I have this friend, Jenny who is a volunteer manager for a large non-profit and she is hopping mad. Now hopping mad is an old phrase, but her anger stems from old wounds. It seems that her marketing team decided at the last-minute to put on a very large community fair. They were given an opportunity to utilize a prime space and they jumped at the chance.
Naturally, they needed beaucoups amounts of volunteers to stuff packets, act as hosts, man tables, set up, break down, etc. Jenny put all of her other duties aside to recruit about 30 excellent volunteers. Not just any warm body, no, Jenny, like all of us made sure she lined up the very best.
The event was a success. Marketing patted themselves on the back. Jenny, however, put in almost 60 hours trying to do damage control. There weren’t enough items to stuff the packets and no one was there to explain the procedure to the volunteers. When the set up volunteers arrived, it was chaos and some of them had no jobs so they went home a bit miffed. On the day of the event, there were no assigned duties. Jenny had to run back and forth between the volunteers and the marketing staff, asking endless questions, running for supplies and trying to keep the volunteers out of earshot of the staff’s irritated comments. All of this while maintaining a cheerful disposition to shelter the volunteers from the madness.
It took her days to recover from the exhaustion and for the volunteers to stop complaining about the extreme lack of preparation. They were not mad at Jenny, they were, as always, wise enough to see she had no control. They vowed to not work with “those people” again, not only because of the rightly perceived shoddy management, but the obvious treatment of Jenny. Small consolation to Jenny, who, as a professional did not pass along their feedback concerning her.
So, why did she call me hopping mad three weeks after the event? She got a copy of an email, inviting the participating volunteers to a “thank you” brunch. Now, here’s the kicker. Two days after the email went out, another one cancelling the brunch appeared. But this one did say thank you for making the event so successful.
Marketing will dust themselves off and move on, having scattered their used wrappers of volunteers all over. Jenny will be left with the long cleanup. Will some volunteers stop volunteering? Not if I know Jenny. She will work to keep them.
I have this mental picture of Jenny, her hair disheveled as she stands atop the litter pile of cast off volunteers. She has a broom in one hand and air freshener in the other. Everyone in her organization just walks by without noticing her.
It’s her job, after all, isn’t it?