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Author: slowlythere Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 3078  
Subject: Frustration with grassroot orgs Date: 12/31/2006 9:55 AM
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Recently I started to get involved and volunteer with a fledgling (few months old) crisis intervention organization. It's hard to describe them, but they are like a very loose, emergency shelter, transition facility for what is roughly put high-risk clients that have slipped through the usual cracks (including most who are mentally ill, or need therapy, psychiatric medications, or other, though mostly functioning). There are a number of local organizations similar to this, but this is one of the newer ones and I like the one-on-one feel with most of the other volunteer staff and clients here.

I picked this one mostly because it's less bureacratic than some of the other ones I've been considering. I had gone to a couple of others for information about volunteering, but decided on this one. The good thing about it is that they appreciate any and all help as they are clearly understaffed and struggling plus very open to whatever volunteers are capable of doing.

Now, the bad news. They are utterly disorganized, chaotic, and often don't know what anybody else is doing. Despite all good intentions, I find them very frustrating to deal with. There is no real accountability at all in more ways than one and it's rather disturbing as well as irritating in some ways. Granted, they are stressed out because it is the end of the year, but I'm hoping it will get better in even two weeks with the new year. Even then, I'm starting to have some fears/concerns that they may not be operating as legally or ethically as I think they really should. This is not to say there's any criminal intent here, just that there's so much gross incompetence that they may end up putting clients at risk in some (small?) ways, or they may jeopardize their very recent 501(c)3 status and finances.

Since my skills here are mostly (but not solely) administrative, a major area I'm involved with are donations. They haven't even *started* any files for donors and they could - literally - loose a piece of (scrap) paper and lose track of what $ came from who(whom). In fact, I am supposed to start this donor database for them, but they don't even have all the paperwork in legible and accessible form (scattered between different long-term volunteer staff who are bickering).

As much as I believe in this organization, I'm afraid they are not much more than a bandaid with no way of really helping the clients here to transition to any other facility, or independent living. They have no real programs or clear agenda about how/why they expect clients to "make it" from here.

Separate from this, clearly there are also some huge egos and power dynamics between the full-time members of the volunteer staff: It doesn't bode well to me. (I strongly suspect one of the full-timers has a mental disorder that deals with adjustment issues, but that's just speculation.) I want to help somewhat more, but an issue is not to step on toes, or offend. In total, I think the full-time (long-term) volunteer staff (who run the organization) really comes down to three people. One virtually lives there 24/7 himself and the others are there, or around, constantly doing things every spare moment possible when they aren't there physically. There's about another four who try to take care of things from home, or their jobs, though they come back almost daily. Three of these various have been ill (to the point of hospitalization) in the past month, possibly due to stress as well as general health issues.

I'm debating, after this initial transitional new year start (this current time frame and for another month is critical for them), leaving this small organization. I'm only technically part-time, but they've valued my assistance thus far. Of course, they are grateful to all the new volunteers so I'm not unique. For myself, I think it's possible to step out as I have mostly projects that I are finite and can be handed over to others fairly easily.

Anyone here can share their experiences with volunteering for organizations like this?
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