So I work for a nonprofit youth mentoring organization, because I guess I must just hate myself. The people who volunteer as mentors are generously giving their time and that’s super great of them, and most of them just want to help out.
But sometimes annoying stuff happens, like a kid is absent and it wasn’t marked in the attendance (For some reason this seems to happen a lot. Is attendance difficult to get? Why does the admin office never have accurate attendance for us? Are the teachers not submitting it?) so the mentor showed up before we realized their kid isn’t here, and they’ve wasted a trip. That sucks for them and I’m sorry about it, but good mentors understand that this is a nonprofit program running in a Title I public school, and so it’s not always going to be the most super convenient, luxurious experience for them. Sometimes shit happens, but it’s volunteering, not going on vacation. My colleagues and I work hard to keep things running smoothly, we notify mentors asap when something changes or goes wrong, and we are always polite and considerate of their time when talking to them. We know that these people all have busy lives with jobs, and without them as volunteers our program could not exist. We do appreciate them!
But some assholes just ruin it for everyone else.
We had this one guy this week who has about a million complaints about the program. He thinks the only meeting spaces we have available to us in the school are crappy, he’s annoyed that we briefly interrupt his time with his mentee to distribute donations, he’s pissed that his student went on a field trip and his teacher didn’t tell us about it, he thinks the staff should be everywhere at once (or perhaps he thinks we need more staff, but hello like I can do anything about that!). He also suggested that we limit the number of students, to better allow staff to supervise them during the program. It would be nice if we had unlimited space in which to run our program, but our program runs during the school day, so we don’t. It would be nice if the school bureaucracy would actually tell us when there are field trips planned, but they only do that about 50% of the time. But there’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it.
This is basically a charity program for kids. We give them free shit sometimes, and we have as many kids in the program as possible because we want to reach as many kids as possible. Ceasing our donation distributions and kicking some kids out of the program so that he never gets interrupted and gets to feel special is not exactly something we are about to do. He is acting like he is a paying customer getting subpar service! What am I supposed to do, stop giving out the donations to the kids?! It’s my job! And unlike this asshole, I actually want these kids to get the stuff that was donated for them! We have a system in place to make distribution go as efficiently as possible, and still he says it “wastes too much time.” Selfish bastard.
I will note that I am essentially on the bottom rung of the ladder at this organization. I don’t have the authority to secure new spaces for meeting within the school (there aren’t any to be had, anyway) or make policy changes. So after my emails explaining our policies and apologizing for the inconvenience failed to appease His Majesty, and he started demanding major changes to the program, I just passed the whole thing over to my supervisor. I’m paid a comically small amount of money to run a program with insufficient resources in an underfunded school that happens to have terrible bureaucracy and poor communication, and I do all that shit for the kids, not for entitled old men. (The kids, by the way, cause tons of drama as well—but they are children! Causing trouble is their job! The adults should know better.)
Anyway, here is my PSA to the people of the world: volunteering is not all about you. Just because you are generously giving your time, does not make you more important than the other volunteers and it especially does not make you more important than the community we are serving. I honestly think it is better to not volunteer at all, than to be such a dick about it that you’re actually making things worse. It might be my job to be accommodating and put up with bullshit from the mentors (some of whom are constantly canceling and rescheduling at the last minute, leaving me to explain to a crying kid that their mentor isn’t coming today after all), but that doesn’t make it not shitty.