Finding a meaningful life after drop-off(11 Posts)
For the last couple of years I have been engaged in very rewarding voluntary work involving families facing bereavement. It has kept my brain active and helped me feel like my life has meaning beyond the school gate.
I am surrounded by other school mums who have confided their desire to also "do something" beyond coffee mornings and going to the gym. But they lack the confidence to believe they have anything to offer. Some have had structured 'careers', others have not, but universally they all have so much to offer.
So I've had an idea. What about a bespoke service match-making women who are seeking something 'more' with small organisations or charities who would love their help?
And I am not talking about something big like fund raising for Oxfam but something more bespoke, more personal. It might be regularly reading stories in a children's hospital, using your marketing experience to help an emerging fashion designer, or your research skills to help a rather disorganised international author keep on top of his work, (my husband is on the lookout!).
It would not be life-coaching and it would not be career advice. This would simply be for those who want to find meaningful volunteering work locally and need a nudge in the right direction.
I would really welcome your feedback.
Are you sure people really want to help or feel that they need to tell you this because they see you doing all your voluntary work and may feel a little guilty that their own life is the gym and coffee mornings? (And there is nothing wrong with that ).
I say that because, like you, I have a wide range of really interesting, challenging voluntary jobs - lots of people say to me 'well done you', 'you're so good' etc etc. I often let my friends know what opportunities there are, where to look etc etc - and let's be honest, for most people it is not difficult to find a voluntary job, there are hundreds of organisations looking for help. Any adult with a child in school knows that you need people to read to children, join the PTA, be a school governor etc etc.
I find it very difficult to recruit volunteers, everyone has a 'reason' for not wanting to get involved so although I see what you mean, I do feel that anyone who genuinely wants a volunteer job could find one. There are well established websites (Do It), many libraries have opportunities listed etc.
That is such a thoughtful response, thank you. You are right that if they really wanted it, they'd do it for themselves. And as you say there are hundreds of opportunities available. I suppose I am thinking more about those who've confided their lack of confidence to make these approaches.
I have also found - and I'd be interested in your experience - that those I have spoken to approached me because what I was doing was slightly distant from the local community and had no cross over with other school mums. Almost like they were seeking something 'other' or perhaps a chance to experience themselves in new ways.
I also come across people who could genuinely offer an interesting opportunity but would never think of advertising in a library or on Doit.
Do you use Doit to recruit your volunteers? I tried it awhile back but never got a response from the organisation that advertised. You win some, you lose some! I'd be interested to know where you have found the easiest place to recruit?
And thanks again for your insights. They are really helpful.
I am not sure I can really give much advice as I have never been that successful recruiting volunteers ! I did try DoIt but got nowhere at all (& it was very tedious trying to do it on line).
In my experience people that ask for advice about volunteering aren't really that committed as those that are genuinely interested would use their initiative to find something. The only time I have recruited volunteers is by really appealing to friends ....... but that hasn't always resulted in long term volunteers, more people helping me as a 'one off'. In fact someone did approach me recently about helping her to find an opportunity, I went to quite a bit of trouble to find something suitable but she never followed up which then put me in an awkward position with the organisation .
Sorry, I don't think I am much help to you at all !
Interesting about your experience re. Doit. It makes you wonder how many other people have been put off posting on it.
Also appreciate your point about offering one's own contacts only for them not to be taken up. That would wind me up big time.
The thing I am grappling with is that I have met so many women saying they want to do something and this conversation has not been prompted necessarily by them knowing what I do (which most find gruesome and deeply unappealing!).
They are looking to engage with something other. I just wonder what they are seeking? Thanks for your thoughts.
I think your idea is very interesting. I've recently volunteered for a fair few posts on 'Do-It' but it is a slow and tedious process. More off-putting is that most of the vacancies appear to be filled - frustratingly! It's just not kept up-to-date it appears
From your initial post, you need to decide if you want to focus on acting as a volunteer broker for charities or just anyone who needs it, because your last 2 examples (the fashion designer and the writer) are basically just providing free labour to people whose own for-profit business models aren't currently working (sorry if that sounds harsh).
Assuming the former (and I think that's the only basis on which it can be attractive to volunteers), my experience has shown that most volunteers want to do the "front of house" stuff - reading to sick kids, gala dinners, etc, but what charities really need is back office skills- especially finance and legal (hands on stuff like book keeping, reviewing contracts etc), because these cost more to the charity than the cost of training the volunteer and dealing with the associated admin. You often find small charities also appreciate people who are prepared to do office admin. However, a lot of volunteers arent interested in these sorts of tasks, or ones involving PTA etc
Therefore to my mind the problem is that there is a mismatch between what charities need and what volunteers want to do.
You've clearly given this some thought OP, but I have to say ime of volunteers I've known, I agree with the above. Many people who volunteer, want to do it on their terms- absolutely understandable- but not necessarily dovetailing with what's needed. A business which is not going successfully is likely to need more than a volunteer giving a bit of time to turn it round. It takes time to develop an understanding of how a business runs and then an ongoing commitment as well as an up to date skill set... And tbh someone with all that is probably going to be using them already.
Without meaning to sound harsh, most of the people I've known who have been interested in volunteering have been very well meaning people who have some available time ( though often this is quite inflexible) and want to do something 'front of house' like richman says... Listening to children read, accompanying school or playgroup outings, doing a stint in the local charity shop. They don't tend to have the more specific behind the scenes skills and knowledge which are often required.
I didn't mean that post to sound negative about volunteers btw, because there are many valued volunteers out there. It's just like others say, I'm not sure there would necessarily be a match between what's actually needed with the type of examples you give.
Ime there is no shortage of volunteers for the type of role people want: my children's primary school had dozens of mums volunteering to hear readers, do craft work and accompany trips. There was definitely more supply than demand. I don't think that means you would necessarily find useful volunteers who are able to fulfil the examples you give though
I agree that there is potentially something there but working out what is key.
You don't mention if you are thinking the service is a money earner to cover your time. It could be difficult to convince either party (charity or mum) to pay but maybe not impossible.
If you think there in interest why not do a one-off speed matching event to gauge interest? Invite local charities and mums to meet. The Media Trust (cannot link easily as on app) use this format for connecting PR volunteers with charities. Provide a form for each to get them thinking about what they need/can offer. Then manage it on the day/evening.
The things you are talking about remind me of Women Like Us which is a social enterprise that helps women get back into work.
I agree with the general sentiment that it is difficult to convince people to volunteer. It seems IME that if you are a volunteer you are likely to volunteer a lot. As an eg I am getting involved in our PTA and I already know a few of them as we all volunteered together at the NCT!
I do think there is a disconnect between what volunteers can/want to do and what the charity needs. However I do think some charities could be better at volunteer recruitment and management. And there is sometimes the possibility of changing what help they need in order to attract volunteers moreso. I volunteered for a kids camp for a few years and they reduced the holiday length in order to make it more feasible for volunteers.
As you might know Doit has been transfered over to new owners. However what it really needs is cash to make it work, but sadly that looks unlikely from the Gov. In theory it could be a really powerful tool for increasing volunteering.
Sorry, I have been away for half term and only just seen this feedback. Your comments are really helping me refine my thinking even if I have some way to go! However, I'm pretty sure I am onto something, even if it is hard to articulate at this stage. Gut instinct, call it what you will. And when it comes out - in whatever form - it will be so much the better for your collective thoughts. Watch this space!
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