As Claire keeps moving the English Speaking Volunteer Project forward, she learns not everyone has the same expectations of a volunteer.
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Claire writes: “I recently had to respond to possibly the rudest email I have ever received (and I don’t mean an accidentally opened porn email that my spam folder had missed). It was unnecessarily and inexcusably rude, and amongst other things, accused me of discriminating against a lot of people. All because I had failed to respond to an email within two days.
I spent quite a while trying to work out how to respond. Part of me really wanted to respond in kind, pointing out just how rude the email was and suggesting ways that the person should improve their interpersonal communication style. Another part of me thought it would probably be better just to ignore the email. In the end I went for what, I hope, is the more grown-up response, and sent a friendly email apologising that I hadn’t been able to meet the person’s expectations about response times for emails.
But it led me to think about people’s expectations of non-profit organisations. I’ve worked a lot with non-profits, both in Sweden and in the UK. In fact, I would say that I’ve easily worked with hundreds, covering the whole range of non-profit activity. And one thing I’ve always been very aware of is that the people involved with non-profits are just as human as everyone else. And by that I mean, they are working very hard to do their best, but don’t always manage to achieve it.
It is entirely reasonable for people giving money and/or time to non-profits to expect a decent level of service and efficiency – both in terms of how money is used and the service they receive (whether that is receiving replies to emails or people doing what they say they’ll do). However, people who work in non-profit organisations are often working with very scarce resources to achieve a huge amount and are barely keeping their heads above water financially; which can lead to them having to focus on some things at the expense of others. I can promise you that they would like to be able to do everything perfectly, but often have to accept what appears to be second best because that is all that is realistically possible. This enables the good work of the organisation to take place, but means that it might take a little longer to respond to emails.
We need the kind of people who see a problem and do something about it. The world would be a much worse place without them. But people with the passion to change the world are not always the most organised of people, and often need someone alongside them who’s good at organising things and doing the accounts. Very few of us are good at everything and it is important to recognise our weaknesses as well as our strengths, and to find ways to compensate for those weaknesses.
Next time you have dealings with a non-profit organisation, particularly if it’s a small one, please be patient. Don’t give up if you don’t hear back from them immediately – be persistent, but also be understanding if there is nothing they can do to help. There is only so much that one individual or organisation can do, no matter how passionate or what size they are.”
By Claire Thomas
Check back in a few weeks to hear more about Claire’s progress.
Claire Thomas was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Northern Ireland and has lived in Scotland, England, Germany and now Sweden (where she hopes to stay for a good long while). In this blog she shares her experience of setting up a project focused on helping non-Swedish speakers to find volunteering opportunities with non-profit organisations in Stockholm.
If you are interested in the project you can contact Claire by email at [email protected]
Like us on Facebook to follow the project’s development – go to ‘The English Volunteering Project in Stockholm’.
The project is part of Volontärbyrån www.volontarbyran.org
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