In the blog series ”Volunteering is diamond”, we publish articles on volunteering by students who study volunteer leadership at the HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.  

The question posed in the title is appropriate, as ”brownie moms” and ”volunteer dads” are a part of a slowly disappearing folklore.

It would be nice to have a café at the Dance Club´s spring show. Pastries, coffee, gluten-free, lactose-free, some kind of vegetables and fruits, homemade and, and, and…

The phone of a mother who works a long day in the office fills up with WhatsApp messages from her daughter´s dance group. How many baking trays of brownies is enough? Who brings napkins and milk? Will Lissu make it to the first sale shift and does Leena have two big thermos?

A mother raises her hand and asks: how much must you pay to get rid of this rigmarole? If there isn´t enough time, is obligatory to be a volunteer?

Disapproving glances and silent murmur follow. The mother has a bad conscience, too, and she thinks whether she dares to go to the spring exhibition at all.

If there is one who doesn´t participate, does the whole volunteer operation fail?

My hobby is my child´s hobby

In a guide to volunteer management by Eliisa Alatalo (Alatalo, 2010), it´s said that a volunteer has a need to do something. For many, the activities of a club or an organization offer a possibility to do something concrete for what they consider important.

The youth manager Esa Lehikoine of FC Reipas in Lahti, agrees with Alatalo. He says that it´s easy to get a group of volunteers year after year from parents, for example to a national tournament organized by the club.

─ The hobby of one’s own child is perceived important to the parents and being involved is obvious for many. Participating in a hobby of one´s child is a hobby for many parents just like anything else, Lehikoinen says.

However, there are often also many people involved in club activities through gritted teeth.

─ Because nobody else wanted this job, we chose you, because you were not at the meeting

Yep, yep! Then one must be happy about this new task that is competing for the precious leisure time.

Motivate people – but how?

Necessarily there is no competition to be a treasurer. If the feedback for the job is also mostly negative, the motivation to continue in this volunteer activity may be negligible.

Managing volunteers has special challenges compared to the management of employees. In the book ”Sinun täytyy päästä johtoon,” Kari Loimu says that in normal business, managing is still like child´s play when comparing it to the management of volunteers.   

Maintaining motivation, assuring the know-how and taking care of coping are key factors in managing people.

As millennials – people under twenty – begin to have families, it will be interesting to see whether the current form of volunteering will change toward serving the community for a reward of some kind.

I guess that it will happen. What do you think?

Text: Taru Schroderus

The author studies at HUMAK for Bachelor of Humanities and is a volunteer at her child´s hobby.

Translation: Kati Merikoski