Monday, April 14, 2014

Volunteers

I went out today with a group of volunteer ladies that work regularly on the nearby museum grounds.  I had become in involved in this volunteer effort full force last year taking leadership responsibility for the bureaucratic problems in trying to buy plants, getting the mulch scheduled, sending out updates via email, maintaining email lists, coordinating suggestions and editing plant lists and keeping it all on an environmental track.  I discovered that it was a bit like herding cats.  Some of the women were at the museum several days weekly and took it upon themselves to make plant removal decisions or schedule other decisions without letting everyone know.  Their husbands volunteered in other departments at the museum and they were there more often than I.

The hired maintenance staff (two men) while praising us when they saw us, clearly saw their job as sitting on a mower once a week and maintaining stuff indoors.  When they wear white shirts to work, you know they do not see themselves as landscape staff!  They actually seemed to think that 60-year-old and older women could maintain the rather large grounds of the museum on our own.  They made little effort to assist with hose repairs, getting the water unlocked, and keeping wheelbarrows easily available from the storage shed although I must admit they are very, very polite.  Today we actually had to lift the wheelbarrows out and over some new-fangled BBQ machinery that had been slid in right at the door for pulling out.  I also had to help these gals lift 40 pound bags of soil this morning as I was afraid someone was going to injure their back.  I am thankful that I can still do stuff like that at my age, but I also am very careful each time I do lifting anyway. Keeping moving...keeping moving.

As you may remember, at the end of the last season I let the dear ladies know I was resigning as leader and would volunteer as I could, but my relationship to the museum was not as regular as theirs.  (There were also other politics going on that I was not sure of..."he said we should do it this way and she said to do it that way"... and that made me more than irritated some days.)

Well, now I show up when I can squeeze in a morning.  Nothing, of course, has changed.  No one seems to know what is going on.  We had to redo two beds by the front gate and the water had not been turned on, so the plants were transplanted in the hot afternoon waiting for tonight's' rain.  I had been willing to haul plastic buckets of water to the gate...but since no one could find the water key, even that effort was not useful!  One dear lab technician went to his tool kit behind one of the labs and tried a small wrench, but to no avail.  A huge aster that was supposed to be divided and replanted in the fall never got scheduled and so I was told to shovel and pull and dig and tear at this monster with its new spring growth already 4 inches high.

The museum director is a good guy, but he is in the middle of a huge remodel and a grand re-opening in just a few weeks, so I could not even begin to approach him on the issue and his assistant is gone somewhere---wise woman.  They will just have to throw money at brightly colored annual plants the week before and plant then everywhere that is needed.

This is a textbook case in how to NOT treat volunteers that save you thousands of dollars in your budget. 


11 comments:

Celia said...

Amen!

Stephen Hayes said...

My wife manages the volunteer program for our local police department (ninety volunteers) and it's amazing what these folks do and how much money they save the taxpayers.

Barb said...

I like that phrase "like herding cats" - it's what we say about getting all the grandchildren ready to go skiing in time. However, when said about adult volunteers, it gives one pause. Sounds like someone is dropping the ball in a big way.

Linda Reeder said...

It sounds like one very bossy person is needed to whip this program into shape. Leadership is never appreciated so much as when it is lacking.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Oh my, how sad to give your time to an organization that is not organized.

messymimi said...

It's why i like the way our cat rescue is run. There's a person in charge of the building, and a person in charge of the animals, and every volunteer answers to them -- they are the only paid staff -- and they answer to the board of directors, whom the volunteers elect. It works, knowing who is in charge, and that everyone answers to someone.

Anvilcloud said...

This could drive a body crazy.

Granny Annie said...

My rule is never to volunteer until I have been a member of an organization for an entire year. Twice in this area I have broken that rule and twice I have found myself talked into horrible situations that, given a few more months membership, I would have known better than to take.

Brian Miller said...

oy, when people are willing to give their time, you have to respect that and they will work....

Olga Hebert said...

I have had good volunteer experiences lately, but it did take me a while to find out what works for me.

Snaggle Tooth said...

You are saint putting up with such craziness- plants with no water!

Some folks know how to lift- others are clueless n shouldn't. I'm a lifter too- Good for you, but bet you are sore!

I've never tried to herd cats...