Friday, October 28, 2011

Feeling Good

Last week my Genimate, Amy Coffin, wrote a post The Volunteer Perspective. She related some experiences where she had volunteered to help genealogy societies and had not heard back from those organisations. Some people are shy and it takes a lot of courage for them to volunteer. To be ignored is a slap in the face and can damage the prospective volunteer's self-concept. After a couple of knockbacks one is not likely to volunteer again.

Amy spoke about the need for organisations to embrace volunteers and wrote some challenging questions that organisations can use to evaluate their response to volunteers.

This was my response to Amy's post:

"Newly retired I am ready to volunteer. 

I have mentioned how I might be able to help to a few people in the groups I have joined, I think I have something to offer but don't want to push myself onto them.

I guess these people have to get to know me before they entrust me with jobs. I was pleased this week to be asked to write a report for a society newsletter, maybe some more jobs will come my way soon."

I have been hesitant about volunteering in the Societies I have joined so was thrilled to be asked. I thank Jo Harris, Leader of the Family History Group at the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society, for phoning and asking me to write a report for the newsletter. 

Jo had warned me that she may edit my article and that the newsletter editor might then have a go at it. I was prepared to see something that vaguely resembled my writing in print. I was chuffed when I received my newsletter this week to find that it had been published with only a minor alteration.

Being published in the newsletter is only a small thing but it made me feel ten feet tall; I'm not an outsider in the group but someone who has now made a small contribution. The Society reached out to me and I willingly accepted their invitation.

How about you reach out to members of your organisations and ask them to help? 


Anonymous said...

Well done Jill! Always nice to contribute and feel you have participated and you have much to offer. it's important for societies to acknowledge and thank their volunteers as's a reciprocal process.

Linda said...

This is a question that vexes me a lot, as one who has volunteers working under my supervision in several places.

Yes, we always need more volunteers, and we try to always welcome them warmly, and respect and value the person as well as their work.

However, the reality is they require a lot of supervision (the positive form of the word - spending time with them, showing them the work, providing feedback etc). This generally means I have less time to do my own work.

One group I am with, the president is a brilliant warm and inclusive leader, who is also vision impaired. She sees it as her job to spend the time with the volunteers, and that works well.

The volunteer who is able to work on his/her own initiative is a real gem, but many others will never reach that level.

A good organisation should have a volunteer co-ordinator - we get over it by having "team leaders", who run particular functions. And this is only a very small organisation.

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

That society is lucky to have you, Jill!

GeniAus said...


I understand your comments. Years ago I had volunteers help me in the school library - most were ok but I couldn't find anything one poor old grandmother could do. It was lovely having her in the library as she was sweet and so nice to the kids plus her grandchildren got a buzz from seeing their Grandma help out.

Her alphabetising skills were woeful so I used to give her catalogue cards to put in order and once she had gone would shuffle them ready for the next day's volunteer to put into more correct order and file. She looked forward to helping and we loved having her.

Judy Webster said...

Jill, I'm pleased for you. If you do *too* good a job, though, you may be given more jobs than you can fit into your jet-setting, Rootsteching routine. ;-)

Tanya Honey said...

Well done Jill.

I answered a request for volunteers to digitise the local historical society's photos 18mths ago and never heard back. I've been unsure whether to try again or not. Might volunteer with the neighbouring society!


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