chapter 39 Working with Volunteers

Recently, a dear friend of mine, a professor, recommended one of his students to me. Having just graduated from college, she wanted to explore working in the nonprofit sector. She was willing to volunteer almost full time in order to get some experience and to see if this was a career path she might want to pursue. She was particularly interested in learning more about fundraising. I valued the professor’s judgment, so I sent e-mails to various understaffed social justice organizations that do good work, asking whether they could use someone like this. No one could. “It is a great offer, but I don’t know what I would have her do” was the common theme.

Another friend, recently retired, wanted to become involved in climate change work. Interviewing to volunteer with a few organizations, she expressly said she was willing to help with fundraising. “Do you have rich friends?” one director asked her. “I could raise $2,000 to $5,000 fairly easily” she said. “We are looking for much bigger gifts than that,” he replied.

It is a sad commentary on movement-building organizations when they cannot figure out how to use someone who is smart and willing to start out volunteering nearly full time, or someone else with a lot of experience who is willing to ask friends for money. In asking various friends who are unemployed, underemployed, or retired, I have found these types of responses to be a pattern. Some have even filled out online forms designed for ...

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