Day’s Verse:
“All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations…”

Isaiah 65:2

Today I pretended to be an HR manager and wrote drafts of 18 job descriptions for activities we want volunteers to do. This is somewhat amusing, since I have no experience or qualification that makes me the right person for this task. Occasionally I will be doing something on the volunteer program and suddenly feel completely overwhelmed. Often this happens when I’m trying to talk to one of the staff people (not a specific one) and getting the sense that we really aren’t speaking the same language at all.

For example, during my presentation of the overall volunteer program, I specifically said, “I’m envisioning having the Volunteer Coordinator [me] function as an HR manager: I’ll write job descriptions, recruit volunteers for the positions, interview them, and train them. Then I’ll pass them off to the appropriate staff member to manage and schedule the volunteer’s efforts.” Yet afterward, all the staff people I’ve talked with still envisions me as the single point for volunteers, and themselves as magically benefiting from volunteer work without interacting with volunteers.

Take this hypothetical conversation for example:

Me: We’ll need to have volunteers report to the staff person who’s in charge of that type of task. So if you’re the staff person in charge of the newsletter, volunteer reporters would report to you.
Staff person: What’s happened in the past is that nobody on the staff wants to be responsible for volunteers. It’s not in their job description.
Me: Right. And in the future we’ll need to have staff people think of working with volunteers as part of their jobs. It’s not free having volunteers — we have to spend time away from our assigned tasks to manage volunteers.
Staff person: Sure, but the difficulty is that nobody has time to work with volunteers and also do all their own work, which is why we need just one person [me] to do it.
Me: [Giving up on trying to explain that I need the staff people to be managers of volunteers too] So on this next task…

It’s times like those I start wondering if I’m in some pipe dream, and my whole role of “creating a volunteer program” will just fade away when I’m gone. Nobody wants responsibility for volunteers, even though the staff says they want to have volunteers. There’s plenty for volunteers to do, but again, nobody to manage them.

Sometimes I just feel so tired when I think of the remainder of my AmeriCorps tenure stretching out ahead of me.

One thought on “Volunteer Miscommunication

  1. It does sound like they’re just not getting it. Maybe they expect you to stay forever and manage all the volunteers.

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