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I got so excited the other day because a prospective volunteer came into the office to talk about how she could help our organization. She had just moved into the area to take care of her ailing mother and wanted some time to spend with her mom while doing something that was not corporate related. Armed with her resume that included a Master’s Degree and a wealth of experience, she thought she might help out in a very busy department. I made an appointment for her to see a representative, happily informing that staff member that we had a “cream of the crop” volunteer.

Twenty minutes later, the prospective volunteer came down and sat in my office. Deflated, she told me that really there was nothing for her to do in that overworked office. They offered her some clerical work and a chance to hand out brochures, but there was no welcome, no squeals of joy at meeting her, no fanfare. She said, “I didn’t get the same feeling there.”

When staff members or departments ask for help, do they really want it? Some are extremely busy and can’t take the time to cultivate a volunteer, but if that’s the case, then they should be honest and say they do not have the time it takes to cultivate a volunteer. Nothing is more deflating than being told that your skills are not needed. Although staff may not say that outright, they convey that message frequently to volunteers who come to help. “I really don’t want you. You’re too much trouble. I’m too busy.”

Until staff sees volunteers as a positive and embrace the willing help, then their requests for volunteers are nothing more than lip service. Time after time certain staff members turn away volunteers, make them feel unwelcome and do not prepare anything for them to do. Other staff members integrate volunteers successfully into their daily routines and go the extra mile by encouraging and cultivating the volunteer’s help. If some can do it, then all can do it.

When a department asks for volunteer help, they had better be prepared to receive it and not waste everyone’s time. When you continuously purchase goods at a store and return them, eventually the store bars you from shopping there. Sending volunteers to a staff member or department that can’t or won’t take the time to get to know them and utilize them is a dead end for us and the volunteer. I’ll shop elsewhere.