Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

The fruits of my summer volunteer labors - a really roomy & sturdy tote bag! Photo (c) 2013 H. Comstock

The fruits of my summer volunteer labors – a really roomy & sturdy tote bag! Photo (c) 2013 H. Comstock

The summer is winding to a close and my blog has taken a back seat to more exciting ventures during the warm Maryland months. As the academic year begins, I like to reflect on my summer and what I gained from my adventures. What did I do and learn on my summer vacation?

I volunteered. A lot. It wasn’t really planned and I can’t really articulate why. I just went with opportunities that landed in my lap. It ran the gamut from watering plants to an intense week of teaching outside in the August heat at Cub Scout Day Camp. Looking back, I enjoyed everything I did because it wasn’t on my radar and because I wasn’t a decision-maker in the process. I showed up and did what was needed, admired my completed task, and went about my day. Sometimes time-limited, low responsibility (even if they are hard labor) tasks are what individuals are most comfortable with contributing.

I spent some time letting go of volunteer tasks that were no longer my responsibility. I transitioned roles with one organization which involved taking a huge step back and taking on things that are actually more suited to my interests. That said, I had to stop obsessing about the other tasks I used to do and who would take them over and would they be done to my standard. To continue to poke my nose into those things would be disrespectful to those coming behind me that bring their own talents to the role. It can be difficult to leave or transition tasks within an organization, but you have let the next person do it his/her own way to keep organizations vital and growing.

I watched other leadership styles and pondered how my own could be improved. One of the most interesting things about being involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is the opportunity to see the different ways Moms and Guys approach doing things. We Moms are the Chief Plate Spinners. We want to know who is in charge (to make sure its not us), when things are happening, who is supposed to do what, etc. Mostly we do this because we’re juggling transportation schedules, dinner, and various practices. Guys are a lot more, “eh, we’ll show up and just do what needs to be done.” And then it gets done. There is a lot to be said for both approaches and I am trying to find more balance. It is a lot less stressful to not try to plan every detail of an event but at the same time respect that the Moms like me want to figure out how to get dinner and bedtimes worked in around activities. Respect the balance between planning and having faith that what needs to happen will be accomplished.

I am always on the lookout for good ideas and best practices that I can adapt to my groups.  As for my summer of volunteering, I have been refreshed and my commitment to other things better defined and renewed. How about you? Did you volunteer or do anything interesting this summer? What did you learn or gain from the experience? Do you borrow ideas and experiences from one group for other organizations?

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