Dear Snarky – I Have Sucky Parent Volunteers

b3445ada24dc77cea3f196438e89b2d0Dear Snarky,

I’ve been the chairperson of the Winter Carnival at my kids’ school for going on five years. Every year I get less and less help from the other parents. I have 20 people on my committee. Out of that 20 only about 6 are doing any real work and most of the time I have to look over their shoulder to make sure they’re doing their job right.

I’ll admit that I’m a little OCD and have a way I want things done, but that’s just because I want the Carnival to be amazing.

I’m so frustrated by the lack of help I want to scream. Do you have any wisdom for me?

Signed, Exhausted fundraiser

Dear Exhausted,

Time for some tough love. Maybe, just maybe the problem isn’t the other parents and it’s you. I have found that nothing kills the volunteer spirit faster than a chairperson constantly second-guessing you and redoing work you’ve already done. It’s okay to want things “just right” but there’s fine line between being just a tad OCD and entering the witch zone. To be a successful chairperson of anything means you’re going have to be fluent in sweet talking and a little bit of butt kissing.

Also, I have a rule that nobody should chair an event for more than two years – three years max. You need new blood. A new chairperson brings different people and fresh ideas. Perhaps after five years your crew of mom friends are just tuckered out.

I suggest you put on your best happy face, fake it if you have too, and attempt to recruit some new talent and then back off and let them do their job.

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4 thoughts on “Dear Snarky – I Have Sucky Parent Volunteers

  1. AthenaC says:

    This could be 100% spot-on, or it could be that phenomenon where people notice that even when they slack off, everything “just gets done somehow” which leads to progressively ever more slacking off among more people.

    Either way, if the letter-writer is having a hard time being effective, it’s time for a change in management style. Delegating (and then backing off) is great, when you can trust the people you delegated to. This can be a more pronounced issue with a volunteer corp (as opposed to an employee group) because your recourse against slacking volunteers is much more limited.

    If that doesn’t work, it may be time to step down. If, for whatever reason, people aren’t responding to you and the committee isn’t effective this year, let someone else do it. Maybe they will just click with the team better, maybe they will trade sexual favors for better team performance – who knows? Or maybe they will have the exact same issues that you did and then the train wreck will be on them.

    Despite my doom-and-gloom, I really am hoping for the best for you – good luck with everything!

  2. Former Chairperson says:

    Right on Snarky. On the opposite end of that are the people who can’t make a decision for themselves. I freely admit that I can be a control freak. Several years ago I chaired a fundraising indoor yard sale. On set up day I couldn’t get my stuff done because I was getting bugged to death about where to put the “merchandise”. I so bad wanted to say, we’re setting up a freaking yard sale people not a new retail store. Then there was the overly “helpful” volunteer who offered deals to customers as they were looking. Sometimes you just gotta grin and bare it. Never did that again.

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