Lack of volunteers hitting crisis levels

Community groups facing troubling times, so says Ponoka's reporter in this week's column.

For several years, there have been concerns expressed about people being too busy with work and their lives to commit any time or energy to the variety of the groups, activities and organizations that need the assistance to remain viable.

That concern has continued to grow around Alberta in the major urban centres as well as in the smallest of the small communities of the province though the reasons for the circumstances are as varied as the communities themselves.

In the bigger towns and cities, a lot of the problems stem from work, children’s events and other daily life creating a logjam effect, which in essence leaves more stuff to do than there is time in the day leftover without the opportunity to volunteer.

Meanwhile, in the more rural and smaller outlying communities, the trouble is more focused on people having to commute to jobs in other places or be on the road for work for days at a time, meaning they have little left each day to give to any pursuits outside their family.

That fact, along with a dwindling rural Alberta population combines to generate a vacuum in most small towns and villages where organizations like historical societies, sports associations and even business groups are operated by the same half dozen people or less.

Sure, there are some that simply can’t be bothered to participate or are afraid the volunteer work will take time away from something else they feel is more beneficial. However, for the most part in small town Alberta, the potential volunteers want to be involved, but either can’t commit to the time it’s believed to take or are not able to schedule the appropriate time necessary. Therefore, those people just decide not to bother, leaving organizations missing out on what could have been.

Now there are solutions to this issue, but both the volunteers and the organizations need to be at lot more creative and flexible in order to make things work.

First, organizations need to figure out just what they want to accomplish and lay out a plan of attack for achieving these goals.

In that way, the amount of time and people needed to get things done can be figured out plus it provides the opportunity to break the work down into smaller slices, which could allow someone with just enough time to complete a task such as typing up meeting minutes as opposed to doing the entire job of secretary.

Next, people with a vested interest or even just a willingness to be a part of something need to step up with their voice, explain what they can provide and commit to, then honour that commitment. All too often, people over-promise and under-deliver because they believe that’s what they need to do.

Lastly, maybe it’s time organizations that are similar like different sports and various arts groups get together and learn if they can consolidate operations or executives or even some aspects of their work in order to cut down on the overlap, thereby slashing the number of volunteers that are needed to keep things going.

It’s this final aspect that is often the most difficult to put into place, considering many organizations have proven to be extremely territorial of what they do or have a far too narrow of a focus to accommodate joining forces with any other groups.

In other words, the group would rather whither away and die before it would hand over alleged control to perceived outsiders.

And therein lies the oxymoron in this equation, since small rural Alberta has had for decades the perception that everyone pulled together to make things happen.

Unfortunately, perception is not reality nowadays, which is killing some very helpful, useful and integral organizations to their community.

But that is…just an observation