Saturday, September 5, 2009

I (don't) get paid for doing this??? Volunteering

So I volunteer at a non-profit doing marketing and some marketing-related-techno-stuff. Marketing is a fancy word for what this group does (no real budget, loose membership, just people pitching in). It's always been a fun diversion. But that was before -- the incident.

The Incident Part I

A board member (abbreviated as BM for brevity and brevity only) invited me to work on Project Blah-blah. Project Blah-blah is a new initiative funded by a big grant for marketing. It promises to be fun, innovative, and a great learning experience. I'm pleased as punch to be on the work group. We have a few preliminary meetings.

The Incident Part II

Out of the blue, today, I receive a call, from the aforementioned BM. He says "Stacey. It's [BM's name], and I'm writing up a summary of Project Blah Blah for the board meeting. I assume you agree that Bill should represent the marketing committee in future meetings of the project." He pauses, clearly expecting/wanting a "yes."

Wait a minute. Bill and I are the only ones on the project from the marketing committee. And if Bill is the representative, that means... that I'm not on the committee? I realize I'm being...uninvited. Benched! Out! Sidelined! Why? What did I do?

The Incident Part III: Socially Awkward Moment of the Century

I try to process the words BM used -- He assumes I agree with him? Based on what? Thank you, but I'm not blindly adopting opinions of others today. And by the way, that indirect approach? That's a slimeball tactic. I'm speechless but have to say something, so I say what I'm thinking (NEVER a good idea): "So... You don't want me to be involved."

Now it's BM's turn to be caught off guard. "Of COURSE we want you involved." I can practically hear the whir of pedals spinning backwards. The rest of the conversation is hollow-sounding and insincere, and now I just want to get off the phone. I brush off his reassurances, fabricate something that needs my attention, and hang up. Well, I can't quite stomach the notion of working on the project now. I send an insincere, gracious email backing out of the committee. And no one objects.

The Incident Part IV: Debriefing my own self
For a while I clung to the notion that maybe they needed to downsize the work group, but I later learned they added members -- mostly figurehead types, other board members. I've analyzed my behavior in the initial meetings and can't see where anything unusual happened. Both Bill and I mostly listened. Why they'd invite me and later dump me from the project is a mystery.

Oh, and BM? He's now aggressively, showily nice to me. My new best friend!

What I learned
If there was anything constructive for me to learn in this yucky experience, it's not being shared with me. Tell me Bill has more experience, someone on the committee can't work with me, tell me my nose is too big or that I have horse poop in the crevices of my sneakers. But no, there is just the sucking sound of silence and me questioning the work I do for them. The extra-nice treatment after getting kicked out of the herd is just the cherry on top of it all. Oh, I did learn a new and useful phrase -- a friend of mine heard my story and said, "It sounds like a mind-f*ck to me. A bad crowd anyway. Forget about it." Good advice, and what I hope to do.


  1. Hate that kind of stuff. When you are a volunteer, it makes it even more annoying. Hard to say what was up, but forgetting about it is your best option.

    And, next time they ask you to do something, perhaps you need to establish the rules up front. Let them know your time is valuable and you don't want to waste it if there is really no need of your expertise.

    Whether or not it's worth continuing your efforts with the cause all depends on just how much you believe in the work. Otherwise, you will be much happier on the outside.

    Bummer. They may have lost a very valuable person. And I wouldn't blame you one bit.

  2. I have to agree 100% with your friend! (and I am not an agreeable person!)

  3. Yep. Mindf*ck. She's right- fageddaboudit and go spend extra time with Riley and Harv ;)

    Oh- and if they *ask* again? Smile and say something *ahem* nice to them which means No!

  4. From the way you have been treated, we can all ASS U ME that you are a horrible and worthless person! :) ?

  5. Consider yourself as having dodged a big bullet there. The only difference between most office personnel and elementary school students is height (and I should know, as I've worked in both :o)

  6. Well, if they don't appreciate your efforts, I'm sure there are lots of other places that would love to have your help!

  7. I'm with Daisy.There are a million other places that would kill for your talent and help.

  8. Try a little salt on the keyboard, that always helps the taste.

    Very weird, will bug you for some time no doubt. But, I think Jean's comment about being you agree to volunteer your efforts, time etc....establish rules and parameters of when, where, whom, and why. Good Luck.

    Thanks for placing my advert, it's appreciated. Hope you'll swing for a visit, the welcome mats always out.



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