Unwritten Rules of Volunteering

A long time ago, in a lifetime far away, I ran a local charity out of my living room. We gave away clothes. I didn’t require a bunch of paperwork or forms – if you needed clothing enough to show up and ask- I had it for you. People were to go through boxes in their size range and pull out what they’d use. As word got around, more and more people started giving us their used clothing. Over time, there were donation boxes in various churches all over the city, and those churches would give our number when someone called and asked them for clothing. The charity worked with many denominations – many not known for getting along with the others, but I didn’t tell them – and they didn’t ask.

It was a one person show, with kids occasionally drafted to help me; until the day it wasn’t. A woman who came to get her kids some clothes for school became the first volunteer. Did she know how to do things my way? Nope! but she learned.  Over time we had several volunteers come through our doors – never turned them down. I let them prove, or disprove, them selves on their own merit. It wasn’t uncommon to be used as a reference when they were applying for a job. I was glad to help them out!

To me, that’s how volunteers should work. This goes doubly so if you are begging for volunteers. It is unreasonable to expect a volunteer to walk in ana know how to do everything. It is also unreasonable to me to tell a potential volunteer no. ever. A, ‘I have someone to do the main stuff, but you’re welcome to come and learn the basics for next time”, should be enough. By having a pool of volunteers to pull from, you reduce the burnout.

Regardless, what do I know – right?

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