Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Sometimes it's your turn
I recently met with Tom Williams and Danny Norman on the Scottish week of their parkrunontour journey. I’ve met Tom before at the time where he was taking on the UK Manager role and attended Edinburgh pr with his wife and daughter. He struck me as a very congenial guy who is always keen to lend an ear and offer advice and support unequivocally. I liked him straight away.
One of Edinburgh’s RD’s couldn’t make the meeting and asked if I’d table our issue with volunteer difficulties, or indeed, despairing lack of as it goes. This I did and there was a long, perhaps too long, discussion on this very area and the bottom line, somewhat akin to the PSH approach, was to not allow ourselves to be frustrated by it and if there aren’t enough available on the day and no more step up to help upon appeal then just pull the plug on the affected event. A decision we are promised will be indisputably supported by HQ.
Frustration, it’s a helluva thing and admittedly I have some difficulty compartmentalising it. When it bears down heavily week on week on week on seeing your own parkmates who upon having completed 30, 40, 50, 60 odd and many more events, sometimes years, and still refuse to volunteer then my frustration duly returns. When I see RD’s making two, three sometimes four exasperated appeals leading up to an event due to the repeated absence of help then the frustration returns again. The national average of volunteer versus regular attenders is more than 12%. We had a 9.4% average last year falling to 9.1% this so feel my annoyance.
I guess as a nearly weekly volunteer over the past couple of years I can see first-hand the difficulties this throws up. Similarly, as someone who is dedicated to our event, I am more able to appreciate the wider issues that this causes. It’s not right that the willing take on two and three tasks in order the event goes ahead particularly as they have committed themselves to the cause for almost all of the preceding week.
I once approached a very regular attender who had never offered to help over far too long a time and asked if he’d help out sometime soon. His response to me was that he will never volunteer as weekends are the only time he gets off. What irritated me with such a selfish reply was that, coincidentally, weekends are the only time I get off too. I raised the issue of three times a year but he insisted that volunteering is someone else’s job and will never be his. What can you do with that? Well, what I did was to use his response and turn it into our appeal mantra quoting ‘Volunteering isn’t always somebody else’s job, sometimes it’s your turn’.
Tom had the idea that it might be handy to identify someone from the team, perhaps recruit one, who enthuses a certain dynamic that parkmates would buy into when being cajoled into giving something back to that which costs them nothing. Someone bubbly, lively or who exudes that certain something about their character that will hook the unwilling. Not a bad shout Tom but I have no idea where these people are however I’d have a slice of that for Edinburgh. Demands won’t work, passive/aggressive won’t work, repeated reminders of failings won’t work, identifying parkrun benchmarks doesn’t work, badgering or harassment definitely doesn’t work so what to do. It’s tiresome and incessant but I’m guessing there’s no real definitive answer.
As a volunteer I’m always careful to tow the party line in order that anything I do falls within the parkrun ethos, supports the Core Team and promotes our event in the highest fashion. The truth is though that I am not an incumbent and so not constrained as directly. I don’t have a directorship to lose so can perhaps get away with being a little less subtle but even then the thick skinned only ever talk the talk.