Bette is a volunteer who works in a large resale shop. She came to me the other day asking for my help because she had no one to turn to. It seems the shop manager, a paid employee, has been, in Bette words, “bullying the volunteers.” She said it took a lot for her to seek help but the other volunteers are looking to her to fix the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the resale shop’s parent organization has no volunteer managers, so there is no one to run interference for the volunteers. The shop manager has no experience working with volunteers; she has retail experience working with employees. And therein lies the problem.
Can “regular” staff work well with volunteers? Sure, I’ve seen it happen many a time. There are employees who respect their volunteers, praise them, look out for them, and make them feel a valued part of the team. They keep their volunteers coming back and seldom have problems with them. Usually, though, they work with just a few part-time volunteers. Then there’s Bette’s shop manager, Carey, who treats her volunteers like bottom of the rung employees. Behind their backs she calls them “lazy” or “incompetent” while failing to encourage them. They are about to revolt.
Bette reluctantly handed me a piece of paper. On it she had penned a resale volunteer’s list of rights. It took her hours to compose it. I thought it profound and well done. Here it is:
As a volunteer who freely gives of my time and abilities, I should be:
1. greeted sincerely at the beginning of my shift and at the end and told what a good job I did.
2. treated with the utmost respect and sincerely thanked for my contributions.
3. made aware that the organization is proud of the work I do and grateful for my service.
4. able to freely express my concerns without being made to feel as though I am a nuisance.
5. considered an integral member of the team and a component of the organization’s overall mission.
Bette loves her work and her shop. She has bonded with the other volunteers and wants them to succeed as a team. She is willing to stand up to make that happen. And what she really, really wants, is to be managed by someone who understands how to manage volunteers.