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To think that it's harder to offer something for free than sell it

(37 Posts)
VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 21:59:05

I'm baffled - but I am starting to think it is an education in human nature.

I had three schools blank me when I contacted them to offer myself as a volunteer maths helper. Then a fourth school advertised (and employed me) in the same role but at £18per hour.

I can charge ££££ for software development work privately - but when I constructed a protype (free) website for a charity I'm involved in - only two souls clicked on the link - and no one gave feedback or support.

The PTA have just sent round minutes for a meeting before Christmas that no one was invited to confused . Presumably core committee knew from chatting to each other - but nothing went out on the mailing list. That's kind of weird - right? I've never done a job where I was put on a project but left off the meeting invites. They also previously ignored me when I asked the secretary to circulate a factsheet to save time at the meeting. I know the organisers are volunteers - but surely it's self-defeating to make it actively uncomfortable for new blood volunteers...?

I sent an email to the co-ordinator of a local health charity, telling them about my experience with this health condition, and how I'd love to 'give back' of they had suitable opportunities. No response. My blog on the same topic brings a steady trickle of ad revenue.

Final element of evidence: Ebay vs Freecycle. One gets you cash and positive reviews - the other aggravation and moany timewasters.

Should I toughen up and conclude that volunteering is a mugs game and money never lies?

Surreyblah Sat 21-Jan-17 22:10:01

You sound paranoid.

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 22:19:19

Paranoid how?

picklemepopcorn Sat 21-Jan-17 22:25:13

Where money is involved the rules are clearer. Written down, very often. People can be uncomfortable with the vagueness of what is expected when someone does something for free. Can they tell you to stop because you are rubbish, for example? It's tricky.

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 22:34:31

think that's true. When money is involved, the rules are clearer, contracts are drawn up, procedures happen. Also the purchaser has identified a need and is really motivated to have you. That's a sensible explanation.

So I should quit with the social conscience and 'follow the money'?

picklemepopcorn Sat 21-Jan-17 22:55:17

Not necessarily. You could get paid work in fields which please your social conscience, also make sure what you are offering is what the recipient needs. Some gifts are actually really complicated to receive- a website needs to be managed, who by? Does it give you power over something you haven't yet earned? Do you see what I mean? You need to work with people and respond to the need sometimes rather than doing what you think is helpful.

I may have completely misunderstood though. Just hypothesising...

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 22:55:29

Ho humph.

It's nice that I was able to secure paid gigs so easily - because I think it could have really knocked my confidence otherwise.

'Volunteering' is always presented as a gentle way to get back into work (eg after illness) - but my experience has been polar opposite - that paid work is easier and less stressful.

picklemepopcorn Sat 21-Jan-17 22:59:24

Definitely clearer boundaries! Less flexibility though, usually. Don't give up, it will come together. You clearly have a really useful skill set.

picklemepopcorn Sat 21-Jan-17 23:00:54

Also volunteers are notoriously always doing more than they have time for. Goes with the territory being a bit overstretched and therefore flaky.

DJBaggySmalls Sat 21-Jan-17 23:05:28

You're not being paranoid, its a known phenomenon that people value something more if they've paid for it.
Plus if you're charging you must be an Expert smile

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 23:14:23

I actually am a bona fide Expert wink.

I do wear a suit to paid gigs - and maybe people expect their experts without porridge on their shoulder to be business suited strangers.

TheProblemOfSusan Sat 21-Jan-17 23:20:19

Not quite the same thing, but when we were young and poor and had to deal with a series of broken, shit washing machines/fridges etc that a landlord wouldn't dispose of properly, a housemate developed a genius way of getting rid. Stuck offending item in front garden with a sign saying £50 ono, ask inside. Generally took about an hour for it to get nicked.

Attach a value to it answer people think it's worth something - volunteers they feel it's OK to piss about.

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 23:25:50

I think it's exactly the same thing - tbh.

Value and cost are a hardwired association that a lot of people rely on without thinking.

VolunteeringSucks Sat 21-Jan-17 23:32:59

More seriously - with the charity thing - I have ended up a bit paranoid that I 'got people's backs up' by bamboozling them with a more technical solution to their problem than they'd thought of.

But it depresses me if the answer is that I'm supposed to act dumb - especially since I've been involved in the cupcake baking/chair stacking side of this charity for a while - and I've known several of the main people even longer albeit in my alter ego of hapless mother of active boys .

SleepOhHowIMissYou Sun 22-Jan-17 00:05:37

Watched a programme once, can't remember the name, sorry, but it was about this OP.

Subject of the programme was three groups of people who answered an advert for people to clean up Leicester Square. The volunteer litter pickers who filled in questionaires after the event reported the most satisfaction, felt their time had been spent doing something useful and said they would volunteer again. The litter pickers paid minimum wage were less happy than the volunteers who'd worked for free, but surprisingly, the people paid above the odds for the same work reported the most dissatisfaction and said they would not come again. It was to do with the balance between the spiritual rewards of charitable work and the feeling of being taken advantage of when given unpleasant work that you're paid for, the idea that being paid above the odds was justified because it was something that no-one wanted to do, despite all three groups doing the same amount of litter picking for the same amount of time.

The human psyche is fascinating!

drivingmisspotty Sun 22-Jan-17 00:10:56

Volunteer manager here. First of all, I am so sorry you had this experience of people ignoring you. That is just rude! You sound great to me - really proactive with interesting experience that could be useful to a charity. I might not be able to use exactly what you are offering eg might not be looking for a website. But I would definitely make time to meet you and see how we could work together. .

I do see however how those less experienced with volunteers might slip up

-The schools might not even have it on their radar to have any kind of volunteers. They are worried about who would manage you, the teachers are all so busy, and safeguarding. This is short sighted but many of us are!

- someone mentioned how everyone knows where they stand/boundaries are well defined where money changes hands. Some vol managers can get in a tangle because they think they have to be endlessly accepting of anything a volunteer does. They must be flexible as the volunteer is kindly giving their time. This leaves the volunteer unsure of expectations and also how successful they are being. While volunteers are not under contract, the most fruitful volunteer/organisation relationships come from clear agreement of what should be achieved.

- there is sadly still fear among some of losing their jobs to volunteers. Getting volunteers to bake cakes/lift tables is okay but anything that encroaches on staff roles is seen as a threat. Or perhaps they just have an idea that volunteers bake cakes etc and when you come up with something else completely different like a website they don't know what to do/who should take it forward so do nothing at all.
Please don't give up. I am sure there are lots of organisations that would value your skills. Try contacting ones that have volunteering teams/a head of volunteering post/a section for volunteering on their website as I would think they are taking volunteering seriously. Or try your local volunteer bureau/

CanaryFish Sun 22-Jan-17 00:48:13

A long time ago .. I had a very stingy boss but he gave me some advice "people don't put a value on something they don't pay for"

So in your case the people don't see the value in what you're offering them, they don't see it would normally cost them X amount an hour etc

VolunteeringSucks Sun 22-Jan-17 07:50:37

sleep that's really interesting. I often prefer to work for free too.

VolunteeringSucks Sun 22-Jan-17 08:02:49

For example - with the web work - the paid sites are scoped conservatively and sensibly and priced to give me a good hourly rate. On a free one I'll push the boat out to learn a new skills to make it extra good - and not mind how long it takes me to get it working.

Ragwort Sun 22-Jan-17 08:12:32

I guess it depends a lot on how you come across - I do a lot of volunteering and often meet people who say 'why don't you do X, Y or Z. Why don't you have a website/Facebook account etc etc' - some people are full of well meaning suggestions but actually don't want to do any of the hard work; something that to a 'techy' person might be really simple but to others might be totally beyond their ability/comprehension. It is very easy to come across as being critical when you are probably trying to be helpful.

I am not saying this is you but it might be how you are perceived. I've lost count of the people who have told me that the organisation I am involved with should be on social media - even if I ask someone to totally arrange/manage it they would still need my input for the 'detail' and quite honestly I haven't got the time (or more importantly the inclination grin) to give up a few hours to pass on the information.

VolunteeringSucks Sun 22-Jan-17 08:28:58

Thank you for the feedback spotty (sorry - reading very slowly - the toddler has an ear infection).

I think you are right that even free stuff needs headspace and management to take up - especially if it's a speculative offer, rather than a response to an advert.

Tbh - my time is now starting to be filled up with the paid gigs - and life is generally moving on - so I think this one will be chalked up to experience - but I will certainly keep your comments in mind if I got re-interested in volunteering in the future.

LucklessMonster Sun 22-Jan-17 15:24:32

I think the same, OP, but from the other side. I would rather pay for something than get it for free, even on behalf of a charity - I used to work for a charity where I managed volunteers. When you pay for something you have much more control and reasonable expectations are much clearer. Others in the thread have given good examples.

Same reason I would rather pay a stranger to do a job for me than get 'mates rates' from a friend. If a friend gets it wrong, it's so much more complicated to get it fixed.

Trills Sun 22-Jan-17 15:34:05

This is a really interesting story - thanks for sharing.

Magzmarsh Sun 22-Jan-17 15:51:40

This thread is very interesting op, thanks for posting it. We had friends who ran high end holiday lodges and they charged quite low rates because in their experience if they charged high rates the customer would leave the place trashed as they felt they were "entitled" to.

VolunteeringSucks Sun 22-Jan-17 16:51:37

Ooh - you see - I'd assume the opposite. If you charge £40 for a dinner, people will dress up and behave. If you charge £5 they'll be on their phone the whole time, put their feet on the chairs and be rude to the waiting staff.

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