Author Topic: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.  (Read 6441 times)

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Poppea

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #30 on: April 15, 2013, 03:37:21 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.

I have very similar stories.  We used to refer to the money we sent to GS as our "danegelt", because we got nothing from them, but paid to keep them form bothering us.

Eeep!

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #31 on: April 15, 2013, 04:27:50 PM »
When you emailed the parents asking for feedback, did you offer specific options for them to respond to, or did you leave it open-ended? It can be very difficult to send constructive feedback, especially when you're feeling like things won't change no matter what you do, if the question is open-ended. It can be hard to feel like you're able to say something constructive without getting too negative.

On the other hand, if you can present something closer to a survey, with potential shortcomings acknowledged upfront and potential solutions offered as options, you might get a better response. So, for example, using some of the issues magiccat has brought up, instead of saying, "What can we do better?" you could ask for very specific feedback on very specific issues. Such as,

1) Meeting frequency

Would you be more or less likely to be able to make time to come to a meeting if they were less frequent? If we had meetings every other month, or quarterly, would it be easier to make it a priority? If we offered an alternate time for the same meeting content, would that help you be able to schedule time to come?

2) Meeting length & content

Do you feel like the meetings have enough useful content for you? Would you prefer more "meat" and less ice-breaker type filler, or do you enjoy the chance to visit with other leaders? Of the meeting components a, b, c, and d (where those are the things you do in a regular meeting - ice breakers, minutes, event planning, etc.), which would you prefer to minimize or eliminate altogether?

3) Email distribution

Do you feel like there is content addressed in the meetings that would be better served as an email announcement? Do you feel like you already receive too many emails from us?


Anyway, those are just some samples of more specific questions you could ask that might prompt some who do have issues to be able to respond without feeling like their problem is too big to know where to begin, or like they'd be getting too critical if they were to address the things they've been thinking about.

I think this is a good suggestion.  If it's not against rules,  you could even use something like Survey Monkey that would make the questions even easier to answer.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

Vicki

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #32 on: April 16, 2013, 05:15:41 PM »
Thanks for all the good ideas.  I don't want to require anyone to do something they really don't want to do for sure. It wasn't an issue until we started getting parent complaints.  We just got the roster of all email addresses from council (parents/girls included). Our Communication Chair is working through them to add to an updated email list but she has to do it with her normal job just like the rest of us so its not quick (they didn't send it in Excel format which would have been easy to email from).

We've also discussed offering training after meetings, but are wondering if it would be too late. We try to keep meetings under an hour but if there is a lot of info or questions it can be difficult. My daughter comes to babysit which I feel is helpful to some.

As far as meeting location, we are in a church central between the schools but I admit its closer to the catholic school and one of the districts.  The other district is about 10 miles away (we are in a very rural area, and the other district is literally down a windy road in the middle of the woods with no nearby town).  Our schools don't have free wifi and neither does the church we meet in so its difficult to do a web meeting.  Many families don't have internet still either due to cost or that it just doesn't exist for them.

Magiccat, what are these new cookie changes you've heard about?  I sincerely hope its not something more off putting to our leaders.

See the bolded above - while you might have an attendance problem at your meetings, what the bolded is is a triangulation problem. 

The parents have a problem with the troop leader - either because the troop leader isn't getting information about council events, because the troop leader is too busy to get to your meetings and get the information, because the troop leader doesn't think that the council events are important or valuable or because what that parent wants out of the scouting experiance isn't what the troop their daughter is enrolled in is offering.  In any case - rather than addressing the troop leader directly they are trying to get you to do it for them.

The only answer you need is "have you talked to your troop leader about that?"  I promise you the answer is no because if they had they would have found out:
1. The troop leader either doesn't have time for Service Unit meetings or doesn't find them valuable - in which case the parent can offer to represent the troop and get the information
2. The troop leader isn't interested in service unit program offerings - in which case the parent can have a conversation about why
3. The troop leader is burned out on scouting and doesn't want to lead anymore - in which case the parent can step up and lead the troop
4. What the parent wants out of the scouting experiance is different from what most of the rest of the troop wants from the scouting experiance - in which case the parent should find another troop.

That doesn't mean that you don't need to address the fact that your volunteers aren't finding your meetings valuable enough to make time for them - but fixing the meetings won't really deal with complaining parents - they'll just move on to another complaint -

The first lesson of group dynamics is don't triangulate - if someone has a problem with someone else don't get between them - you need to get out of the triangle that the parents are trying to put you in between them and the leader of their daughter's troop - the easiest way to do that is to tell them that they need to talk directly to their troop leader.

rashea

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #33 on: April 17, 2013, 07:42:42 AM »
Can you have some of the meetings using a call in phone number? Would that help? Does it have to be the leaders, or can another parent step in and represent the troop?


I think if you want to change things up, you need to tell them you understand that they associate these meetings with a lot of work and not a lot of good information, and then tell them how you're changing that. But, you have to tell them you acknowledge what has been wrong first.

I'll also tell you that I worked on a grant where we had regular conference type meetings. They always had decent workshops and you could learn quite a bit. But the most valuable time was when we were all left alone to compare what each other was trying. I know we were able to share a lot of great ideas and feel like we were meeting with other people who were struggling with the same issues. I wonder if you had meeting topics like "dealing with a girl who doesn't fit in" or "dealing with uninvolved parents" if you would get more interest.
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artk2002

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2013, 10:24:16 AM »
I agree with a lot of the comments here. People will attend meetings that they feel are productive to them -- they "vote with their feet." I know that the information you want to distribute is important to you, and you believe that it's important to the troops, but clearly some leaders don't agree. Or they do agree that the information is important but the medium is a problem. For instance, I absolutely *hate* in-person meetings. Or they could just be incompetent. Other than making sure that the meetings are as efficient as possible and delivering the information through multiple channels, there's not much that you can do.

The advice to put this back on the complaining parents is mostly good. I'd certainly start with "Please work with your troop leader to make sure this information is distributed. We have informational meetings once a month, perhaps a parent could volunteer to attend and get the information." I say 'mostly' because this could be a tip-of-the-iceberg situation. You may have a troop (or troops) with poor leaders and the parents don't know how to deal with that. So they call the higher authorities and try to tell them about the situation, without being blunt. It's much easier to say "we're not getting the information" than it is to say "leader X is incompetent and shouldn't be in charge of anything more difficult than tying shoes." It might be worthwhile to check and see if there are other issues with those troops. Dues sent in late? Noticeably poor cookie sales? Girls not advancing at the same rate as other troops?
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Green Bean

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #35 on: April 17, 2013, 11:25:41 AM »
Wow, what a timely thread. I just have my Service Unit meeting last night (aka 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back). Like others here, experiences dealing with both my SU and Council haven't always been the smoothest.

I'm curious what complaint you have been getting from parents.
- If they relate to how the troop is run, they should be directed back to the troop leader. Perhaps the leaders are feeling the burden of too many tasks and could use another volunteer.
- if they are about poor communication of troop activities, see above.
- if they want more information on council or SU activities, perhaps contacting you is the way to go.

I can tell you from my limited experience (our troop got up and running in Nov/Dec) that we are still learning how the troop should be run. My co-leads, volunteers, and I try to shift the responsibilities. There are 6 of us and sometimes it still seems like a lot to do!

As far as SU communications go, how proactive are you in communicating events? My SU sends me an email every time there is a new event (regardless of the age group). In the past week, I have probably received 5-6 of these. It gets tiring. Most don't pertain to Daisies, and usually they are somewhat last minute. My troop has monthly outings, and I have already communicated our outing dates to parents through October. We probably won't do these last minute (3-4 weeks notice) events because of the coordination involved (communication to parents, permission slips, fees, registrations, rearranging our calendars, making sure my First Aider is available to chaperone).

Our council publishes a periodic magazine of all Council sponsored events. It has activities for the next 6 months. The magazine is sent to all troops homes and is also available on the council website. If a parent was complaining that they didn't have this information, I'd direct them on where to find it. If we choose to do an event as a troop, it will be scheduled in advance. If a parent wants to sign their daughter up independently, s/he has the information available.


Acadianna

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #36 on: April 17, 2013, 10:22:01 PM »
I was a Service Unit director 20 years ago -- and I could have written your post then.  So trust me, you have my sympathies!

I'm making some assumptions that things are still run today much as they were back then, so please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.

For those not familiar with leadership roles in Girl Scouts, these are the problems that the OP is trying to solve:

1.)  The leader meetings aren't just to provide information to troops.  They are also for planning and for recruitment of people to work on events, both of which are much more effective face-to-face.  If hardly anyone attends, then you have the same very small group of volunteers (usually no more than 4 or 5) doing all the work.  Everyone loves the events, but few want to help make them happen.

Service Unit leaders are volunteers too, and they also have jobs and other commitments (their own troops, PTA, band, sports, church, etc.)  Without help, they can become overwhelmed and burned out.

2.)  Face-to-face meetings are important so that the SU leaders can answer questions and resolve issues all at once.  If everything is handled by email or phone, then the SU leaders may have to answer the same questions many times -- again, this can be quite a lot of extra work.

3.)  The SU director can't always refer parents back to the troop leaders.  The director is the one who "hires" (and "fires") leaders, and serves as their supervisor.  If parents are unhappy with a leader, then it's part of the SU director's job to help solve the problem.  (Or it was, when I had the job -- may be different now.)

I wish I had some "solve-everything" solutions for you, but here are a few ideas that might help at least a little.

When you first recruit leaders, make sure you tell them upfront how many meetings are required, and that there must be alternate representation (another parent in the troop) if leaders cannot attend.  Let them know from the start that representation at the meetings is a non-negotiable part of the job.

If your Service Unit sponsors any high-attendance events, require a representative from the troop to attend a particular meeting, if they wish to participate in the event.  (For us, these were our two annual unit camp-outs.)  At least, you'll have good attendance at a couple important meetings.

For older troops (Cadettes and Seniors), the girls themselves might be able to represent their troops at meetings.  By these ages, the girls really should have very active roles in planning anyway.

I wish I'd thought of and tried this one years ago -- borrow an idea from Cub Scouts and, a couple times a year, hold a "pack meeting," with a short adult meeting on the agenda.    Have an easy activity for families to participate in -- hobo stew, potluck desserts, each troop teaches a song, campcraft workshops.  One advantage is that you might get some parents to attend, in addition to leaders.

In spite of the difficulties, I loved my time as a GS volunteer.  I wish you every success with your unit.

despedina

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #37 on: April 18, 2013, 11:50:06 PM »
THanks Acadianna, you hit the nail on the head!   

To answer some of the questions that were asked:
-Yes, we understand leaders may not be able to make all meetings. We have encouraged leaders to send another adult. This rarely happens.
-Phoning into meetings - again, we are pretty rural, and we meet in an area with not great service either. Just this week after a meeting we were trying to get phone reception in vain.

-This week we had a training on the new Online Registration procedures. This is all brand new and packets were sent from council for us to give to troops.  Several troops did not show even after emailing to say they were.  One parent came in the door before meeting time and asked to just grab her packet and go, because "she worked all day, and hadn't been home yet".  I tried not to be offended but none of us Service team members had either.  And guess what? She was one of the ones who had the most questions during the meeting.  We made the meeting under an hour so I don't feel it was long especially with the important registration topic.

-Events: The ugly truth is we need more people on the event committees.  The same ones of us are working every event.  We enjoy it but it takes a lot out of us.

-Emails - We try to keep them to a min.  We send out Flyers once a month then just before the SU meeting we send out the meeting minutes from the previous meetings and remind of the upcoming meetings. The only other emails we send are those that can't wait until one of these mailings.

-"Pack" type meetings - I would love to do this, but getting 27 troops together seems....impossible.  I will run it by everyone though!  I do love how the boy scouts do it but it does mean they have more meetings to attend.

On an upbeat note - we just created a Facebook Group page and have 37 members in 1 day.  So exciting!   We hope to add more people to get all our info out easier.

Acadianna

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #38 on: April 19, 2013, 08:07:22 PM »
-"Pack" type meetings - I would love to do this, but getting 27 troops together seems....impossible.  I will run it by everyone though!  I do love how the boy scouts do it but it does mean they have more meetings to attend.

I wish I could remember how big our pack was, way back then.  (I was den leader for both of my son's dens, so I was active in Cub Scouts too.)  Our pack was associated with a single elementary, so I would guess not bigger than about 10-12 dens.  Our GS Service Unit, on the other hand, included several elementary schools and middle schools, and one high school -- more than 30 troops, comparable in size to your SU.  We did have access to a very large meeting site at a local church, which was nice for unit-wide events though, so maybe we could have managed a GS "pack meeting."

I do remember that the pack got excellent attendance at the monthly pack meetings though, including lots of non-leader parents.  The monthly pack meetings replaced each den's weekly meeting for that week.

TootsNYC

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #39 on: April 19, 2013, 09:11:49 PM »
Your land-line phone reception is bad?

Anyway, if you're all so spread out, then of course the leaders are even more reluctant to attend the meetings, because there's travel time to AND from, and it's long.

Bethalize

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #40 on: April 24, 2013, 11:01:08 AM »
-Events: The ugly truth is we need more people on the event committees.  The same ones of us are working every event.  We enjoy it but it takes a lot out of us.

I have something to offer in response to this. Stop doing it. People who won't volunteer to take over something will step up if there is an actual space.

TootsNYC

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #41 on: April 24, 2013, 03:53:48 PM »
-Events: The ugly truth is we need more people on the event committees.  The same ones of us are working every event.  We enjoy it but it takes a lot out of us.

I have something to offer in response to this. Stop doing it. People who won't volunteer to take over something will step up if there is an actual space.

Yep. You need to create the vacuum.

And if not enough people want to put out any effort, then maybe the event is not that valuable to them.

We have a central garden shared by several co-ops. We had a big influx of parents w/ small kids, and the older people (whose kids were older or grown) got a little testy about the pressure to have kids' events. At our bldg's meeting, someone said, sort of snottily, "I notice no one is planning any *adult* events." And someone else tsk-tsk'd as if this was so awful.

I thought, "If you think they're so important, why don't you volunteer to run one? Oh, and btw, I never see you out there at the grownup events anyway!"

What I said was, "Well, if people don't value the events enough to organize them, maybe that means the events aren't very important to people."

I *would* suggest that you widely publicize that you will be *cancelling* the event if no one steps up to organize it. In a far-flung organization w/ the same people doing the same organizing from year to year, people get complacent, and they may never realize that help is needed.

kglory

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #42 on: April 24, 2013, 08:55:21 PM »
-Events: The ugly truth is we need more people on the event committees.  The same ones of us are working every event.  We enjoy it but it takes a lot out of us.

I have something to offer in response to this. Stop doing it. People who won't volunteer to take over something will step up if there is an actual space.

Yep. You need to create the vacuum.

And if not enough people want to put out any effort, then maybe the event is not that valuable to them.

We have a central garden shared by several co-ops. We had a big influx of parents w/ small kids, and the older people (whose kids were older or grown) got a little testy about the pressure to have kids' events. At our bldg's meeting, someone said, sort of snottily, "I notice no one is planning any *adult* events." And someone else tsk-tsk'd as if this was so awful.

I thought, "If you think they're so important, why don't you volunteer to run one? Oh, and btw, I never see you out there at the grownup events anyway!"

What I said was, "Well, if people don't value the events enough to organize them, maybe that means the events aren't very important to people."

I *would* suggest that you widely publicize that you will be *cancelling* the event if no one steps up to organize it. In a far-flung organization w/ the same people doing the same organizing from year to year, people get complacent, and they may never realize that help is needed.

But that's not always feasible in Girl Scouts.  You can't just not have Thinking Day, or cookie sales, or other standardized, national events. 

(*caveat - I was a Girl Scout for 12 years but am now in my 30's, so those event names might be outdated!)

The OP is, herself, accountable to the higher-ups at national, just like the troop leaders are accountable to her.  She can't decide not to run certain events if she is required by the national organization to run them.  To me this sounds like part of the problem.  For a smaller, grass-roots organization, there is the ability to more flexible to the members' interests and needs. 

blarg314

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #43 on: April 24, 2013, 09:04:00 PM »
If you've got ~15% attendance on a regular basis, then something has gone wrong with the process.  If you had 85% attendance, and it were 15% not responding, then I would say it's probably those volunteers, and cracking down might help. But at 85% not responding, the meetings are either too inconvenient, or not valuable.

It also strikes me that the need to get people to sign up to run special events might be part of the issue. If they show up to the meeting, they get pressured into doing more work. If they skip, they're off the hook. I also notice that you're dealing with unusual communication constraints, by 2013 standards - families that don't have internet and dodgy land lines are not something most leaders have to deal with.

Based on my experience with volunteers - if you don't have enough people volunteering to do X, you need to stop doing X. Either X will be dropped completely, or new people will step up. Trying to force unwilling people to do it rarely ends well. At some point it will break down, when the 5 or 6 stalwarts leave the organization, or get fed up. If you're absolutely required to do X, then you pare it down to the absolute minimum (say, not providing snacks), and when people complain, you sign them up to volunteer for the next event.

On possibility for special events in the future - at the beginning of the year, make it clear that a troupe has to supply X units of volunteers for special events over the year (you might scale it by number of leaders in a troupe). If they don't provide volunteers, either the troupe leader, assistant, or a parent, they are no longer allowed to participate in special events.

Or cancel the special events, and when people complain, tell them that they were cancelled due to lack of volunteers, and ask which date they'd like to volunteer for. If they try to say no, play up the "Oh, I'm sorry - that's the response we get from everyone, so you can see why we had to stop doing it" angle.



 

TootsNYC

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Re: Polite way to tell volunteers to do their job.
« Reply #44 on: April 24, 2013, 10:18:15 PM »
Also, don't discount directly asking people to do one of the events.

And have the folks who have done the events so many years need to distill what they know and create a timeline for the rookie to follow. And be available as coach.

Another suggestion I've heard is that each year you need a Lead and a Second. The next year, the Second becomes the Lead, and you get a new Second. That way more people get exposure to how to organize the event.