Thursday, November 06, 2008

Volunteer like a pro this school year

I'm reading: Volunteer like a pro this school yearTweet this!

After an uninspiring morning helping assemble the school newsletter, I was inspired to repost this item from the back-to-work blog I once wrote over at So, I guess the morning was inspiring, after all.

Volunteer like a pro.
"Volunteer like a man." That's what Going Back to Work author Mary Quigley said in an interview on CNN's In The Money back in 2004. Offering advice to on-ramp moms she continued, "A man doesn't run a cookie sale. He runs the fund-raising drive to raise $10,000 for a new playground."

Volunteer like a man. Career columnists, job coaches and other back-to-work advisers have since echoed her words.


Do they also suggest doing manly things like stopping to scratch your crotch as you unload heavy boxes of frozen Market Day foods? Or leaving a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the PTA office?No, what Quigley meant and later said was, "Volunteer in areas where there are measurable results."

So let's change that to Volunteer Like A Professional.

For example, if you're a writer, or an aspiring writer, volunteer to craft press releases, write grants or help with the school paper. Take on meaty tasks that build up, and on, your professional experiences. Use your volunteer time to make contacts, develop skills, and work on projects that make an impact.

Good enough advice, but let's get real. Does heading up a $10,000 volunteer fundraising effort stand out on a resume? And if it does get noticed, will it lead an on-ramp mom to a job offer or even an interview given the bias against hiring moms?

The fact is that schools need volunteers for the "gruntwork." Usually there is much more work to do than there are volunteers to do it. Sometimes the work can be done from home, some can be done at night or on weekends, so it may be working-parent friendly, but it's not all high-profile, fun, growth-oriented, or interesting.

In fact, most of it isn't.

Professional backgrounds or aspirations shouldn't serve as an excuse to avoid lunchroom duty or cleaning up after Bingo Night.

Despite Quigley's take on this type of "women's work," I've expanded my network by rubbing elbows with other moms and dads doing these things. But instead of counting them among my "contacts," I tend to call them friends. You can really get to know a person in the time it takes to mix up 60 gallons of lemonade.

Lest I sound too self-righteous, though, I must admit that for me, the volunteer line is drawn at counting up the Campbell's Soup labels. Even contemplating serving as the label program coordinator makes me anxious and depressed. Damn it, Campbell's, I will not be your whore!

I started thinking about the concept of volunteering like a pro because I'm currently helping with our school's largest fundraiser- a silent auction. When the chairperson told me that I was an account manager for a select group of prospects, I suddenly felt so important. I no longer saw myself as an underachieving mom begging for donations. Now, I'm a hotshot account manager, cultivating relationships with qualified donors in order to increase revenues by 50%. How great will that look on my resume?

I don't care if you volunteer like a man, a 50s housewife or a chimpanzee. But please, please get involved in your child's school even if it doesn't add oomph to your resume.

Do you have a "volunteer philosophy?" Have you ever school-volunteered your way into a job?


Michelle said...

Yay for volunteering at schools! I am fortunate to have a parent volunteer in my classroom every morning. We definitely need more parents in the school helping though, even doing the piddly things.

I had to laugh at the introduction about how a man would raise so much more money than a woman. I wish we could have some professional volunteers too.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I agree! Sometimes assigning a title will give someone more motivation about volunteering instead of just helping out whenever they feel like it. Good to know!

kristina said...

I like your take: Volunteer like a professional. I know many women who would take Quigley's "man approach" to fundraising.

I agree, too: Get involved in your kid's school.

Naomi said...

This is Roo's first year at a Montessori preschool and I am already on snack detail (twice daily for 51 kids, one week a month) and holiday charity drives. It snowballs, doesn't it? I'm afraid I set the bar too high, too early and now they're gonna expect me to be overinvolved for the rest of her matriculation...

sweatpantsmom said...

I've spent YEARS volunteering like a man, like a '50's housewife, and yes like a chimpanzee - I've counted those damn Campbells soup labels!

Now, I volunteer like a modern, enlightened, Oprah generation woman, which is learning to say NO.

At least some of the time.

laughingatchaos said...

Oh cuss...I'm the Campbells'/Box Tops person for the school. LOL It's not bad, just a rough start for a new school.