Advanced search

Interesting letter from a volunteer to non volunteers

(514 Posts)
Narnia72 Tue 28-Feb-17 21:31:15


I hope the link works. We often have discussions about "worthy" volunteers with regard to school activities, but this was a thought provoking read. It was timely for me as my son's football team is having to close the younger age group classes as there's no-one to coach (made up of volunteer coaches). It made me think about all the volunteers who give their time to run low cost groups for my kids; brownies, cubs, football, messy church, netball, youth drama are all run by volunteers. When you talk to them it's clear there is a circuit- they often start on the pre school committee, then progress onto PFA, governors, then to the clubs that their children are interested in. It's very much the same people, over and over again. Why is that?

It also reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a brown owl, who had been spoken to very rudely by a parent, complaining about the activities on offer, and why they didn't do more. When asked if she would help, this parent recoiled in horror and said "but I PAY you to do this for my kids". There's clearly a massive lack of understanding about what these roles are.

So, open to debate. Do your children benefit from activities run by volunteers? Do you value them? Do you volunteer yourself? If not, do you look to help in any way, either by donations to the group, or supporting fundraising events? Do you ever think to say thank you to the volunteers? This is not meant to be a goady post, I volunteer in a minor capacity at school, but although I do value what the external clubs do for my kids, I am guilty of taking the volunteers who run them very much for granted. I am going to say thanks to them all this week!

I'm trying to help the football team attract coaches (football sadly not something either me or DH are in any way skilled at), and have met with so much apathy and indifference, but also entitlement, as though the tiny sub they pay guarantees a 5 star service.

I know the letter writer is a bit sanctimonious, but thought there were some good points in and amongst. Thoughts?

BestZebbie Tue 28-Feb-17 21:39:24

I think it comes down to a general worldview/upbringing as to which people become the serial volunteers and which other people don't.

Reasons for not volunteering include: unwillingness to give up personal time for an activity that isn't purely "fun" (eg: that has other goals too), disinclination to be tied into an ongoing commitment/relied on such that personal flexibility is lost, worries about being taken for granted/exploited/seen as a mug by peers for "doing something for nothing", assumption that volunteer roles are paid jobs and so not relevant to them as they aren't trained in that sector/already have enough employment, fear of vulnerability to false accusations, lack of confidence to consider self suitable or approach anyone about joining in ("not for the likes of me"), etc

Kerberos Tue 28-Feb-17 21:48:17

I am firmly on the circuit. I have been a preschool committee chair and the PTA treasurer plus other volunteer roles. I like to be involved and it benefits the children. I've made some really good friends through working together. DP is scout leader.

KikiDeliversCakes Tue 28-Feb-17 21:59:32

My children have benefited massively from PTA funded activities, Brownies and sports activities (run by volunteers) etc. Those volunteers work really hard and we appreciate their commitment. We have said thanks on a regular basis, and bought flowers etc on occasion.

I've volunteered with PTAs, primary and now secondary. It's hard work and it's always the same people who turn up to help. I wish more people would get involved.

LastFirstEverything Tue 28-Feb-17 22:04:21

I know the letter writer is a bit sanctimonious, but thought there were some good points in and amongst. Thoughts?


There are good points in the letter, but (as someone who has volunteered quite a bit in the past), I wouldn't want it in my name. It is judgemental and sanctimonious.

When I volunteered, I was doing it freely, for myself as much for others. I've recently had to give up volunteering for a couple of activities because of my now unpredictable and long hours at work. I'm sad that I can't continue, as I got so much out of it personally.

Having said that, my DD gets so much out of guides, a music group and a sports group that are volunteer led. I am so very grateful to the volunteers. But I think those who can and do volunteer need to take care of themselves. Volunteer fatigue IS a thing, but there's no sense in becoming a martyr.

Good points raised in the letter as well.

Permanentlyexhausted Tue 28-Feb-17 22:05:33

I agree it has a lot to do with your upbringing. I'm a Brown Owl. My parents volunteered having been involved with guiding, scouting, local council, church, and other community groups so it's no surprise that I followed suit. It's true that you see the same people on the volunteer circuit - some people are givers, others are takers.

emsyj37 Tue 28-Feb-17 22:19:32

I do think it's true that, through life, there are people who are willing to step up and volunteer and people who will never do it. Life would be better and easier for all the volunteers if more people were willing to do it, but not everyone is able to - for all sorts of reasons. DD1 goes to Rainbows, and I am grateful to the organisers there for their work and the time they put in - I will buy them a nice thank you gift when she moves up to Brownies. I would and do volunteer for one-off things - school fair, book week etc - but I wouldn't want to commit to something like Rainbows which involves a lot of work behind the scenes, not just the sessions themselves - and I couldn't be arsed with the politics of the PTA. I am happy to be a follower/minion and do as I'm told a couple of times each term!
"It's true that you see the same people on the volunteer circuit - some people are givers, others are takers." - Agree with this. Many many many people don't care about anyone but themselves and would never imagine why anybody might give up their own time for no money or perceived 'reward'. Those people won't change, so this 'open letter' is pointless really.

ImaginaryCat Wed 01-Mar-17 06:50:11

My DP and I regularly disagree about this. I do lots, PTA, Governors, Beavers, swim club committee. He does fuck all. Takes the piss out of us 'do gooders'. I point out that it's the lazy fuckers like him that mean the minority get spread so thinly having to do it all. It is all down to personal attitude towards the role of the individual within society.
In his defence I have worn him down a bit, and he now gets stuck in helping with school events. He also acknowledges that those of us who do it are pretty awesome and give the kids an amazing opportunity.

FormerlyFrikadela01 Wed 01-Mar-17 07:03:59

How many people who are regulars on the volunteer circuit work full time? Genuinely would like to know because judging by the fundraising evening I went to at my neices school the PTA is made of women who either work part time or are sahp.
DP and I work shifts in the NHS. With the best will in the world we won't be making it into the "circuit" when our children go to school because our work pattern just doesn't allow for it.

00100001 Wed 01-Mar-17 07:12:40

I work full time

Run a guide unit
Volunteer for Cats Protection events
Run a local games club
Help at a reading and book swap group
Run 3 activities at lunch for colleagues

UsedToBeAPaxmanFan Wed 01-Mar-17 07:15:43

I used to be a regular volunteer - Schoplmgoverbor, Church committees, gave talks on behalf of a local charity etc. It took a lot of time and effort. I also work full time. A couple of years ago I stopped volunteering for everything except the local charity, where I still give up 6 Saturdays a year and a couple of evenings each month.

I stopped volunteering because of a bit of a crisis with my older some, who needs our time and attention. Dh also was a school.governor (different school) and stopped doing that as well. I haven't signed up to more volunteerin because having a break from it made me think about why I was doing it and why other people aren't.

I do feel guilty though for not doing more. I will probably volunteer for something else soon, but I will need to think carefully about it. People do take volunteers for granted.

OhhBetty Wed 01-Mar-17 07:19:23

I'm a working single mum. I used to volunteer but am unable to do so now. All my "child free" time is spent at work. I average 5 hours of sleep per night as it is. I would like to volunteer but I just don't have the resources to be able to do so. This makes me feel a bit shit tbh!

witsender Wed 01-Mar-17 07:21:47

I work in a role managing volunteers for a charity, and there are some who are with different charities every day. Some genuinely want to help, some just want something to do every day. Either is fine tbh. Dh and I are both the type to volunteer, Beavers, Governors...And you definitely see the same faces out and about!

DebbieFiderer Wed 01-Mar-17 07:25:27

Frikadela - I work shifts in the NHS. I am on the PTA (attend meetings when I can, help at events when I can), help at Rainbows/Brownies on occasion, including a sleepover, go on school trips, including the residential this year, help out at swimming galas, go in to school to help occasionally. I actually find shift work more flexible for this than a 9-5 job as I do occasionally have days off in the week, and can use my shift requests to get days off for trips etc.

Roussette Wed 01-Mar-17 07:25:28

There are those who 'give' in this world and those who 'take'. Unless you are totally worn to a frazzle with six kids, long hours job, no childcare whatsoever, I think everyone should step up and do something, even if it's just once a year helping out at Brownies or whatever. I know that circumstances mean that it's not easy for some but just once a year or something.

I had no family support and I managed to volunteer when the DCs were younger and I still volunteer regularly now at something not kids related. Volunteers need a break from time to time and that break should come from those who've never volunteered stepping in and helping.

A letter would not make a jot of difference to those who have never and will never volunteer

Roussette Wed 01-Mar-17 07:27:39

Oh dear, my post sounds a bit harsh. I'm talking about those who do have capacity to volunteer but wouldn't dream of doing so and just always leave it to someone else.

Circumstances change and it's quite understandable that those who have volunteered before now can't do it.

redfairy Wed 01-Mar-17 07:28:53

My experience of PTA was completely different Formerly. During my time on the PTA the members were the ones holding down fulltime jobs. I did wonder if there was truth to the saying 'if you want something doing ask a busy person'
Volunteer fatigue is very real and a lot us got burnt out by the end of our time at school. Trying to pass on a role was like trying to pass on a poisoned chalice so you found yourself carrying on out of obligation and no real enjoyment.

megletthesecond Wed 01-Mar-17 07:30:29

I only volunteer at Parkrun. My dc's play in the park while I'm busy at adult parkrun and they run at junior parkrun. I'm a lp and work pt and don't have babysitters.

I choose not to help at the school Xmas or summer fairly because dd isn't likely to sit nicely while I do it. Hopefully I can help when she's older. I did help out on a school trip and Beaver trip once.

user1487450864 Wed 01-Mar-17 07:31:00

My ex has been a volunteer football coach for 7 years - giving up his Friday evenings for training & Sundays for the games as well as tournaments during the off season, compulsory courses he has to attend and hours of paperwork. I was chief bib washer (the boys actually moaned if they didn't smell nice)
Sometimes it's a completely thankless task (especially when a little darling didn't get to play in his preferred position) but for him the rewards outweigh.
Still after 7 years though it is the same parents who always put up/take down the goals while the same ones stand watching.

Groovee Wed 01-Mar-17 07:32:04

I'm a brownie leader. It's much more than the hour a week they advertise. I spent my morning off re doing paperwork which wasn't flagged up to me as having a couple of errors. Another volunteer was extremely snappy towards me in an email. That email would have had me throwing in the towel before my DC and Div Com spoke to me assuring me that I had done a good job.

What makes it worthwhile is the girls!

Schwifty Wed 01-Mar-17 07:36:48

Morning all! I have no dc and work pt after giving up a very stressful job when I got to the end of my tether (mh issues very much exacerbated by work) - so I am able to volunteer, working with older people (can't be too specific) so apologies if this is considered slightly off topic! It can be tough but I get a huge amount out of it, and it may even help with a career change or maybe studying again in the future, so it's a 2 way street. We do feel appreciated for the most part, but I wouldn't pen a letter like that, it feels a bit ranty and off-putting if anything. Thanks OP for an interesting thread!

LooksBetterWithAFilter Wed 01-Mar-17 07:37:39

I worked full time now I'm a student full time.
I run the local cubs pack and am chair of the pta.
The people that help me do these things all work full-time some shifts. We just make it work because there is nobody else willing to do it.
The point these groups regularly try and make to people is that we are happy running them but we do struggle and that if a fee more people could give up just a little time we would manage a lot more.
Our Christmas fayre is one. It's well attended and if a dozen parents in a fairly large school would give us 15 minutes on the night to man a stall we would all get to enjoy it and all get to take our children to see santa. As it is its a 13 hour day for the rest of us setting up and manning everything then clearing up. And you know own people feel a certain way but don't usually say it to your face but one parent told me she would help but she'd be enjoying the fayre with her children. That's is somethung I have never done and my oldest is in secondary now and she is turning out to be a fantastic volunteer at these events when we need some extra hands.

TheSparrowhawk Wed 01-Mar-17 07:38:23

I volunteered with St John Ambulance for years as a teenager and ran a toddler group for years when my children were smaller. I now run my own business and part of my criteria for hiring someone is that they've volunteered in some substantial way in the past. The reason is that volunteers get things done while non-volunteers whine and complain and expect things to be handed to them.

Roussette Wed 01-Mar-17 07:42:24

Someone said upthread that it could be something that your parents did, so you do.

Thinking about it, I think that is right. My DM volunteered at lots of stuff, I do too, and my DD is very involved in some voluntary work (alongside a stressful job).

It's leading by example isn't it... and this thread will probably be full of posters who do volunteer but not anyone who would post "I wouldn't dream of volunteering, why should I, when there's other mugs people willing to do it!"

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Wed 01-Mar-17 07:43:15

Personally I think it's a pile of smug judgemental bollocks!

There's a million and one reasons why people don't help out.

Coaching is a ridiculous one to use. If you don't have the skills yourself, how the hell do you coach?

Way to go to make the people already crippled by anxiety and depression even worse. And the hidden disabilities? Struggling with divorce, bereavement, employment problems, crippling debt?

Dear Volunteers

Stop thinking you are so much better than others. You have no idea what is going on in other people's lives.


From a non-volunteer who can already barely make it through the day.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: