Peers Are Volunteers

By William H. Grignon

 

PCB is a community of volunteers. Other than Melissa and Autumn, none of us are paid for our services. We all have lives, relationships, responsibilities, commitments, and passions that have nothing to do with PCB but which make up the vast majority of who we are.

 

While we devote uncounted hours to serving the cause and projects of PCB, we are not full-time drudges to be overloaded with work and to be shamed when we don’t choose to take on extra duties. PCB is only as strong as its volunteer corps and the corps is only as willing as the nominal leaders cherish, respect, and honor them. Simply put, there is no place in PCB for snark.

 

Each of us can only do what each of us can do. We may want to do more, but can’t, or we would do more, but won’t, because a negative experience has left a bad taste. There will always be more work to be done than volunteers to do it. The trick is to pick the best projects and make them as fun and as meaningful as possible for everyone. this means supporting, nurturing, empowering, and thanking our volunteers.

 

Remember, any of us can simply say we’ve had enough and we’re leaving. Studies have shown that it is infinitely more difficult to bring back someone who has left than it is to make sure they don’t want to leave. Recognizing that we are all volunteers can go a long way to keeping and growing peers.

 

Officers, team leaders, veteran PCB peers, and peers who have the time and resources to devote an above-average amount of work for PCB must recognize that not everyone has the time, resources, training, or interest to devote seemingly endless hours to meetings, email strings, and project implementation. In fact, study after study has shown that the typical human organization consists of an inner core of invested stakeholders who do most of the work, surrounded by an outer ring of workers who do some work but typically don’t want to take on leadership responsibilities, farther surrounded by another ring of people who claim “membership” and may participate in social events but who typically don’t volunteer for work assignments. This is why you tend to see the same names over and over, year after year, in team after team and project after project.

 

Mentoring, skills training, empowerment modules, and enticements might shift a few participants from one ring to another, with a few joining the inner core, but this kind of quantum shift requires total commitment, much effort, and continuous reinforcement. In short, there tends to be a big gap between inner core “buy-in” and peer “my-in” and this gap tends to widen as the core loses sight of the volunteer-in-the-peer, loses its gravitational effect, and outer- and inner-ring participants fall away, usually never to return.

 

In sum, there is only so much any of us can do and that has to be good enough!

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