Parent volunteers, have you been shamed while volunteering? My husband and I volunteer extensively for the organized sports my son participates in (many) and at his school. As a family, we are committed to giving our time, energy and hearts to create positive experiences for our son and other children. But our experiences, while rewarding, are not always positive.
verb: to make someone feel ashamedExample: If you’re trying to make someone else feel bad by scolding them, you’re shaming them.Synonyms: humiliate, mortify, chagrin, embarrass, abash, chasten, humble, take down a peg or two, cut down to size.
The blame game and volunteer shaming
What do I mean by volunteer shaming? It’s when parent volunteers are treated badly or are under appreciated. It’s the way they are blamed, belittled, and berated when they do something perceived to be “wrong” even when it’s due to lack of information or knowledge. It’s when longtime volunteers become bitter because they feel others are not doing their share and make that known by complaining about other parents. It’s the lack of recognition that people ultimately do want to help and will do their best if they are engaged respectfully and if expectations are fairly communicated.
As an active parent volunteer for various associations for the past few years, I couldn’t believe some of things that were communicated to me either in person or by email which made me aware of this issue.
The demands on parent volunteers
Parents are constantly being asked to volunteer for sports associations, by the school PAC, and for other clubs and activities that their children participate in. These organizations are usually run by volunteers and they legitimately need a lot of support from parents to fundraise or to to offer programming and skills development for children and their families. Parents whose children are in school and involved in multiple sports and activities are receiving multiple demands for their time, year after year.
Given that my husband is a volunteer coordinator and a coach in a youth sport, he has experienced first hand that it can be very hard to find parents to volunteer the time needed to coach all the teams or to put on a tournament. However, he is very careful to ask respectfully because we know the demands on parents. We are blessed in that many parents step up willingly to help with their time, energy and enthusiasm. In return, the parents on our teams are fully engaged, treated with respect, and are both appreciated and thanked when they take time out of their busy schedules to help at games, practices and these other events. I believe parents enjoy being involved with the team much more than they would enjoy sitting on the sidelines.Year after year, the parents and children return to my husband’s team and league. Every year, I am asked by anxious kids and parents if my coach husband is coming back this season.
What should you do if you have been shamed as a volunteer?
- Hold your head up high and be proud of your volunteer efforts. You know who you are and what your value is.
- Stand up for yourself. Speak up. Don’t let another volunteer’s bad manners or bullying attitude create a toxic environment for you or for anyone else.
- Volunteer more. Get yourself a seat at the table and let it be known how volunteers should be treated in the future. Set an example and call out negative attitudes towards parent volunteers. I volunteered at my son’s school for two years recruiting hundreds of parent volunteers and students for a school fundraiser. I am proud of the example I was able to set on how to engage the hearts, minds, and time of our parent volunteers through positive communications and respect.
- As a last resort – walk away. Sometimes adult bullies need consequences for their actions (and yes it’s very satisfying). You may choose to quit volunteering at this organization or let your feet do the walking and your wallet do the talking. If this issue happened in organized sport for example, there may be other associations or sports that you can enroll your child in. That organization just lost a registration fee and a volunteer when you leave, and your friends may go with you. Take your volunteer efforts elsewhere; but and this is big…
Don’t Stop Volunteering
Don’t stop volunteering. Volunteering has been a privilege for myself and my husband. We have met wonderful people and had so much fun. We are striving to influence young lives, helping children have fun, be active, build skills and confidence, and creating lifelong memories for families. We are setting an example for our son about giving to community and helping others. He thrives when we invest our hearts and minds in his community, and so do we.
There is NO shame in that.<