By Sandy Compton, FSPW Program Coordinator
Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Whatever group she was referring to, it is my guess that most of them were volunteers.
For nearly five years, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness was an entirely volunteer-driven organization, and, to the credit of those worthy folks, FSPW grew and prospered. Through the efforts of the few, many became Friends and our message spread. We have Friends all across North America and even on other continents, thanks to that “small group of thoughtful people” who have done it for love of wild country.
In Fall, 2009, three part-time staff members came on line; Phil Hough became executive director, Charlie Clough was hired as Lincoln County Coordinator and I came to work as program director.
A natural outcome of this is that many of the things volunteers were doing have fallen now to the paid staff, and maybe just in time. One of the biggest problems volunteer-driven organizations suffer from is volunteer “burnout.” This is understandable, but it is also somewhat overwhelming. One, or even three, people can’t do all that was being done by volunteers, especially when we used to be part of the volunteers. The learning curve is tremendous.
However, I am learning, and it’s apparent to me that volunteers are as essential to our mission now as they were before staff was added. By adding staff, it was and is the hope of the Board to expand our efforts and move the group further toward our ultimate goal: wilderness designation for the incredibly rugged and beautiful 88,000 acres of roadless area we call the Scotchman Peaks.
So, let’s do a little voluntary math. We have about 300 people on our Friends list who have indicated interest in volunteering. If each of them — of you — were to volunteer FSPW merely 1 hour per week on average, that would be 15,600 hours of work for the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness: 390 work weeks! That equals nearly 15 years of half-time staff work — in one year!
Two benefits of volunteering — essentially time-tithing — are an increased sense of self-worth and the satisfaction of helping a favorite mission moved toward accomplishment. That’s just part of what you, as a volunteer, receive for sharing your time. There is also a shared sense of community and accomplishment, a chance to meet like-minded people and, perhaps best of all, opportunities to make friends who will be yours for a lifetime. That is, in the parlance, the “get.”
Not a bad deal for an hour a week.
I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to be a paid employee of a not-for-profit group. I’ve found out that it’s great! Getting paid to work for what I love is such a blessing, it’s hard to articulate my gratitude. All I can do is say thanks, keep working and try not to feel too guilty for getting paid to have fun.
And what is my job, besides blogs like this? Part of our job as staff, working with the Board, is to determine how and where to present our message and coordinate with volunteers to get the job done. In the parlance, that means that the initial “ask” is up to staff. As the FSPW program coordinator, it’s up to me to do a lot of the asking. So, I’m asking . . .
We have events galore coming soon that we need volunteers for. The short list is as follows:
June 19: A FSPW/Forest Service cooperative work day on the Scotchman Peak Trail. We want to field 15 workers to help with this all-day event, and already have half a dozen signed up. Any increment of 2 hours, from a short stint to all day, will be greatly appreciated. Contact email@example.com
June 25: Needed are 4 or 5 volunteers for 2-hour stints each at a table at the big garage sale event in Thompson Falls. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
July 3 and 4: Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will march as a group in Sandpoint, Clark Fork, Troy, Noxon and Heron parades. This is a great opportunity to wear your Scotchman Peaks t-shirt, have some fun and see the Fourth from the inside out. The first three Friends to volunteer to march in any of these parades gets a famous $5 t-shirt. We need help coordinating and recruiting parade groups, and creative ideas about how to present ourselves in a new way. Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
July 10: We need 10 volunteers for a combination hike and workday in cooperation with the USFS on the Star Peak trail. Contact email@example.com
July 24-25: A combination overnighter and trail work weekend in cooperation with the USFS on the Pillick Ridge Trail. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
August 13-15: A table/booth at the Trout Creek Huckleberry Festival. We will need several 2-4 hour shifts covered for this event. Contact email@example.com
August 24-29: Bonner County Fair. Many hands make light work, and we want to see each day “adopted” by a lead volunteer who will line up other Friends to be in the booth for two to four hours. The set-up day (August 24) and tear-down day (August 29) are already adopted. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The list above are not the only things we need help with. There are events to table at, hikes to lead, letters to write and more. Whatever talent or amount of time you can lend, there is place for your help with the Friends.
So, pick something from the list above or dream up something else you would like to do for the Friends and send me an e-mail at email@example.com
And, thanks very much for all you already do, volunteers. I appreciate you very much. As for feeling guilty for getting paid to do what I love, my antidote is to work a couple hours “off the clock” each week for the Friends. I like the benefits of volunteering, too.