I’m a volunteer! I can do
what I want. Yes and No. It is all a matter of your level of seriousness
and public perception. It also depends on your role within the ARES organization.
For those who are “coordinators and
leaders,” you are in the spotlight. What you say and do is just as important
as what you don’t say or do. If you chose to accept an appointment as a
leader of a volunteer organization you best be serious. You are confronted
with real world, and amateur radio world expectations.
In the real world, you are a coordinator
of an entire organization that will have relationships with government
agencies that exist in a professional environment and have to contend with
legal responsibilities to protect and serve the citizens of a particular
They understand the home and family
pressures experienced by volunteers, however they don’t sympathize for
broken promises. Remember that they have incorporated amateur radio communications
into their emergency plans. This is no place to “pie in the sky salesmanship.”
Be realistic, and tell the truth. If you can provide 100 people to help
during a disaster, that is wonderful! If you can provide 2, tell them.
Don’t assume that people will “come out of the woodwork,” to help when
there is a major disaster affecting the community – hams included. You
cannot count on that, and neither can the government agencies. Remember,
they are counting on you to be realistic for their response planning purposes.
Another pitfall of being a coordinator
is “not being around.” A volunteer you are, and your home/job/family is
the most important thing. However, you can’t accept responsibility and
not be assessable to government agencies and the membership of your organization.
If your life has changed, and you don’t have the time/resources to lead;
pass the torch. There is no shame in that and doing so is far more honorable
than not doing your job as well as you think it should be done. It is a
sign that you care because you want to see things accomplished with the
energy of someone who has time.
“I’m a volunteer, and I will run
things how I want,” does not work. You are not a supervisor at someone’s
place of employment. One hundred percent of your “power” comes from your
ability to be an effective team member that others will follow you due
to your ability to navigate the overall landscape. If you are not “a part
of the team,” listening to input, and acting upon changes in the environment
in an effective fashion you will look behind you to find only your shadow.
Wow! That is a lot of responsibility.
Yes, it is. Volunteer organizations are very dynamic, and are wonderful
because of the energy poured into them by people who care. As a leader
of volunteers, you can go to the Moon, or you can sink faster than the
Titanic. Whether you have 2 or 200 members, honest, committed effort results
in the most satisfying experience you can have. “You made a difference.”
ARES members also have dangers in
participating within the organization. Like a coordinator, you are a volunteer
who must place their home/family first. However, if you make commitments,
fulfill them. Be honest with yourself about your ability to contribute.
Do not take on the responsibility for a facility, agency or task if you
cannot realistically fulfill them. Like a coordinator, if your life’s situation
changes and you cannot do the task as well as you think it should be done,
pass the torch.
Another danger of volunteers is being
complacent with the status quo. “John Doe is the EC, he needs to ask me
to do it.” Manure is available at most home and garden stores for reasonable
prices. If you see a need, do something. Failure to try to help the situation
is like failure to vote; you don’t have the right to complain. Don’t sit
back and quarterback when you have not expended effort as a team member
to help other ARES members and coordinators fulfill the fix the problem.
Otherwise, you will lose the respect of others. Being a team member is
the key. Don’t go it alone, work with other members to accomplish the needs
and goals of the group.
Consistent, honest effort and a common
sense approach is the rule for all ARES coordinators and members. Be realistic
about your capabilities, limitations and willingness to “get out of your
recliner.” Failure to do so will result in lack of effectiveness of the
organization, can result in unnecessary stress, and may create situations
can lead to personal feelings between volunteers.
Wow! That is responsibility too!
Yes, it is. Serving the community is not a matter of “I am a volunteer,
and I can do what I want.” It is a matter of “I am a member of a team,
and other people count on me to help create a serious organization.”
Source: Kentucky Amateur Radio Web
Pat Spencer, KD4PWL