Vice President for Volunteerism
I have served as an elected officer of the club for almost four years. I also have several “day jobs” with the club. I am looking forward to the challenge offered by serving as the Vice President for Volunteerism. (More about my experience is at the end of this statement.)
Anstr Davidson on the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail
Elected PATC officers are like the groom at a wedding—required, but not why anyone comes. The goal of the club is to continue its 93-year commitment to the welfare of the trails in our region. Everything needs to work toward that goal. The club’s bureaucracy is a necessary tool, not an end. Bureaucracy done well, is a good thing, but only if it serves the mission. I say this because I care about good management, correct process, and improving things. But those are just means to an end.
My overall goal as a vice president will be to improve the management of the club so that volunteers will be better recruited and assigned as well as being more productive and happier. A better managed club will also give all members more of what they came for—volunteering, enjoying the outdoors, and supporting the club financially.
The Role of the Vice President for Volunteerism
The Vice President for Volunteerism contributes to the club’s mission in the three important areas:
- Volunteers: Enhancing the recruitment, assignment, and recognition of volunteers;
- Coordination: Facilitating the smooth interaction of the important functions of Membership, Communications, Marketing, and Outreach; and
- Headquarters: Coordinating volunteers who work at headquarters. Those volunteers support the paid staff and leverage their work.
The vice president is a supporter in two ways—helping the president execute his agenda and assisting the supervisors of Membership, Marketing, Communications, and Outreach in coordinating their seemingly overlapping functions.
- Improve the recruitment and assignment of volunteers;
- Recognize and support volunteers;
- Promote a consistent, coordinated presentation of the club to its members and the public;
- Reestablish a mission for headquarters volunteers; and
- Oversee the management of headquarters volunteers to support the newly articulated mission.
- Reorganize headquarters volunteers. Headquarters will never be the same after COVID-19. We need to start fresh as we reopen. Work at headquarters will be more intense and important. The volunteers that support several functions at headquarters—cabins, sales, archives, membership--should be coordinated. The vice president is the person who has the authority to get this done.
There are current volunteers and committee chairs who need to be part of this reorganization and should participate in the process.
- Coordinate the officers who support the members: Be sure that the Membership, Communications, Marketing, and Outreach officers are working well together.
- Create a process to help people find a volunteer position. That process should give interested people information about jobs—their location, difficulty, needed skills, and frequency. Additionally, those who offer to help must receive follow up.
- Better recognize volunteers. There should be a status of “active volunteer”—those who perform work, and report it, regularly. There should be clear criteria for attaining this level and, if attained, the volunteer should receive recognition and special consideration.
Anstr Davidson and wife, Brenda, in the Shenandoah National Park
If each of the 12 members of ExCom has a vote on everything, each vice president certainly does. Here are some important issues and my views on them.
- Structural Reform of Management: I join many others who believe that the club’s management should be reformed. The current ExCom made incremental change toward that goal. I believe that more profound change would be good and that we could develop a consensus for that. But consensus is key. Change not supported by consensus is worse than no change at all.
- Chapters and Trail Crews: It may be rewarding to be in the PATC, but it’s not much fun—unless you are part of a chapter, work crew, or similar group that gets out and meets. Chapters do the club right. We should encourage members to form new chapters and support the chapters we have. The club’s central management has more to learn from the chapters and crews than the other way around.
- Headquarters Volunteers: Working at headquarters can be very rewarding. It’s the job I enjoy most. But headquarters volunteers have not been well trained or managed. They have fared particularly badly in the pandemic. In March, we were sent home and we haven’t heard from the club since. These important volunteers need someone to speak for them. They need a new mission. This issue will be one of my top priorities as vice president.
- It’s the 21st Century: Modern organizations can run more efficiently if they use modern technology. Technology is no panacea, and we must accommodate those who can’t or won’t use it. But we can’t ignore the efficiencies that are out there, and we shouldn’t punish those who want to use technology. I voted against the current election process because it requires members to use the U.S. mail to vote and precludes any online options. (And it cost much more money than a hybrid online system, i.e. with U.S. mail optional but not required.) I will continue to propose processes that make it easier for members to deal with the club.
- Does the club need reform? This is an important question in club management. Are there things that should change, or should we generally keep the status quo? There is a strong view that the club is not broken and does not need to be fixed.
I do not believe that the club has serious problems. Any change should be careful and recognize that the club’s history and traditions are important. There are, however, several ways we should seek to make the club better.
- Treatment of Volunteers: I do not believe that PATC volunteers are generally mistreated. I do believe that they are not always well managed, but there is a big difference between mistreatment and mismanagement. I will not be on a crusade against “evil.” I do hope, however, to improve the system so that more people—both leaders and workers—feel honored and satisfied in their jobs.
- Member Input: One of the goals I failed to accomplish as Supervisor of Communications was to establish a forum for members to communicate with club management and among each other. We did improve Facebook, but it is not that forum. Others can share a bit of the blame for my failure. Few other officers believed this was important. Several believed that members don’t want or need a forum for this kind of discourse. I hope my successor will do better with this than I.
In the meantime, I recommend that members with comments or questions e-mail club officers. Go to the bottom of any PATC webpage and look for “Contact Us.” That link will lead you to the names and e-mail addresses of the officers. Reach out to someone, or, better, more than one person. Just one e-mail, especially if it is constructive and civil, will be listened to and likely have an impact. Two or three e-mails will have great power. On the other hand, no e-mails support the view that “no one cares about that.” The perception that “no one cares about that” is a huge impediment to change and improvement.
I particularly hope you will reach out to me. I need your view. It is much more powerful for me to say, “Members want…” than it is to say, “I want…”
I first joined the club in 2006, although I had previously worked with Wil Kohlbrenner in the Massanuttens. After joining, I worked on the cabin desk, maintained a section of the Bull Run-Occoquan trail and another on the Potomac Heritage trail, and later became manager of the North Massanutten trail district. I still have all these jobs. On two occasions, totaling four months, I served as the cabin coordinator. I drafted the introductory section of the current cabin book. I am a retired federal employee.
I am a third generation Californian but have lived in Arlington since 1982. I was first on a PATC-maintained trail when I ran on the AT from route 522 south in 1983. Since then, I have run or hiked most of the trails in our area and have visited all but one PATC cabin.