This is a note to the disgruntled volunteer. You know who you are. You have made attempts to get involved with a local organization, but you have been unsuccessful because the organization has failed to respond. Emails have been sent, applications completed, and phone calls made, but no reply. Complete silence. Maybe you have spent time with a nonprofit organization, but your volunteer experience was far from good. Actually, it was terrible. You didn’t enjoy it. You did not feel like you, or your time, were valued. There was no sense of fulfillment. You are frustrated, unhappy, and ready to throw in the towel.
This note is for you: DO NOT GO BAREFOOT
Let me explain.
I was recently in the market for a new pair of running shoes. Yes, I do run. I had been wearing the same shoes for a long time and amassed a large number of miles in them. The seams were starting to separate and the bottoms were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I was long overdue for some new kicks. I started the process by researching some different types of shoes, runner recommendations, and pricing. I wanted to have an understanding of what others were saying about the millions of options that exist. Although this information helped, I had to get into the stores.
I visited the first store with a particular shoe in mind. I had seen it online and had heard about its awesomeness from some runners in my community. I loved the look and thought it was the shoe for me. As I perused the store, there it was displayed in all of its glory. It looked as good as I had imagined and I couldn’t wait to try it on. I approached store staff and requested a size 15. He looked at me and said “sorry sir. Those shoes do not come in a size 15.” Bummer. I was disappointed that those shoes were not a viable option. I looked around the store not seeing anything else that caught my eye so I moved on. Strike one
I entered the next store and quickly saw two different shoes that I wanted to try on. The first, no size 15 (no surprise). The second was available and I tried them on. They felt terrible. They were too narrow on the side and my toes felt cramped. There was no way that I could run comfortably in those shoes. Once again I left a location without shoes. Strike two.
Store number three was no better. I did not like most of the available options (mutant size shoes are usually the ugliest) and those that I tried on were not a good fit for one reason or another. My search continued. Strike three.
Using the baseball analogy of three strikes and your out, I should have been done. I could have quit, given up, but I didn’t. I needed, and wanted, new shoes. I should have mentioned earlier that I truly dislike shopping. I just do not enjoy it in the least. But I continued on. Finally after a few more stores, I found a pair of shoes that met my needs. They were the right size, appealing, comfortable, and supportive. I made the purchase. It has been weeks since I laced those shoes up for my first run and I have been extremely happy with them. Persistence paid off.
So you are probably wondering what the hell this has to do with volunteering. Here it is. Selecting an organization for which to volunteer and buying shoes is a similar process. You will research an organization and hear others (probably us) tell you how great they are, but you will not know for sure until YOU get involved. When you do, you may learn that a particular organization is not the right fit for you. It is uncomfortable, ugly, and definitely not what you expected. You will be disappointed and frustrated. You will decide that you need to move on. You try another organization and you get the same result. It may happen over and over again until you find the organization that best fits you. You just cannot quit.
We have worked with over 120 nonprofit organizations and causes over the last three years. Most experiences have been great, but some have not. We have felt under appreciated during some experiences and felt like we wasted our time on others. We learned that some organizations are not a good fit for our family and we probably will not go back. We may not even recommend them to others searching for a place to volunteer. We are okay with this particular level of dissatisfaction.
You are going to have bad experiences and you will become frustrated. I guarantee it. But you cannot give up on serving your community and those in need. Do not throw in the towel. Keep shopping until you find the organization that meets your needs as a volunteer. It will look great, feel great, and be extremely comfortable. If you needed new shoes, I know you would shop until you found the right pair. You would not go without. You would not go barefoot.
Do not go barefoot on volunteerism.