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We're just volunteers - ("so we don't have to follow normal courtesies")

This campaign tip (no. 68) was published on Saturday, 9th March 2019
Situation Example

"We're just volunteers". Yesterday, I had a phone call from [volunteer organisation] asking me where they could get hold of some timetables ... a fairly urgent need. So I promised to call in before they closed, re-arranged my day, and got there about 25 minutes before their published closing time. Place in darkness, door saying "closed" but with a list of opening hours which confirmed they should have been open. What a waste of my re-organising my afternoon, but perhaps the person who should have been there had been taken ill of gone out to deal with a crisis without the chance even to put up a "sorry - emergency - had to leave" notice.

A phone call from me the morning to see if they were open today and when (not trusting the online data nor what I read on the door any more) established that there probably hadn't been any crisis - "it was probably very quiet and we're just volunteers, you know". Well - you're rude and thoughtless volunteers - having made an appointment that someone's gone out of his way to make, you decide you can't be bothered to wait around for them ...


The "volunteer" sector gets bad publicity and a bad reputation from a minority such as the ones involved in the example above. Customers and contacts need to be able to trust people who provide for them, and that's whether the provision is done by a paid employee, an intern, or a volunteer.

Most volunteers, it has to be said, are excellent. Often better informed and more positive and enthusiastic than people undertaking a task to earn a wage. But the minority, with a few throughlessly rude actions bring a bad reputation and suspicion on the whole.

I've run lots of events over the years - full time staffed, part time staffed, volunteers. Huge positive benefits from full time staff, huge different positive benefits from volunteers. As organiser, I get to know which volunteers I can rely on for an event, and who's going to turn up late if at all and need to leave early, who's a team member and who's going to go off piste. It up to you as campaign manager to make best use of your resource - to remember to make it a pleasure for the volunteers - so to use volunteers who are willing and will enjoy. And if you have a square peg but a round hole this time around, make a 'note to self' to use that peg next time you have a square hole.
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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