September 10, 2016 at 9:04 pm #1863JamesParticipant
I speak with a good understanding of the volunteer efforts in the eradication of predators and with observation of many other volunteer efforts.
Volunteers, often put in an inordinate number of hours of unpaid work, driven by a desire to achieve their chosen goal. In the case of predator control, this work consists of placing and monitoring traps over large areas; volunteers are relatively easy to find to carry out this work and they enjoy the challenge.
In many cases the character of a trapping volunteer is unique. They often prefer to work alone, or in small groups, they eschew becoming involved in the politics of management; they just want to get on with the job in hand.
In many cases the trappers become wedded to the lines they are in charge of and carry on, often in an obstinate manner, fulfilling their role, without bowing to new techniques. This can lead to inefficient use of the traps and to the ultimate demise of the project due to lack of space for new enthusiastic volunteers to join in.
Where the energy of a multiple of volunteers can be harnessed, to share the monitoring of trap lines, the coordination of such individuals falls to a volunteer from within the group. Inevitably the work load on this coordinator becomes burdensome. It remains a constant job, away from the trap lines and dealing with people rather than predators. With the capitulation of the coordinator, often due to volunteer burnout, the project is ultimately doomed to failure.
Experience has shown that the appointment of a paid coordinator provides a constant in project management, that removes the problems mentioned. The coordinator is selected for a set of skills quite different to those of the volunteers. The appointed is made with a clear job description which includes the necessity for constant attention to the ongoing wellbeing of the project and the sharing of work within it. Should the coordinator resign, a replacement can soon be found, ensuring a continuity not available to groups where the volunteer coordinator leaves.
Given the highly focused “obsession” of trapping volunteers, grantors of funds are comfortable paying for equipment to allow trapping to be pursued, satisfied that the traps will be put to good use. The problem with this single minded focus, on funding of hardware, is that problems of barriers to new volunteers and risks to project longevity are ignored.
It is acknowledged that the auditing of hardware purchases is more easily and efficiently managed, compared to the input from a paid coordinator. However even in the case of purchases, the wrong choice of equipment can be made, and the use of purchased equipment can be squandered. Experience has shown that, with the appointment of a paid coordinator, choices of equipment are more likely to be well chosen, the equipment will be more efficiently used and the longevity and succession of the project is ensured.
It can be argued that the early appointment of a paid coordinator, properly appointed by a group of volunteers, is the surest guarantee of the establishment of a successful project.
It seems ironic that salaried executives often appear uneasy to put their faith in the payment to others, for work that is essential in appropriate purchase of equipment and the ongoing success of its use.
I would welcome comments on my opinion.
October 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm #1938PaulcallisterParticipant
I can see the arguments put forward by James. But I have also seen situations where bringing a paid person into a volunteer organisation can create real problems. Volunteer groups are generally not well set up to handle employment related matters when things go wrong. Potentially disputes can end up with expensive legal intervention and considerable time and effort in sorting issues out. In small communities there can be ongoing bitterness from such disputes.
There is also the potential problems of mixed models. In the predator free space we are increasingly seeing a mix of relatively well paid people in central government and local bodies working alongside poorly paid administrators in groups who are working alongside people working for free. Sometimes they are doing exactly the same job. This can create tensions at times. One person arrives at a meeting in the company car, the administrator may or may not have their petrol paid and the volunteer pays their own. All these issues need to be handled carefully.
October 3, 2016 at 1:48 am #1939SmPParticipant
Paid or unpaid I believe a coordinator becomes necessary to direct volunteers into areas that suit their skills and interest and ensure the no one becomes the ‘dump’ and gets everything that no one’s keen on (usually because they are passionate about the cause)
So many times good keen volunteers are eventually lost because of work overload and feeling they are no longer supported by the organisation and so can’t do the job to a reasonable standard.
I have no idea how you’d draw the line as to when a person should be employed – how much time is considered too much to be reasonable to volunteer ?
October 4, 2016 at 4:12 am #1943LeonJParticipant
I see many organizations making the mistake of not investing into paid members.
Look at any serious charity or organization of any serious level. There are next to none that run exclusively from volunteer labour.
Skilled positions that require serious hours to be filled need somone skilled enough and dedicated enough to do a proper job. And these people should be rewarded properly. IN some isolated cases you may find someone who has the skills, and the number of hours spare, and the commitment to do nothing else. Most organizations do not have this luxury.
The result is either:
a) The work is carried out by someone with good intention, but lacking the level of skill to really do the role justice.
b) Not enough hours are donated, and the role is not filled to an effective level resulting in slow progress at best, collapse at worst.
Can you run an organization on vounteers alone? Yes. Will you do a far far better job with the right team in place (which are more than likely requring payment)? Absolutely.
Volunteers to help with occasional activities is one thing. Day to day duties or highly skilled positions in something very different.
If an organization has had a bad experience with this, I would suggest it was more to do with their organizational structure, the members involved, or the person/s being hired (which is as true for any business – but this does not make hiring staff ‘bad’ in of itself).
October 4, 2016 at 11:12 am #1944The GannetParticipant
You probably need both. If you don’t have the hardware, you won’t need the volunteers and depending on the scale and complexity of the exercise, a paid co-ordinator may not been needed. I’ve been involved with some large projects where volunteers have undertaken this role very successfully. Others could well have done with a part time paid person. One observation. It’s far easier finding the money for capital expenditure than operating costs. Many groups will have to grapple with this reality before too long, i suspect
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