There's a shortage of Girl Scout volunteers in general and not enough spots for everyone who wants to find a troop. So my Girl Scouts wouldn't be Girl Scouts any more, and I think the world would be a lesser place for that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:35 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


On a related note, while at my volunteer job this afternoon (at the moment, running a light board for a musical), the stage manager was saying that she never has the time to write down how things are done because they are always changing, and the theater co-producer runs everything technical and wans to be in control, but he also has a lot of health problems, so what happens someday when he ends up in the hospital in the run of a show? "Me and the other stage director could muddle through somehow, but.....???"
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:53 PM on September 19


OK, so now we know the organization is unhealthy: now what?

@The corpse in the library, that's a question I grapple with on a weekly basis. Among the things I devote time to, one is a service club and one is a church. I'm not a service club type and I'm not a church type, but I got involved because some of the people in these organizations are doing work in my community that seems vital and necessary: making playgrounds happen in public spaces, managing a small public park with the most amazing view of the community; being an ally for marginalized groups in the community and speaking out and taking action in ways I think are important. I'm learning that, beyond a certain point some things might come to an end despite my best efforts.. in fact, a member of the one group (in a different context) once said "get over yourself" and I'm going with that. You care a lot and you do everything you can to make things happen, and also know when it's time to move on. I don't know, it's hard. I hope you find your way, I really struggle with this.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:26 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I've been the secretary of the local chapter of a professional organization for about two years. The current chapter president emailed me recently: "any chance you'd be willing to be president next year?"

I didn't respond (my bad). During the Board meeting last week he asked whether anyone was willing to step up and be president next year. crickets

On one hand, I feel bad. On the other, this kind of "unable to get out" issue is among the reasons I'm not willing to step up.
posted by Lexica at 3:39 PM on September 20


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