Author Topic: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.  (Read 7231 times)

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despedina

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Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« on: April 14, 2013, 04:04:32 PM »
I'm Manager of an area of Girl Scouts in my area. Basically I manage the Girl Scout Troops of 2 public school districts and a catholic school.  I was asked to take this position a year ago. In general, I've enjoyed it.  Our (mine and my team's) problem is that we are having a difficult time getting troop leaders to attend the monthly meetings.  I understand things come up, but we've told them they can send an alternate parent or co-leader in their place or just tell us they can't attend so we can get them info and several leaders completely ignore us. I guess they think they should do their own thing but this really isn't how this works.  Meetings are necessary to get info on changes, reports due, and upcoming fun events. We've had parents complaining this year that the leaders aren't getting them the info on the events, or that their leaders are flaking out on their duties.  We email out all event flyers and meeting minutes but somehow info still is not getting across.  In an effort to figure out what's going on, I sent out some questions to all 88 of our email addresses to see what our leader's and other volunteer's challenges are and I only got 12 responses.  Very discouraging.   
I truly appreciate that these people have taken on the responsibility of being leaders but if they are not fulfilling their obligations they are really not doing the job.  Our District manger (who handles the entire county and is a paid employee of Girl Scouts) says we should be requiring that leaders attend 4 meetings min per school year. I think that is reasonable (since some of us more active volunteers are going to several meetings a month for events, etc) and want to send a letter out to everyone stating this.  Any ideas on how to say "please take care of your responsibilities"?  Maybe some of you are involved in scouts also and have some ideas also. Thanks!

Black Delphinium

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2013, 04:24:08 PM »
I will admit to having never lead a troop, but is there some way to equate lack of attendance to losing qualifications for important stuff(like cookie sales or badge eligibility)?
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magiccat26

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2013, 04:35:22 PM »
Sorry, but I'm a GS Leader and I do not attend the meetings.  When I signed up to become a leader, I was never told I would be required to attend the SU leader meetings and honestly I cannot.  They have the leader meeting on the same night as my troop meetings.  None of my parents are interested in attending and my co-leader is needed to help with our troop.

I attend all required training sessions, I turn in my paperwork and I read the SU email/newsletter, but I will not switch my meeting night.  I have to pick the night that works best for my troop, so that's what I did.

On top of being a GS Leader, I work 50 hours a week outside the home, attend all my daughter's school functions, take my daughter to her extra-curricular activities (she rides horses, so we are at the barn 3 nights each week, plus horse shows one weekend every month) and manage my household. 

I don't have time to go to another meeting at night that RARELY offers me any benefit.  Most of what is discussed at the meeting could easily be communicated via email.  They have my address if they need to get me paperwork (and honestly, electronic works best...time for GS to come ou of the dark ages and stop killing trees with all the paper they print).  Some leaders don't have child care and cannot/will not bring their kids.  I found that the meetings run 1.5 hours with only 10 minutes of good content and 80 minutes of filler (ice breakers, reading from memos, girls telling you about their latest event, etc).

GS leaders ARE volunteers.  If you have expectations in your SU that leaders must attend meetings (mandatory) then they need to be told his before they are allowed to start a troop. I would have declined to be a leader if that condition was placed on me.  It's bad enough that GS USA keeps changing the rules and the programming with very little input from those of us who have to use it (My girls HATE the journeys and want their patches back).

I would suggest you find a way to get the information to your leaders without forcing them to attend meetings.

I apologize for sounding bitter, but I've been a leader for 5 years (since my girls were in Kindergarden) and have become increasingly frustrated with all the demands made by council and our SU.  I love my troop, I love working with my girls, all of my girls love our troop and I have not lost a single girl (except the two who moved out of our area).  So I know I'm a good leader, but I have been tempted to quit more than once due to the buracracy of the organization itself.
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Margo

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2013, 04:44:09 PM »
Would it be possible to contact the leaders directly, on an individual basis, to ask what could be done to make it more likely that they would attend the meetings? Or what alternatives methods of sharing information would work for them?

I think if they're volunteers you can't *make* them come to the meetings, and it may be easier and more effective to change what you/management do than trying to change 88 other people, all of whom are volunteers and probably very busy.

(Not a critisism of you, you're doing a tricky job)

Would it be possible to provide something at the meeting which would make them more attractive to troop leaders? Perhaps combining them with training?

Snooks

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2013, 04:55:29 PM »
Do you go to their meetings?  If they know you they might be more willing to interact with you.  I know that part of the reason I started attending our quarterly district meeting was because I already knew the person who was the district leader and it felt like more of a personal snub than when I didn't know the leader.

despedina

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2013, 06:02:13 PM »
Snooks, one of the ideas to get info to the leaders is that the service team (myself and 4 others) will be "visiting" the meetings of the various troops in order to reach the parents.  We plan on starting that next year. 

Magiccat, I'm sorry that you feel your Service Unit does not provide any useful information and find it difficult to attend the meetings. Have you passed this on to your unit manager? Frankly I'd love to hear some feedback from those that do not attend, however when I try to reach out I get no responses.  Phone calls and emails go unanswered.  Its the disappointed parents we're encountering that's the worst. I have one leader that I'm about at my wits end with due to parent complaints, but at least she attends some of the meetings.  I honestly do not hold these meetings to hear myself talk I promise you.  When only 8-10 people of the 88 volunteers we have registered show up I feel like I'm wasting my time. Then when we have events everyone shows up to attend, then some complain when things aren't to their liking.  Usually its because we have so little manpower that we can't do everything that the parents expect. We use the meetings to also recruit help for events, so if people don't show up, we get the same people over and over, and we are spread thin. I also work a 40-45 hour work week and have 2 sons in other activities and my daughter is also active in Band. 
From what I understand leaders are being told that meetings are mandatory and told what days they are up front. We always tell everyone that if they can't attend we will figure something out and that they should contact us so they aren't missing anything.  I don't think that's unreasonable.

*inviteseller

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2013, 06:05:48 PM »
When I was coach of youth soccer, we were required to go to the meeting at the beginning of the season to pick up our rosters and learn about any new rule changes and ask any questions, then there was a meeting halfway through the season to go over any issues we were having (refs, field conditions, parents) and then a final meeting after the season to do a basic post mortem on the season and then there was the winter coaches clinic on a Saturday morning every February.    Yes, it was a pain...I'm a single parent, was heavily involved in the PTA and my DD's classroom activities, soccer took up one night a week and part of the weekend along with dealing with parents during the week  and I worked 45 hrs a week, but if they tried to send everything via email, people don't always read them and it was better to talk in  person and have a solution offered instead of having a reply all fest going back and forth.  There was 75 coaches/asst coaches in our very large league and these meetings were vital so, as much as it took away some of my precious free time to do, I went.  I did however run into parents who thought "hey, I;ll be the cool parent and sign up to coach" and they never looked at the responsibilities of it (scheduling parents for concession duty and team snack was the worst!)  and the time it would require and they flaked and had poorly run teams because they didn't go to the meetings, the clinic, or understand what was required.  If you are going to volunteer (and I have the utmost respect for those of us who do because we get alot of crap from parents about how things should be done but they never step up to help), but you have to realize it isn't just showing up Saturday morning at a field and standing on the team side clapping your hands!  And magiccat26, try as you might, you can't be 2 places at once and if they were to say something, it would, IMO be their responsibility to change their meeting, not yours!  I will say, with my second DD, I am so burned about volunteering that I am content to be very much behind the scenes, but if necessary I would step up again with the full understanding of the work involved.  If these troop leaders are not even responding to basic correspondence, I would question how they are running their troops.  Is it possible to visit their troop meetings and catch them there to have a chat after? 

GreenBird

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2013, 06:08:53 PM »
If the main purpose of these meetings is to distribute information, can you put up a website that accomplishes that goal?  Have a page for news and changes, a calendar of upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, a page for meeting minutes, downloadable flyers, etc.  This way leaders can access the information when they have time, and also troop members can access the information directly without having to completely rely on their leaders for details. 

Monthly meetings feel pretty frequent - if you can decrease the frequency of the in-person meetings by accomplishing some of the goals other ways, maybe people will be more willing to attend.   
« Last Edit: April 14, 2013, 06:12:46 PM by GreenBird »

Poppea

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2013, 06:43:00 PM »
Sorry, but I'm a GS Leader and I do not attend the meetings.  When I signed up to become a leader, I was never told I would be required to attend the SU leader meetings and honestly I cannot.  They have the leader meeting on the same night as my troop meetings.  None of my parents are interested in attending and my co-leader is needed to help with our troop.

I attend all required training sessions, I turn in my paperwork and I read the SU email/newsletter, but I will not switch my meeting night.  I have to pick the night that works best for my troop, so that's what I did.

On top of being a GS Leader, I work 50 hours a week outside the home, attend all my daughter's school functions, take my daughter to her extra-curricular activities (she rides horses, so we are at the barn 3 nights each week, plus horse shows one weekend every month) and manage my household. 

I don't have time to go to another meeting at night that RARELY offers me any benefit.  Most of what is discussed at the meeting could easily be communicated via email.  They have my address if they need to get me paperwork (and honestly, electronic works best...time for GS to come ou of the dark ages and stop killing trees with all the paper they print).  Some leaders don't have child care and cannot/will not bring their kids.  I found that the meetings run 1.5 hours with only 10 minutes of good content and 80 minutes of filler (ice breakers, reading from memos, girls telling you about their latest event, etc).

GS leaders ARE volunteers.  If you have expectations in your SU that leaders must attend meetings (mandatory) then they need to be told his before they are allowed to start a troop. I would have declined to be a leader if that condition was placed on me.  It's bad enough that GS USA keeps changing the rules and the programming with very little input from those of us who have to use it (My girls HATE the journeys and want their patches back).

I would suggest you find a way to get the information to your leaders without forcing them to attend meetings.

I apologize for sounding bitter, but I've been a leader for 5 years (since my girls were in Kindergarden) and have become increasingly frustrated with all the demands made by council and our SU.  I love my troop, I love working with my girls, all of my girls love our troop and I have not lost a single girl (except the two who moved out of our area).  So I know I'm a good leader, but I have been tempted to quit more than once due to the buracracy of the organization itself.

I agree.  When I was a leader, I was also working 30 hours per week, was a room mother in 2 classrooms, was on a charity ball committee and other volunteer gigs.  No one wanted to go to the SU meetings because it was basically sitting in a room listening to someone read stuff off a sheet of paper.  I know how to read.  There was no reason my physical presence was required.  So no one went. 

If people aren't attending the meetings there are two possibilities.  One-there is something wrong with the attendees or two -there is something wrong with the meetings.  You can't change the attendees, but you can shorten the meetings, make them less frequent, and email packets before hand. 

ETA there is also an institutional problem here.  GS has merged several service units together in my area and where once the meetings were very local and not so big, now they are like your unit.  There is a disconnect.  GS as an organization tends to make changes from the top without much input from the field. 

GS national plays some pretty low tricks too.  We has a council in our state that was in debt.  Our council was in the black.  Nationals solution????  They merged our two councils, gave us the debt, and sold one of our camps to payoff the debt.  A camp that our GS had bought during the depression with nickels and dimes saved by the girls themselves. 

« Last Edit: April 14, 2013, 07:11:15 PM by Poppea »

despedina

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2013, 07:41:33 PM »
Thanks for the input. the idea of a facebook or some sort of web page has been discussed at length lately also. The issue is that council has so many rules about web interaction we have to be careful. Of course, we've asked for info on how we can make the website a reality but are running into delays and "I'll get back to you" etc.

Again, my main concern are the parents that are complaining that they are not getting info about events etc, and we email the flyers to the entire Service Unit multiple times a month reminding on deadlines and everything.  Part of me thinks if they come to the monthly meetings it will be more front in their minds but maybe not.  There is, however an issue with communication which we are trying to fix.

kherbert05

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2013, 07:44:49 PM »
The problems magiccat26 listed is why my campus no longer has a girl scout troop. We had one for 1 year and the teacher running it said no more.

1 - Is there some other way to get out the information?

2. I think your staff traveling to the troops is a good idea you need to reach out to them.

3. Is your meeting place and time convient to the volunteers? (The teacher at my school would have needed a teleporter or a TARTIS to get to the meetings - their solution take off work early). You mentioned 2 school districts and a Catholic school are they near each other? Could you have the meetings at district facilities instead of your headquarters?

4. If the districts aren't close to each other could you use skype or Google Hangouts? Have District 1 people meet there, District 2 meet there, Catholic school meet there, you at headquarters all connected through the internet.
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Poppea

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2013, 08:05:30 PM »
Thanks for the input. the idea of a facebook or some sort of web page has been discussed at length lately also. The issue is that council has so many rules about web interaction we have to be careful. Of course, we've asked for info on how we can make the website a reality but are running into delays and "I'll get back to you" etc.

Again, my main concern are the parents that are complaining that they are not getting info about events etc, and we email the flyers to the entire Service Unit multiple times a month reminding on deadlines and everything.  Part of me thinks if they come to the monthly meetings it will be more front in their minds but maybe not.  There is, however an issue with communication which we are trying to fix.

No excuse for this in 2013.  Any fliers sent to the leaders should be able to be posted on a website.  Maybe if you had a facebook page, and all you posted was the informational sheets?  I assume that they would already have been approved.


magiccat26

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2013, 08:41:28 PM »
I bet if they were willing to talk you would find out how disenfranchised many of the leaders feel.  I think it's difficult for those who have a passion for scouts (and are heavily involved like the OP) to see it from the standard volunteer's POV.

I used to attend every leader meeting when I first got involved.  Not because I had to, but because I was hoping for some guidance on what to do.  The training offered by Council was really not helpful.  The programming offered was dull (my girls never enjoyed it), so I was looking for help from other leaders to find brainstorm and get ideas from.

The leader meetings were more disappointing than the "training".  It was a bunch of people reading us memos from council, telling us all the things we couldn't do, and trying to make us play team building games.  meanwhile, I was missing dinner and time with my family. 

So, last year, when the broke our SU into 3 new SU, the leader meeting was moved to the same night as my troop meetings.  I approached the SU leader and her solution was, oh, we'll cant you change your meeting night?  Nope.  My troop had established its meeting night years ago.  My parents planned their daughters activities knowing that GS would always be on that night.  So, I stopped attending.

When I signed up to be a leader I was assured that I would have control of my troop and support from my SU and council.  The reality is, I'm getting CONSTANT pressure from my SU to add more girls to my troop.  We're very happy with our small group of girls.  We're able to do more because I only have to plan for 10 instead if trying to get enough materials and meeting space for the 20 or 30 they think I should have.  When I suggest they get another parent to lead another troop (if tere is that much interest), I'm told they cannot find anyone to volunteer.  I wonder why?

I've had two serious issues pop up over the 5 years and I turned to my SU for help.  They directed me to council who agreed it was a big deal, but then NEVER contacted me with the promised help or a solution.  So, I ended up having to deal with it myself.

After all that, I have as little interaction with GS outside my troop as possible.  I turn in my paperwork on time, I follow the rules, but I do my own thing.  My parents are happy, my girls are happy, and I avoid the drama that comes from higher up the food chain.

Oh, and don't get me started on the "exciting new changes" to the cookie program next year.   ::). My cookie Mom and I are already discussing how we're going to deal with that one.
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GreenBird

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2013, 09:10:41 PM »
If you can't get a website going right away, can you start an email list that anyone can sign up for (including parents) that sends out a monthly update highlighting events and news?  Make it something any participant can sign up for, and this way people looking for information will have a source. 

I'd try to stick with monthly emails rather than multiple emails per month - if people get too many emails they'll tune them out.  It's a balancing act!  But a monthly newsletter seems like a good place to start.

Oh Joy

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2013, 09:29:07 PM »
I spent many years as a volunteer leader of volunteers - I feel your pain.  In many ways.

Consumers vote with their dollars, and volunteers vote with their hours.

Is there any way that you can use this problem/symptom as a springboard to come up with an innovative change to the way things are done?

Best wishes.