Sometimes when I’m reaching for that smashed granola bar way back in the desk drawer I think, “how can I steal more time?” Is there like a soul-selling website that guarantees 15 more minutes in each day? If so, I’m in. Or maybe I can cut corners by creating an automated interview system for prospective volunteers. Eliminating that personal touch by interviewing and cultivating each new volunteer would save, what 16.9 years of my life? Hmmm, if I did create an automated system, would it sound something like this?
“Hello, you have reached the volunteer hotline. Please listen carefully to our menu and select the number that best describes your desire to volunteer and someone will get back with you shortly. As demand is great for our volunteer positions, your expected wait time is 3 minutes. (this is a blatant lie, but it’s the old marketing scheme that makes it sound like the volunteer positions are popular and you’d better get one now before they run out).
Press 1 if you have the sincere desire to help. You have no underlying reasons to volunteer other than you want to give back. You listen to directions, offer constructive criticisms and are punctual. You communicate well, take your volunteer position seriously and love being part of a team. Your expected call back time is 5 minutes or less. Actually, please wait by your phone, a volunteer coordinator will pick up right now.
Press 2 if you also have the sincere desire to help. You are a bit hesitant, unsure of what you are getting into, would like to bond with similarly minded volunteers and are willing to do what it takes to learn. You would appreciate having a social experience here. Your expected call back time is 20 minutes or less.
Press 3 if you also want to help and feel the need to be needed. Pressing the “like” button on Facebook makes you happy, especially when it’s about cute puppies or kitties doing incredibly cute things. You get a thrill when someone thanks you, and praise words like “couldn’t have done it without you” makes you tingly all over. Your expected call back time is 2 days or less.
Press 4 if you are the leader of a group such as a club, team or service organization and want your group to experience the substantive worth of volunteering. You really don’t know where to begin, what your group’s availability will be nor the number of participants at any given time. You are really flying blind here and kind of trust that one of our volunteer coordinators will have all the answers and that group volunteering is fairly easy and there are immediate opportunities just waiting to be filled. Your expected call back time is 2 weeks or less.
Press 5 if you have court ordered community service or you are under 18 and your mom is making you do this. You really hate the idea of being forced to endure all this feel good hokum and you honestly think that we non-profit types are full of sh… sugary sweet stuff that will gag you and rob you of your bad boy edginess. Your expected call back time is 10 weeks or less, no wait, maybe 10 weeks or a lot more.
Press 6 if you say you want to help but pretty much you want to force your will on all of us. You have the need to control and criticize and really want to run the show. You are unwilling to apply for a job in this organization, but would rather back door yourself in as a volunteer, cleverly thinking that we would never fire a volunteer, no matter how destructive they might turn out to be. Like an Olympic hammer throw, you love to sling passive-aggressive phrases such as, “you really think that’s a good idea,” and “no wonder it’s chaos in here.” You burrowed into your last volunteer position and waited, trap door spider style until an unsuspecting staff member or other volunteer walked into your verbal stings. Your expected call back time is, well, I will leave your information for the person who someday will replace me. On second thought, I don’t want to be mean to my eventual replacement so your information will just magically get lost into a trap door of our own.
I love fantasies, but as I’m munching on the incredibly old granola bar, I realize that forcing volunteers into neat little categories is never a good idea. So, as the great Emily Litella (Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live) once said, “Never mind.”