It has been about two years since Lisa and I first joined forces and ran our school’s annual car raffle. Last year I wrote a cautionary tale about our experience, and we think it is worth a reposting now. I am here to tell you a full year later that much of it still rings true.
What is Volunteeritis?
Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
• Always saying yes, even when you want to say no.
• Taking on too many projects at once.
• Neglecting your children under the guise of… “Aren’t I so great for doing all of this FOR you and your school/club/association/project?”
Back to school! Are we all settling in yet? Have the hours your child is in the classroom become the greatest part of your day? [Yes! -Lisa] Do you suddenly find yourself with some free time, and in the middle of it, realize you actually *gasp* miss your kids? If the answer to any or all of the above questions is yes, then you are the perfect audience for this column! [I *knew* it! -Lisa]
Prescription for Volunteeritis:
Take a nap and call me in the morning!
I have a feeling that you, like me, will soon find yourself at one or two upcoming Parents’ Nights, a scattering of PTA meetings, or a few Back-to-School events where you will be conveniently placed at some point in front of a table loaded with various sheets labeled “Parent Volunteer Requests.” Or if you are lucky, your school will have embraced technology and be using Volunteer Spot.
Some of these requests will be simple like, “Who can bring plastic-ware for the fall class party?” Some will be a little more involved like, “Who will be the class photographer for the holiday party?” And then there will be a few seemingly harmless requests in there that will *appear* doable (because this is how they will be presented to you) when in actuality they could wind up sucking the life out of you and additionally could have your husband and children considering whether or not you are really of vital importance to the family. [Don’t worry, you are. Dance leotards don’t wash themselves. -Lisa]
I am here today to offer a cautionary tale to help you steer clear of “volunteering” your life away, or at the very least, to let you know that you are not alone if you are already entrenched in one of these “doable” parent volunteering tasks.
I happen to be, despite how it might seem thus far, a fan of volunteering. One could say I am a bit of an eager beaver, a hard worker, or a go-getter, a personality trait that anyone running any type of project seems to be able to smell from a mile away. I am the perfect candidate for school-related tasks, because I am an involved mom who takes pride in my children’s schools and genuinely wants to be helpful. [aka– a sucker! -Lisa] I started slowly – when I got involved from day one at Emma’s school, it was under the heading “Bring Plastic-ware to Holiday Party” that I’d sign my name, but little by little, the projects I “agreed to” began to increase in size and scope, until last year I found myself co-chairing our school’s annual car raffle with Lisa.
It was sold to both of us as a project that would take place mostly the following spring and as long as we were organized and prepared, it would pretty much run itself. Famous last words, right? [Yep. “This project runs itself” is the volunteer equivalent of “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” -Lisa] Strangely enough, we found ourselves at a car raffle meeting before school was even out … you know, like a solid nine months before we had been told we would have any work to do. You could say that was our fault, because we were eager to get some information ahead of the curve so we could be organized and prepared.
But here is the thing that we were not prepared for at all, not even a little bit: This little car raffle, the raffle that was supposed to run on auto-pilot? It did not even have an auto-pilot button, nor, it turned out, a working engine. Due to an unforeseen complication early on, we pretty much had to start at zero and revamp the entire process so that the raffle could actually raise money for the school. So no longer was this going to be only a spring project, but more likely one that required a fair amount of work in the fall, as well. No problem, though, because we stupidly kept thinking that the more organized we were, the more stuff we did early, the less there would be to do at the end.
Yeah … ummm, no.
It should be noted at this point that I am what some might consider a little on the, how do you say it gently, competitive side. So, when we took on this challenge, I pretty much told Lisa that I would do it with her, but ONLY if we agreed from the beginning that we would run the most successful car raffle the school had ever seen. She was all, “Yeah, I am sure it will be good, we can definitely make it a success,” but didn’t seem to get my level of intensity. [A few games of Scattergories later, I had a bit of an idea. -Lisa]
By the end, she definitely wished she had listened a little more carefully that day. So, our little car raffle, that was only going to require work in the spring, started the prior May (albeit briefly), got a little more involved by October (you know, the season called fall) and by January (yes, that would be WINTER) literally had us working on some aspect of it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
We gave up our Spring Break completely to stuff envelopes, print labels, and put together packets. [Thank you, corner booth at Panera Bread, for being our official Car Raffle headquarters. -Lisa] To our credit, we managed to throw an amazing kick-off pep rally for the raffle sales, which earned us plenty of kudos from the students and the staff, and honestly when you have worked that hard on something, it is quite personally gratifying to be told that you did a great job.
The closest we will ever come to being Oprah on her “Favorite Things” show was telling a gym full of school kids that by selling tickets they could win a gift certificate to Ben & Jerry’s! [The kids were actually even more excited than the Oprah audience below! Free Ben & Jerry’s definitely leads to hysteria the elementary school set! -Lisa]
We then spent every single day of the following three weeks counting tickets, spending way too much of our own money at Starbucks [Our happiest place on earth -Lisa], passing out prizes, counting money, and checking and doubling checking spreadsheets … until the final week, which honestly culminated in so many tickets being turned in at once that we counted from 8:30am until 3:30pm, and then resumed from 8pm until 2am, only to begin again the next morning.
But in the end, we did it.
We did accomplish arguably the most successful car raffle in school history. We started and we finished. We had some fantastic help along the way, but really mostly, we had each other, and I cannot imagine having done it with anyone else. [Me either, friend! -Lisa]
Lisa and I both vowed it would be years before we would volunteer again. But much like “the mommy amnesia” that allows you to forget the trials of pregnancy and life with a newborn thus allowing you to have another baby, here we are two years later back on the volunteer scene. We both have a bi-weekly gig in the front office, we have both signed up for numerous party duties in the classroom, AND Lisa has even agreed to be a class parent for Lucy’s class. But we are out of the car raffle business. Permanently.