GUEST OPINION - A volunteer's bill of rights

Monday, October 8, 2001

And we'd like you to give even more.

In return, we propose that volunteers everywhere receive better compensation. We propose a double-digit increase in volunteer respect, dignity and appreciation.

The reason many organizations can't get volunteers - and lose the ones they get - is because they spend too much of their time abusing volunteers and burning them out. Accordingly, we now propose that all governments,

churches, civic groups and charitable organizations provide their volunteers with a written Pre-Volunteer Agreement, or what I call, The Volunteer Vows: Our Promise Not To Kick You in the Butt for Trying to Help Out.

The Volunteer Vows

We at (insert name of organization here) understand that we wouldn't accomplish

squat without the commitment of our volunteers. Those of you who donate your time and skills are our heroes. We worship the ground you walk on. Those of us getting paid to run this outfit think we're so doggone smart when, in fact, we would be clueless without the guidance of our volunteers.

In exchange for your donations, we at (name of organization), pledge in writing that:

* We will treat you as if you have a brain. We will make use of your experience and talent and, from time to time, ask your opinion on how we can do things better.

* When we ask you to leave your family and attend evening meetings, we will start the meetings on time, end them promptly and try to find someone who knows how to run a meeting.

* From time to time, we will thank you in a meaningful way for all you do. We promise it won't be coffee mugs or flimsy paper certificates.

* Once a year, we will send a personal letter to your employer to acknowledge your volunteerism and point out that it speaks well of your company to have such civic-minded employees on the payroll.

* We won't stop there. We will write a letter to thepresident of your companyasking him to consider giving you time off from work for charitable activities so you won't have to cut into your family's evenings or weekends.

Senior executives are allowed to do this, so why shouldn't you?

* If you get chewed out at work for using the office copier or fax machine for your volunteer tasks, we will call your boss and defend you and take all the blame. We'll do everything in our power to make your boss feel stupid and guilty for being so petty.

* If we ask you to chair a committee or board, we will provide the resources to do the job properly. These will include goals and objectives and job descriptions so that you don't spend the first six monthsfiguring out what you'resupposed to do.

* If one of your committee members becomes a bossy, bullheaded, know-it-all creep who never does any work but always points out what you're doing wrong, you officially have our permission to pour a pitcher of ice water over this

person's head.

* We promise that once a year we will hold a nice recognition ceremony to thank our volunteers and then send a press release to the local newspaper acknowledging them. We promise to spell

their names correctly, too.

We will present them with nice gifts; anything but coffee mugs or flimsy certificates.

* If we make you come out on a cold Saturday morning to paint a building, fix a fence, sell Christmas wreaths, pick up highway litter, clean bathrooms

or sell tickets, we promise to provide free coffee.

* We will lobby our state legislators and the Congress to change the tax laws to let volunteers place some reasonable monetary value on their donated time and count it as a charitable deduction on their tax returns.

* We will not tolerate those who characterize volunteer work as "grunge work" that people do just because no one else wants to do it. We vow to our dying to day to make sure - in all we do and say - that you feel proud to be a volunteer.

David Chartrand is an occasional contributing writer to the Pilot-Tribune on family and lifestyle issues. Write him in care of dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com