By Terry O’Neill.
What? Volunteers made redundant?
Volunteering is an integral New Zealand response whereby people selflessly offer services, skills and time for the benefit of others. Every community has people who do their bit with grace, skill and charm.
It can be a two-headed coin. Each volunteer gives to meet a particular need and is often surprised to receive a sense of accomplishment, fellowship, and contentment, the blessings of true generosity.
A recent Oamaru Mail article on Girl Guides in North Otago suggested the national body is “revitalising”, whatever that means, so it can fulfil its goals of developing self-esteem, confidence and leadership, and a centralised business and administration arm will reduce the work of volunteers in these fields. But to maintain the national “ivory tower”, annual fees for each Girl Guide must be increased from $180 to $300, though in some cases there may be a decrease. Some local guide leaders believe the fees may push the movement into an elite club beyond the reach of many including loyal families with Girl Guide members throughout generations.
When former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon introduced the “think big” philosophy mixed results evolved, and now it appears some organisations which survived, and indeed grew, applied this philosophy in a very practical way. The Society for the Intellectually Handicapped (IHC), Save the Children (SFC) and Riding for the Disabled (RDA) are but three which experienced, and resisted in some cases, the nudges or heaves towards centralisation. Many local branches had a rich complement of competent volunteers before top-of-the-tower decisions effectively attempted to bypass this invaluable resource of experience and support. “Bigger would be better”. Maybe.
Centralisation appears to require paid “executives” whose salaries enable them to direct and organise the remaining, often disillusioned, volunteers. And this rejection of volunteer input ultimately affects the vitality and growth of local support for the national body and its dedicated services.
It’s a New Zealand “thing” to support financially what we believe to be worthy organisations. I wonder how many find it offensive when a wealth of attractive glossy material regularly is sent out to squeeze even greater donations from already dedicated supporters of the institution? Exactly how much of each regular donation contributes to such simplistic unsolicited expensive-looking material. Many charities come to mind. Surely regular voluntary subscribers could be spared this practice? Sincere volunteers and supporters are too valuable to be treated with disrespect.
Sports bodies are feeling the impact of a smaller volunteer base, and I don’t apologise for bringing this up again. Often loyal supporters hold positions of responsibility for long periods, and are the butts of criticism because nobody is willing to ‘step into their shoes’. Eventually, burnt out, the stalwarts eventually take their skills and drop off the code’s radar into oblivion.
In these days of semi-professional sport, there’re suggestions from some volunteers that those getting paid should do all the work! But is this just a cop out?