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Old 08-02-2010, 11:00 AM   #21
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Another HQ staffer helpfully informed spouse how to dial in for the weekly (two-hour-plus) conference call. Volunteers would never put up with this, but valued employees are expected to be alert for any pearls of wisdom that HQ staff may mention as they recount their weekly efforts to a spellbound audience.
You are right that "volunteers would never put up with this." At a couple of my volunteer gigs, I've been "invited" to participate in the weekly staff meeting since they (the organizations) seemed to think I could add value. My response is always, "Thanks, but I don't do meetings any more."
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:05 AM   #22
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Timely post Nords, as I have been researching volunteer opportunities this weekend. However, you have managed to convince me of the foolishness of even considering doing such a thing. I had been discussing it with a friend, and was thinking with my bluntness and intolerance for incompetence that volunteering may not be a good fit for me, and after reading your post I think I may be right.
I've volunteered for several different organizations since I retired. I quit one early on because I was wasting my time. The others had their organizational "issues" but I stuck with them. I found that if you keep focused on whatever good you're doing for the beneficiaries of the non-profit and stay above the politics it works out pretty well. Of course, if you find you're wasting your time or getting no support from the non-profit, it's time to bail. But don't let the fact that the organization is screwed up keep you from doing something you want to do and which might help other folks.

Just my experience/opinion. YMMV.
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:16 PM   #23
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Nords, hehehehe - hard to let go, eh? Especially for many of us former military leader types who are used to certain policies, processes, etc. Well, either she'll love it or hate it.

As for paperwork - yeah - if it's too much paperwork and kvetching to deal with the company, I'll pass.

Have fun in your vicarious mode - should be a blast.
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:09 PM   #24
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Holy cow! I would never voluntarily put up with that.
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:26 AM   #25
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Holy cow! I would never voluntarily put up with that.
Well, they didn't expect her to put up with it as a volunteer. But paying her to put up with it? They apparently don't see a problem (nor do they see the irony) in that.

I got a call from the HR clerk today while spouse was out with a friend. The clerk could believe that spouse was away from the house for a few hours but once again was extremely skeptical that she'd do so naked and defenseless without a cell phone. I offered to take a hardcopy message (remember those?) but suggested that she try sending an e-mail. I was about to recommend that she call back so I could let it go to voicemail, assuming she trusted our machine more than my penmanship, but she finally admitted it was an I-9 issue. I confessed that would be my bailiwick.

It turns out that scanned copies of a driver's license and a military ID do not conform with the I-9 instructions of "one from column A and one from column B". We had submitted two from column B, which apparently required two additional forms of ID from column C. (But no eggroll or fortune cookie.) I asked her what she wanted from column A. She specified a Social Security card (Quick, do you remember where yours is?) or a passport.

So when I'm finally done here with my daily dose of E-R.org, I'm going to scan in spouse's passport and e-mail it to the HR clerk. Because although no ID was needed to volunteer for this job, apparently a military ID and a driver's license do not equate to sufficient citizenship to be paid for it.

Any bets that the HR clerk tracks the ID's expiration dates to ensure that we renew our documentation?
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Old 12-31-2010, 12:02 AM   #26
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It's been nearly five months, and being a valued headcount hasn't been as bad as she fears. She does what she knows is important, ignores what she thinks is unimportant, and is not shy about asking HQ to shoulder their part of the load. She does not tolerate having her time wasted, to the point of letting phone calls go to voicemail so that HQ staff have been trained to communicate via e-mail. She continues with her attitude of "What are they gonna do-- send me to sea fire me?!?" She's actually managed to get a little local authority (and some supplies) to expedite delivering to the beneficiaries at her discretion, an issue that was chafing her a year ago. So overall this has been a good thing. So far.

It was confusing to see a $100 bonus arrive in the mail last week. This is for someone who only works 10 hours/week, and who makes it crystal clear that she is not about the money. I guess she's supposed to keep the check because otherwise it'd screw up the bonus pool for the other employees, but she doesn't understand why she got it in the first place. There are certainly no performance criteria, like "Do this much and you'll be eligible for a bonus of that much." Nobody loses, because the $100 will be anonymously donated right back to the organization. But it's difficult to see how a small surprise shot of money improves performance or changes retention behavior. Maybe it just makes everyone feel good about the holiday season? Perhaps the total bonus pool was only $5000, but this is charitable-contribution money that could've been going to the program instead of to the salaries. I wonder if "employee bonus" is a line item in their IRS Form 990.

It was also annoying to get a FedEx envelope from the outsourced HR staff requesting that spouse verify her SSN-- although HR's letter neglected to tell her what SSN they have on file. The "urgency"was the upcoming issuance of W-2s. Reeeally, HR? You didn't see W-2 season coming, and it took a $12 FedEx instead of an e-mail or a phone call?!? I just hope this is coming out of HR's operating budget and that our charity $$ aren't being directly billed for this type of correspondence.

Today she got a separate (snail-mail) letter from HR explaining their 401(k) fund's performance... for 2009. Admittedly 2010 isn't over yet, and the mailer was mostly boilerplate, so maybe they're just catching up on their correspondence with employees who joined late in the year. But still, it was more money wasted for something that could've been e-mailed or even just posted on a website. Good thing she doesn't invest in the 401(k), or she'd be getting even more snail mail.

The good news is that I've pretty much stopped wondering what it would be like to have a second career. Maybe I'll volunteer my time someday, but for now I'd rather live to surf and write for fun. The other good news is that spouse & I have learned an important lesson that will be emphasized in a future blog post-- volunteer all you want, but before you enter a volunteer commitment you'd better make a private decision on your exit strategy!
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Old 01-07-2011, 06:40 PM   #27
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volunteer all you want, but before you enter a volunteer commitment you'd better make a private decision on your exit strategy!
Ah, yes. I do this at the beginning, by saying "I'm really interested in working with your organization, and I'd like to volunteer for three or four months on a trial basis to see if it's a good fit with my skills and abilities."

This makes me stay long enough to get into the system, but gives me a graceful way out should the fit not be good.

And boy, I've used that exit clause. Because, as your posts so clearly relate, a lot of NFPs just don't think about the best way to get sh&t done. Don't even get me started on our local food bank.

Looking forward to more updates on your wife's experience. Maybe you could write a series of blog posts on how to improve the performance of NFPs -- from a volunteer perspective?
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:34 PM   #28
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Looking forward to more updates on your wife's experience. Maybe you could write a series of blog posts on how to improve the performance of NFPs -- from a volunteer perspective?
Thanks, that's a good idea-- I've added it to the list.

I think the biggest issue with non-profits is being able to manage the expectations of the volunteers as much as the non-profit staff's expectations. All too often the staff falls back on the good ol' employer-employee treatment methods.

All things considered I think spouse would be happier reverting to volunteer status, but she doesn't want to screw up the "good deal" for the others with this non-profit (across the nation) in her position.
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Old 01-08-2011, 01:23 AM   #29
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Nords.... the notice of the 401(k) is required by law.... but AFAIK... can be email (that is what I did)... and yes... the 2009 was due recently... it is not that late (maybe a few months)...
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:21 AM   #30
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The other good news is that spouse & I have learned an important lesson that will be emphasized in a future blog post-- volunteer all you want, but before you enter a volunteer commitment you'd better make a private decision on your exit strategy!
Thanks for the heads up - I hadn't thought abou that. When I get around to doing some post-FIRE volunteering, I'll either adopt Urchina's suggestion or tell them that there are a number of places I am interested in giving back to and that it's their turn for this year.
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