Volunteers vs Job Duties

Some people have told me they ask for volunteers to do blog posts or write content for their website. You know what happens there, right? Asking for volunteers works great … until the volunteer “gets busy” with their “real job.”

When people volunteer, they tend to think of the thing they volunteered to do as “extra work.” If it gets in the way of their real job, they’ll stop doing the volunteer work.

It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to do the web work. It’s simply this – the library hasn’t prioritized the web work (also insert Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/etc here).

No one asks for volunteers to work the reference desk, right? How about driving the bookmobile – does it only operate when a volunteer can get around to it?

I don’t think so. It should be the same with web work. Want it to happen? Don’t ask for volunteers. Assign job duties, then expect it to happen, just like working the desk or driving the bookmobile.

pic by LShave

  • Mlbeeker

    I think organizations set the tone for whether volunteers deliver the work they promise. I just think it requires stronger people-management skills to manage volunteers.

    I’ve volunteered at organizations where the manager didn’t seem interested in the work I was doing, and didn’t seem to ask questions, or convey any expectations about the work. I had no feedback that anything I did was noticed. I eventually left, feeling that there was little value placed on what I was doing.

    The last two places I’ve lived, I’ve taken the time to find organizations to volunteer for who treat me like an employee – they discuss the work, I know where my work fits into the organization’s work. In some cases we set expectations together (what I’ll do, and by when and who I communicate with.)

    Now, whether you’ll find volunteers with the right skill set is another matter…

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