Volunteer Appreciation

Updated on March 06, 2008
M.E. asks from Deerfield, IL
9 answers

I have been volunteering at my daughter's public school for the past 4 years. Last year I over-committed and tried to correct it this year by significantly reducing my commitments. I currently run the school's book fair which happens twice a year. I have started delegating to other parents but I still spend close to 40 hours of volunteer time per fair. The problem is I don't feel very appreciated and wonder why I bother expending so much time to this endeavor. Our school has no volunteer appreciation event and the amount of "appreciation" I got from the principal is a "it looks nice". Is my school unusual in the lack of appreciation expressed? Should the fact that I'm doing something nice for the school be enough for me to feel as if what I'm doing is useful? The irony is that I worked in fundraising as my career (at a private school) and we were always mindful of expressing support for our volunteers. I always thought we went overboard but now I see how truly valuable the efforts of those volunteers were.

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answers from Salinas on

You don't have to do anything that you don't want to. It's up to you whether or not your give the school any time.

Having said that, I do think that your work is very valuable. Not only do you raise money for the school, but you also communicate to your daughter that she is important, that education is important, that books are valuable and that helping is a good thing. These are all lessons that can best be taught by actions, not by words.

If you chose to continue volunteering, you must resign yourself to the fact that appreciation is not going to be forthcoming. You can respond to this by building in little appreciative things for yourself during that time (allowing yourself to order dinner out one night, arranging for coffeee with a special friend after the fair, etc.) or by instituting an appreciation event at your school (yeah, I know: more work). After all, you are probably not the only person to feel ignored you have the added burden of donating a professional skill that used to be a source of income for you!

You are in control here. You can chose how you spend your time -- and how you feel about that time.

Remember your decisions on (1) how you invest your time and (2) how you FEEL about that choice are being communicated to your daughters. If you chose to continue running the book fair, try to do it cheerfully and willingly.

PS I've done a lot of volunteer coordination. I've learned that volunteers work primarily for three reasons: (1) public acknowledgement (2) gifts and/or plaques and (3) internal motivation. As a volunteer coordinator, it is important to reward each volunteer in all three ways to be sure that you hit the right one. It could be that your principal is the kind of person who is satisfied with the internal feeling he/she gets from volunteering and doesn't understand the importance of meeting the other two needs. You might need to educate him/her on this -- it could help with all kinds of volunteer recruiting.

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answers from Fresno on

Hi Michele,

Good for you for doing your part, but in my experience the better you are at getting results, the more they give you to do. Almost like you're being penalized for being good and having good intentions. Your position is not unusual and that is so unfortunate. We had one tea at the end of the year for our volunteers (of which I am one) and I had to plan it and set it up!! Hang in there, and remember that your kids are getting the benefit of your big, and hard working heart. I appreciate what you do for our kids!!

V. T.

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answers from San Francisco on

You could think of your volunteer work for the good of your children and maybe all the children of the school. Sounds like one of your love languages is Words of Affirmation. Is it possible you're not getting appreciation at home? Anyway, your doing good for your community even if it isn't recognized. Keep up the good work. Here is a book you might enjoy:
The Five Languages of Love by Gary D. Chapman

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answers from San Francisco on

Our school does have a volunteer tea, done by the teachers, at the end of the year. This is so that everyone can be thanked for their efforts. This is not really enough, but it is a fun little event.

Second, I want to thank you for running the book fair at your daughter's school. You probably know that there are many parents who have never taken their child to a book store and many children would not have books at home if it weren't for you. As a mom who spend 40+ hours twice a year for the book fair, I have decided that I do it for the children. There are too many children that do not have parents like you or I that care enough to ensure that they have stuff to read or that they even learn to love reading. So, thank you for giving those children a chance.


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answers from Sacramento on

Talk to the principal. Or Vice-Principal. If they don't get it, point out it's free labor for goods and services. If they still don't get it, stop volunteering and volunteer somewhere you'll be appreciated. Being shown appreciation does not have to cost anything. A simple thank you, or a note at the end of an event should suffice. Unless you are looking for something else; in which case I'm not sure why you'd volunteer. I know it's hard and it's your child's school, but you sound like you've got great fundraising skills that would be a shame to waste. Use those skills to fundraise for appreciation for you and the other volunteers. Good luck and I wish you a Merry Christmas. Also, I am very thankful for all the wonderful people that help out at my child's classroom and his school.

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answers from Bakersfield on

I help at my children's school too! I understand and I have to say that is why I have started helping more with being in charge of the PTO. My goal is to make sure that all the parents know that they are needed and Wanted. Some teachers don't know how to say thank you. This year has been different and I hope better and next year I hope will be so much better. We are working on saying thank you! Next year I am the PTO president and I am nervous but excited too. I found that it starts with me. I can't expect others to do it because they are in a rut too. May to Force be with you! And remember that it starts with you! One thing that I do from time to time is Cook a meal for my children's teachers. They take it home and bake it for their family. They love a home cooked meal and you are nourishing them and they are nourishing your children.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi, like you, I over volunteer and have cut back. I guess I just volunteer for different reasons than you. I do it for my kids, to better their experience, to be a part of their school world, for the school and for me. I get great satisfaction out of helping. I also get to know the staff, parents, kids- all in contact with my children. Invaluable to me.

I don't want an appreciation event, I really prefer not to be overly recognized. It becomes embarrassing to be repeatedly thanked for all that I do. I don't help to be recognized. Yet, parents, teachers, etc... say thank you and that's plenty for me. Maybe you could address the PTA of your school if you aren't getting a simple thank you. But if you are, then I would suggest you consider why you are volunteering.

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answers from Redding on

Like other posters you need to be doing this for yourself and your child.
I have volunteered at my daughter's school for 6 yrs now and I have been involved in my daughter's girl scout troop for just as long.
I truly believe I make a difference in my daughter's life and also all the children I come in contact with and that is my reward/thanks.
However, I can say I can see where you are coming from. You just need to know that you are appreciated even though it is not said. You make a difference every moment you spend.

At my daughter's previous elementary school the principal did a volunteer appreciation breakfast. It wasn't much but it was appreciated. Sometimes, he even had to pay for the breakfast out of his own pocket. So, budget may be part of it. However, a simple thank you or great job, pat on the back is appreciated.
I know that if I was feeling this way I would be able to approach the principal.

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answers from San Francisco on

The knowledge that you are doing something to support your child's school should be enough. What are your motives? We all do things in life that we are not recognized for. Look inside yourself and say good job! School employees are very overworked and underpaid. We are not given appreciation. We appreciate ourselves!

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