Robert Arrowsmith: Volunteer shortage needs resolution

Robert Arrowsmith

Robert Arrowsmith

By Robert Arrowsmith

CMI Publisher

You hear it everywhere you go. Just about every community organization or entity that has an event is facing the same problem. The issue in question is the lack of volunteers.

The question becomes: What is causing an individual to not want to volunteer? This appears to be a multi-faceted problem.The reason for lack of volunteers varies. For some organizations, such as day care, or ambulance service, the issue for a potential volunteer may be that there is too much required training, certification, or overall government regulation just to volunteer. For other organizations, such as those that assist in community events, it may be the simple fact that the number of volunteers needed might be too great. Still others, the issue might be that the potential volunteer feels like there are too many activities to be involved in.

One reason is the number of organizations that current volunteers commit to. It is not uncommon to talk to people in the community who are members of multiple boards, or committees, and have in many cases stretched themselves to where they cannot give as much time as might be needed to any one particular organization.

A second reason is the turnover of the community itself. People that may have done some level of volunteering in the past have left the area, while some of those coming into the community either are a) not interested in volunteering, b) not here on a permanent basis and therefore cannot commit to volunteering, c) overwhelmed by the number of organizations that are in need of volunteers, or worse d) have no idea where to go in order to volunteer.

A third reason may simply be that a volunteer may feel like what they are being asked to volunteer for should be a paid position.

To politely put it, some volunteers that are needed here are paid positions in other parts of the country.

Finally, at times, when a person does volunteer for an organization or project, they end up overused to the point that they are burned out and do not want to do it anymore. Get burned out by one organization for being overused or having too much expected of them and it might leave a bad taste in their mouth for volunteering as a whole.

So what are the possible solutions? How do we turn this situation around? Several thoughts and ideas come to mind.

1. A central portal, database, or website for regional volunteerism. This has come up in several discussions. Instead of the every-man-for-himself approach that comes with staffing and volunteerism, have one website or database where both those that want to volunteer and those that need volunteers can match up. Have a volunteer application available for the volunteer and a registration and screening process for those that need volunteers.

2. Organizations and companies need to evaluate their volunteer needs. Are volunteers being used for what should most likely be paid jobs? If volunteers have been scheduled for lengthy shifts, is there a way to shorten the shifts?

3. When you do get a volunteer, do not give them more responsibility than what they volunteered for. This is probably the most important. If someone wants to volunteer for one day per week, do not push them into helping five days per week. A volunteer is more than likely to not say no because they want to help. Instead they will most likely just walk away completely.

Volunteerism plays an important role in any community. It takes a special person to want to commit their time and energy to an organization or event. Let’s make sure we recognize this, and do what we can to truly appreciate their time and effort.

Robert Arrowsmith is publisher for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:
rarrowsmith@cnjonline.com

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