Don’t Overlook a Simple Thank You
April is National Volunteer Month and this year SPRYTE had the opportunity to interview amazing volunteers and spend hours writing blogs about them for our clients.
The majority of generous souls we talked to volunteered as companions to seniors. Their dedication and compassion are humbling. And, the amount of time they contribute and that they actually have to contribute, is substantial.
Unknowing organizations are too often shocked to know that many wonderful volunteers resign because of their interactions with professional staff and other volunteers.
Taking Advantage of a Volunteer’s Generosity
My own Mom abruptly quit her volunteer job a few months ago with no notice.
She was making an incredible weekly contribution to a respite program for spouses at her continuing care retirement community. For two hours once a week, she led afternoon activities for a small group of elderly women suffering from dementia. Their husbands would drop them off for five hours total, which included lunch.
After lunch is when the fun began. My Mom put a lot of creativity and planning time in to the sessions and the feedback all around was stellar. The participants were fully engaged and the stretched-thin staff social worker was thrilled. She got a lot of positive feedback.
But one day she accompanied the group to a musical program in a different location on the campus and a staffer ordered her to take one of the participants to the Ladies room. That one simple, inappropriate request was a trigger. It crossed the line. Without belaboring it, my Mom resigned from the program. What a loss to the participants. Instead of being engaged in well thought out group cognitive activities, their time will be more custodial until a new resource is found.
My Dad is quitting his volunteer job at the continuing care retirement community too. A retired PhD think tank economist, he has volunteered for the IRS at tax time for nearly 20 years. He helps seniors file their tax returns.
Apparently, the foreman at his volunteer location is a miserable bully. He barks out people’s last names and requires the volunteer to trot up to his throne when called. My Dad finds it demeaning and distracting when he’s trying to complete as many returns as possible for the helpless seniors.
Tax Day Was His Last Day
Anyway, the week before last my Dad was in the community bank branch as was the IRS volunteer foreman. The gentleman ignored my Dad, he didn’t say hello, there wasn’t any gesture of recognition. My Dad stuck it out through Tax Day but now he’s quitting because the volunteer environment is so toxic and besides a horrible volunteer boss, no one has ever thanked him.
SPRYTE’s Operations Manager Steve Ehrlich, a prolific volunteer photographer, said “Volunteers need to be thanked. Volunteers do not work for money. They work because they believe in the cause.”
Steve shoots loads of community and charitable events. He reminisced, “I just recently photographed a major event. I delivered the finished photos very quickly (event was Sunday night, photos delivered late Monday night.) I did not get a thank you reply to my email. I did get recognition in the program and my photos were posted on Facebook with a credit, I just did not get a personal thank you.”
Steve summed it up, “Most volunteers want to know that their work is appreciated after they have completed it.”
This is a good time to remember how the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations in 2019:
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
Non profit organizations and other industries like hospice that engage volunteers must remember that volunteers are an important public. Their experience can contribute greatly to an organization’s reputation in the marketplace. Many volunteers who contribute their time also contribute money to the causes they love. Do you agree? Volunteers’ experiences must be as positive as possible. Anything less has potential to reflect poorly upon the organization.