January 23, 2017
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Volunteers

For Tinderbox reasons as well as the exigencies of the present crisis, I’m interested in the management of volunteers on charitable and political organizations. What is the best modern thinking on the subject?

Traditional approaches are based in the expectation that the typical volunteer has little education and few skills. That was true in 1938.

My guess is that many organizations turn away useful help because they can’t match volunteers to things that need doing. Instead, they ask supporters to send money and hire the help they need. That makes sense in some environments: if you’re a prosperous attorney, for example, it’s better for you to work some extra weekend hours and then to send your extra billing to the cause. That’s more efficient than spending time knocking on doors or addressing envelopes, but lots of people can’t easily expand their income, especially in a world where plenty of folks find it hard to find a job in the first place. Overtime doesn’t grow on trees.

I think that organizations can probably use volunteers far more effectively than they do. I think we may need that in the coming crisis. But I don’t know: who does? Email me.