Having worked as a senior executive in the non-profit world and volunteering myself on boards, I have often wondered why certain people spent their time volunteering since it was clear they simply weren’t interested in the organization at all. Yes, it’s a good resume “filler” but at what expense to themselves and to the organization for which they volunteered?
Time and time again, I’ve seen the harm done by “political animals” who only volunteer to get into the Executive, preferably in the President’s chair; they caused more harm than good to the organization. Because they weren’t interested in the organization in the first place, they didn’t address the needs of the organization and foisted decisions onto the staff which simply did not serve the health of the organization. Sometimes, they even left a legacy of more problems because some excellent staff would quit in frustration, leaving the organization in turmoil.
I’ve worked with some great board people both as an employee and a fellow board member. What made them great? They were interested in the organization and furthering the efforts of the society. It showed in everything they said and did. They could read financial statements, expected detailed budgets with commentary before approving budgets, and spent their time promoting the organization and raising funds. They asked excellent questions of staff and assured proper operations. They were involved and yet, disciplined in the amount of time they contributed.
It was clear why they were volunteering – they believed in the work the society was doing and were willing to put their resources into it.
Next time you think of volunteering, I hope you might consider the following questions:
a) Why am I volunteering? Do I believe in the cause?
b) What are the needs of the organization? Do I have the skills and the time to fill those needs?
c) What amount of time am I prepared to give? Am I prepared to discipline myself to stay within those boundaries?