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So I have this unwritten rule that I break every so often. The rule is, “make every person who wants to volunteer go through the proper channels.” I always get burned when relaxing that rule and then I promise myself to never break it again.

Yup, did it recently and here’s what I learned about myself. A just early retired baby boomer, Stephen came in and wanted to explore his options. He volunteers for a gardening club and for a no kill shelter but he wants to volunteer with people too. He has a great deal of time on his hands and wants to put it to good use. (I’m listening, Stephen). We spent a good hour and a half talking about how he needs to do something meaningful with his life. (You’re singing my tune, now).

Since I did not have any structured orientations coming up in December-holidays I’ve found bring out mainly people who want to volunteer just on Christmas, the rest are pretty busy with their holiday plans, so the next orientation will not be until January. Stephen wanted to start “right away.” Now, these two words normally send red flags, but there was something about Stephen. (I wanted to HELP him-nice of me, huh?).

I set up a quick one on one training with him and showed him some videos, etc. I made sure to tell him that this was a “special training” and that I “believed in him”. (I’m really full of it, did he really believe that?)

I made him promise that he would take the full orientation when it was offered and he promised. (I’m really proud of myself by now). I then told him he could shadow another volunteer in a care center so that at least he could “get started”. (what I saint I am).

Stephen shadowed a really good, seasoned volunteer. I called to see how it was going and talked to him and his mentor. We set up another time to shadow. (see, I follow through well). After the second time, his mentor told me that Stephen seemed very quiet and a bit overwhelmed. (no, that couldn’t happen, could it?) I called Stephen and left a message. The next day, I got an email (email? I thought we were sympatico!) from Stephen that simply stated he did not think this volunteering was a good fit for him. (what! after all I’ve done!)

I think after a week or so, I will call him and offer the normal path to volunteering. (which I should have done in the first place). And if he refuses, then I will chalk this one up to breaking my own rule. (love it when you get that reinforcement).

Next time, I will be more careful. (who am I kidding?) No, really, I need to stick to that which I have learned over the years. If volunteering is worth doing, it’s worth doing it correctly. And if managing volunteers is worth doing, it’s worth doing correctly too.

Man, I’m tough.