Graham Ellis sharing years of experience as a thought on each day
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Have a fallback plan if a voluteer goes AWOL

This campaign tip (no. 42) was published on Monday, 11th February 2019
• If you are a true campaigner, you'll move heaven and earth to make important events happen.
• If you are a full time employee, you life will be built around your work and it will be rare to let your employer down
• If you are a part time employee, especially if juggling jobs and family commitments, your timekeeping will be less stable
• And if you are an occasional volunteer, you may have so much else going... you will be in the least reliable category of all.

These are, I hasten to add, very much generalities. If - as I do (and you will as a led on certain campaigning) get to organise events which involve bringing people together, one of your "risk factors" / things you must plan for are people who are excellently intentioned but fail to be available to schedule. I've called it "ruggesdised planning" in the past. And it covers everything from "I've been rushed to hospital" (because, it turned out, boyfriend had beaten her up) through "I was called in to the day job because they were short of staff" and the inevitable "the car would not start". Add in the "I wrote the wrong day in my diary", the mercifully rare "I have fallen out with xxxxx and am taking a break" ... to the personal mis-scheduling which means a 30 minute late arrival, or the admission as you start "I know I'm helping for 2 hours but I need to leave after 45 minutes".

It sounds like a liturgy of trouble, doesn't it? It need not be. I tend to assign roles rather than individuals when we're doing something, I use my most reliable lieutenants for key positions and my habitual optimistic volunteers in groups where they will be useful but not kill the whole job if missing. And even of I'm event lead, I tend to give myself the least glossy, least necessary task - that way I can step in to help anyone else / fill an empty role, or I can step outside and re-organise as necessary. I rarely find it a problem; the "what if X does a no show" is always on my radar - in some case a shrug of the shoulders and "I'm sure that won't happen" - some folks are so reliable and low maintenance it's wonderful; in other cases - well, it can end up being fun doing a job you didn't expect as you fill in. It's called ruggedised scheduling and it adds fun and flavour to what could otherwise - for me - be a routine day.

Finishing with a dis-association. Last Tuesday, I organised a car and passenger count and survey at Melksham Station. An utterly reliable bunch of people. One volunteer failed to respond to "which shift would you be best available for" and didn't get as far as the schedule; all the others were there as and when and happily even at 06:15. My day was easy - though leading from the front I took the wet evening shift when there are virtually no departing passengers to survey on my own. The rest of the day, we were double up which gave us the strength to talk to 85% of passengers, and the pleasure of one another's company too. Image - if you're doing a count or survey, make sure your robust to a missing volunteer or a cancelled / delayed train which leaves people in the wrong place!
Discussion via Coffee Shop forum

Contact details

These pages are written by Graham Ellis of Melksham, Wiltshire. Overlapping a life in IT and IT training, with running a hotel and campaigning for improved public transport, Graham has never been quiet - though he's starting to wind down gently now. He no longer takes overnight guests and has stepped doen from the "Community Rail Officer" role which he accidentally aquired. So he now has more time to write pages such as these and to travel in the UK. He'll be delighted to speak with your group or take a look through your case or camapaign, but be alerted that his time is not limitless even now, and he still has to keep the wolf from the door.

Postal: 48, Spa Road, Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12 7NY
Phonal: 01225 708225
Emailal: graham -at-
Or reach me on the Coffee Shop Forum (User Grahame) facilities

What a difference a campaign makes!

It probably wouldn't have happened without a strong community campaign with which I have been involved. Most days through 2019 I'll be sharing a thought, an idea, a way of working or an experience. Come back here for the links. Discussions via the Coffee Shop Forum - Graham Ellis, 31st December 2018

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