Corporate volunteers can be a burden for nonprofits

Cartoon Volunteers

The next time you’re inclined to pat yourself on the back for your company’s volunteer work — the murals painted, the community gardens planted, the vacant lots cleaned — think of Kathleen Walsh. She’s the chief operating officer at the YMCA of Metro North, which manages more than 1,000 volunteers a year at its seven facilities, and she sometimes breathes a huge sigh of relief when those do-gooders go home.

“Oftentimes a van shows up, a bunch of people get out with no real understanding of our cause, and they come with the assumption they’re getting a day in the sun or out of the office,” said Walsh, recalling volunteers who have arrived in flip-flops to do debris removal and without sunscreen or bug spray for outdoor work in late spring. The arrival of such volunteers often triggers a coin flip no one wants to lose.

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