Friday, 27 April 2012

Cold charity

I have volunteered at various charities and have occasionally seen and experienced some unpleasant things, but after having a rather shocking conversation with somebody who dismissed my occasional but regular volunteering by saying, "I don't really know you and you have been here only a couple of times", I'm feeling rather annoyed to put it mildly. I pointed out in a polite way that I was there more than a couple of times, but of course I didn't have a killer reply ready then (you only get those in hindsight). And to top the bill, my partner was "accused" in a veiled but still obvious way of switching a lower price on a puzzle at our local charity shop today. It beggars belief.

It just feels that being a volunteer is not unlike working for a company, you get bullied, treated unfairly and the ethics are as shaky as in the corporate sector. Several years ago I witnessed the verbal bullying of an individual coming from an ethnic minority group who was volunteering his time as a fundraiser. I didn't dare to say anything then, I was young, a bit naive and needed their references to apply for a job (I was fresh out of university). 

Even when this happened to myself at another charity I said nothing and left with good grace using an excuse. Why? Is it because I didn't want to harm an organisation that does good work? Later on I was bullied in my job and had to resign. I was working in a corporate environment and at least I was paid to take the crap, still I wish I did something rather than just resign and mention a personality clash in my exit interview.

But let's go back to volunteering, which is on the whole a really good thing to do as it helps a good cause, can provide you with new skills and open horizons. To be honest I had off-episodes in most charities I have volunteered, often from other volunteers. Lately I started to speak up when I don't agree rather than suffer in silence. I stay calm and say my piece, but I keep thinking of when I kept my mouth shut and regret it. 

On balance, for mums like me, volunteering is doing something great while on maternity leave or a way to get involved in the local community (children's centre, school, etc). When I started working again, I kept volunteering because it's such an enriching experience. You might do it for having something on the CV rather than just maternity leave, better your community and possibly get a character reference if applying for a job. But what if you get the mean treatment or it's difficult to get a reference? It's quite shocking how non-profit organisations can be no better than a profit organisation despite their assurances that they nurture their volunteers.

Still, despite all the off episodes, I still want to be a volunteer. If I stopped something would be missing from my life!

1 comment:

  1. I think there can be as much back-biting with volunteering as there is in the corporate or wage-earning world. It really doesn't matter whether you're being paid or not, if someone wants to be unpleasant, they will.
    Sometimes it can even be worse if you have parents (retired or SAH) who used to have high-powered jobs. They just want to be the boss and tell everyone else what to do!