For anyone who has ever run an organization, event or historic site that relies heavily on volunteers, you understand their importance. To anyone who has volunteered for anything, you understand how much work you do for nothing other than the reward of helping others.
There are times, however, when a situation arises that volunteers are treated as free labor. They are talked down to as if they should be the ones honored to be working where they are. They are the ones who are given the guilt trip of if they do not volunteer they are somehow doing something wrong and should feel horrible about themselves. This is not right on any level.
I cannot speak from experiences with organizations nor special events – I have always had a wonderful time when volunteering for either and have been treated wonderfully (and by that I don’t mean volunteers should expect showers of praise and thanks but simply to be part of the team and working together).
Most volunteers do not volunteer with the idea of getting anything in return at all. Those few that do will not last long. However, to any and all historic sites out there, remember that there is no obligation for anyone to stay at any site as a volunteer. If you are a historic site odds are there are at least forty other sites those volunteers can go share their time, leaving you behind. No site is more important or more significant than any other. No site can survive without the sacrifice of its volunteers. Under no circumstance should volunteers be treated as free labor. Volunteers are people. A simple guilt trip can destroy; a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way.
It is very important for sites, whatever they are, to remember to treat ALL volunteers with respect and dignity. Volunteers are giving of themselves and their valuable time, they do not need to do this, they do it because they want to and believe in something. It is in no way, shape or form an obligation to volunteer at any site or for anything. To ALL people who run historic sites, volunteers will only support you and give you their time if they, in return, are treated as equals and with respect.
Remember, not only do historic sites rely on volunteers but so do the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and yes, even the military. So thank a volunteer.
**All views and opinions are from my own experiences. © 2011 Traci Law