Volunteerism & Human Resources


I had a moment, last night, where I almost threw up on myself — & this was before I had red wine with dinner.

You see, I’m the de facto HR douche-bag and former board member of a great organization. Most of the people I know just want to save puppies and kittens — nothing else. My volunteer task, last night, was to stand in front of a large group of people and talk about policies, procedures, and structure.

Some people volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or Planned Parenthood. Me? I don’t want to do real work. I volunteer to talk to people about following rules and guidelines. That’s what made me want to puke — not the public speaking, so much as the content of the speech itself.

The funny thing is that I hate people like me. Volunteering is supposed to be fun, enlightening, and personally fulfilling. Here I am, the punk rock HR diva in her yoga pants and Patagonia base layers, talking about infrastructure and leadership. The other volunteers around me? They were wondering why they had to attend yet another meeting about this kind of bullshit. They weren’t paying attention to my Powerpoint org chart– they were passing around a malnourished & timid puppy who needs lots of love and TLC.

(You can’t compete with a puppy, yo. I didn’t even try.)

The complexities involved in the world of not-for-profit organizations are almost too much for someone like me can tolerate. I’m a woman with a pretty great employment background & someone who has given up on corporate America and wears pigtails and running shoes. I don’t have an agenda. I believe that too much rigidity in a volunteer environment causes people to disengage from the mission (& focus on fighting the bureaucracy itself); however, I also know that passionate people are the same crazy people who find themselves, time and time again, in situations where rules and common sense can save the day.

Maybe employee and volunteer handbooks should be written to follow some basic rules of common sense.

  1. Don’t be an asshole.
  2. Don’t divert attention away from the mission and vision of the organization.
  3. Don’t cause problems that are bigger than the problem we’re trying to solve.
  4. If you don’t like it, leave.

Does it really need to be much more complex than that? Do we need to hold another meeting on it? If so, I’m not your woman. I want to play with the puppies.

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