Volunteer Jobs More Challenging Than Paid Jobs

Discussion in 'Jobs I Have Had' started by D'Ellyn Dottir, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. D'Ellyn Dottir

    D'Ellyn Dottir Very Well-Known Member
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    Have you ever had a long term volunteer job in which you got to grow in authority, learn new skills, and have more fun than paid employment? If so, what was it?

    Many years ago I applied to be on the board of directors for a privately owned alternative health and education community center. Within months, I was taking office shifts that including doing the contracting and scheduling for people who had something to teach and wanted to rent a room. After about a year I was working there every day often by myself, sometimes opening the place, sometimes closing. In between there was a newsletter of activities to write, layout, get printed, and mail out. There was bookkeeping and banking to do. Because I produced all the publicity fliers for each renter, I got to learn a lot about a lot of things I'd never heard of before. It was a fabulous education in many ways.

    It was the best job I ever had -- if only I would have been paid for it!

    How about you?
     
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  2. Marci Miller

    Marci Miller Well-Known Member
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    It's sad that they took advantage of you like that. I'm glad you enjoyed the work though.

    I've never had a volunteer job but I was a substitute custodian for the school system back home for a year. I wanted another year but they required us to pay for our own TB skin tests so I said the heck with it. I made a $1 less than the FT staff. They showed me what to do and turned me loose. Other than avoiding certain death in the halls and on the stairs when the bell rang...I loved it. I worked alone in a building full of people. I had the choice whether to eat in the teachers lounge or my work closet. I liked my closet. LOL! It was strangely peaceful.
     
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  3. John Brunner

    John Brunner Veteran Member
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    I was with a non-profit for over 7 years. We were the regional affiliate of a nationwide organization who did home repairs for folks. Unlike Habitat, we did not build houses, nor did we charge for our services.

    I found them through my last employer. They were one of our supported charities. I worked on a project and really liked the work and the group. I especially liked meeting some of the folks in my community whose homes we worked in. I got a chance to meet people I would not have otherwise crossed paths with. And I liked the work. I've always done my own home repairs, and I really learned a lot working alongside a couple of volunteers who were full-time contractors doing this work on the side.

    I started attending board meetings, and soon after they put me on the board. It helped that I was employed by their largest corporate supporter. A coworker was liaison between my employer and the organization, and I took that job over. I became the organization's general business management guy and after a year or so their long-term treasurer handed those duties off to me. This included filing annual Financial Reports and Activity Reports (extensive project details and volunteer participation) with HQ. I designed a brochure, did fundraising letters, went to "non-profit trade shows" to man the booth, paid the bills, filed the taxes, filled out grant requests, etc. At the time I sat on the board of another non-profit whose mission was to facilitate volunteerism in the county.

    I really, really liked it. I had planned on working with those guys until I couldn't drag my butt up a ladder anymore. I was fine being the guy who had extra non-project duties...one other guy did the field project surveys and got applications for assistance filled out. After 14 years in business, we ran out of money and ran out of volunteers. I had been with them for a little over 7 of those years. One of the dichotomies of being in a rural area is the need is large and the resources are few. I would see Dave Matthews band on the news doing a fundraiser for a large charity the next county over (lots of money there) and raise over $35,000 in a single event, while we couldn't scrape together the $3,000 we needed each year just to keep the lights on (insurances and franchise fees.) People will give money to be part of a specific project, but general funds are tough to come by.

    By the time the dust settled, I had done repairs of all kinds in almost 40 homes and met all those homeowners and their families. The organization had worked on 80 projects during its lifetime. Some projects (such as repairing entry steps) took 2 of us just a few hours on a given morning, while a couple of others took over 450 man hours...and most of us had full time jobs. I worked on every project we sponsored during my tenure there. I've tried joining other non-profits, but that one was a unique fit for me. We had fun and ran it professionally.

    That volunteerism non-profit I worked with ended up becoming a nightmare. Other directors there did not understand what their duties were, and resented those of us trying to do things properly. The Charter allowed UP TO 13 Directors. I tried explaining that the minimum number was 5, and the breathing room was to allow us to bring on someone who could be a good resource (like the local power company's community outreach person.) But they insisted on being at the max all the time. Whenever someone left, they went into a panic to fill the spot so we would always have 13 Directors. They would beg each other to find a friend or family member to "do us a favor" just to occupy the vacated chair, regardless of desire or capability. It was insane. There were 2 other folks there who understood how things should have been run, and the 3 of us could not get the others on board.

    I was there for 5 years and then resigned. Roughly 18 months later they shut down because the Board would not manage the sole full-time employee who ran the day-to-day stuff (she had recently been hired to replace someone who had adequately done the job for years and had left.) Telling her what to do (and what not to do) was "being mean." I was definitely the bad guy for a while. She was a loose cannon and intentionally killed the organization (meaning they shut down solely because of her actions.) She then scooped up over half the remaining contributions for an unrelated group her husband headed. The Board should not have allowed that to happen. I'm glad I was gone by then. What really sucks is since the late 90s we sponsored an annual volunteer recognition event that included adult volunteers in the community, all of our fire & EMS staff, the Scouts, volunteering high school kids, etc. The community really enjoyed it. It was a very positive uplifting thing, and gave folks a chance to see what people just like them were doing behind the scenes in their community. The whole thing needlessly got killed.

    I've set foot in one other organization since then and I resigned after a couple of meetings for various reasons. I've had a couple of requests from other groups for me to join them, but they were merely in a panic to replace their treasurer...no one wants that job. Directors in some organizations want to come to a monthly meeting and not be bothered until the next one...the treasurer has ongoing duties. Maybe that's why that first outfit was such a good fit: I really enjoyed the work, and everyone there was an active participant. I didn't mind the after-hours work.

    I've stopped looking for another opportunity. I have a lot of respect for some of the folks here I know who are on several boards, carrying more than their fair share of the water in the face of all the dysfunction.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
  4. D'Ellyn Dottir

    D'Ellyn Dottir Very Well-Known Member
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    Wow, @John Brunner your experience sounds amazing, and I can relate to the nightmare that volunteer boards can become. Dysfunction is a good word for it. I've called it the dark shadow of the charitable impulse. Thanks for sharing your story.

    @Marci Miller , I sure didn't mean to sound like I was being taken advantage of. On the contrary, I was thrilled to be allowed so much independence. I saw it as a golden opportunity and was glad to have it. And, your custodial experience sounds interesting as well.
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Other than serving as a Boy Scout leader, and some things with various churches, my volunteer jobs have turned into paid ones. I was a volunteer with the Open Directory Project for several years, met my wife through the ODP, and my wife and I have both been working as paid web directory editors since about 2000. The ODP was more fun, although we weren't paid, because there was such a large community connected to it. Although everyone worked online from their homes, there were meetups at different places around the world from time to time, so it was always interesting getting to meet people I'd known online for years.

    I went to school to become an EMT in order to volunteer for a volunteer ambulance company, and did work as a volunteer for the EMS as well as for the city's fire department. I went on to become an EMT-I, EMT-Paramedic, and an EMS Instructor/Coordinator, and worked several jobs in the emergency medical service field for about twenty years.
     
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  6. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    To be part of unfolding blessings and multiple miracles is addicting. I wish everyone yearned for that kind of addiction.
     
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