this is the introduction of a project.
In the southwest of U.S.
- Take the perspective that you are a consultant to the organization and they have hired you to help with their problem. Do not repeat the text of the case. Set assumptions. For example, when did this happen? Yesterday? Last year? Describe the environment relative to the time, place, and industry involved. Introduce the work that will be accomplished to provide a full plan.
Mark, the Volunteer
Mark is an employee of a small community drugstore and has volunteered for different assignments with nonprofit agencies. One of the assignments he thinks that he will enjoy the most is working as a member of the core committee which organizes and runs the yearly community festival for the neighborhood.Because of his experience with community events, Mark has been placed in charge of logistics coordination, planning, security, and public safety.While this appears to be an extensive workload, Mark has a great deal of previous experience and understands the tasks that need to be completed. Because the planning for the festival started a year in advance, he knows that as the festival grows closer there will be additional volunteers to assist him, so he will not be individually responsible for each one of these areas; for now, the workload is sufficient for one person.
The Community Festival
The community festival is a nonprofit organization that has a tax exempt status as well as a history of over 20 years.The organization and the event are run by a board of directors and a small, permanent staff composed of no more than five employees at any given time.The goal of the festival is to promote local arts and crafts and to support local artists by providing a venue through which they can sell their work, advertise their work, and develop and expand their customer base.Because the festival has been held for many years, it is well-known in the area and typically attracts supporters of the arts and owners of small and independent art galleries as well as boutique and specialty stores owners who are in search of unique forms of art for clientele. As a result, the festival has established a reputation as a well-known venue for local art.
One of the unique aspects of this festival is that it has enjoyed growth and continuity within the community even though the community itself was part of a much larger metropolitan area in the southwestern
The Community Festival Organization
The nonprofit agency that was charged with running the community festival was made up of a Board of Directors consisting of 10 appointed positions, including three to five permanent staff members, one of whom is the supervisor.The supervisor works at many of the same jobs as the staff members to support the agency. The supervisor believes that everyone who works at the agency shares her love of the arts and uses a laissez-faire management style with the other staff members.The supervisor believes everyone hired at the non-profit understands the need to support the organization, and employees should not need specific instructions to do so; this is the general opinion also held by the Board.Because the permanent staff is so small, formal training for the supervisor and staff is not conducted, primarily because of the lack of funds for training. All funds are used for the festival and the programs, and the prevailing attitude is that employees can learn from each other. Although the nonprofit agency has a mission to support local artists, the Board of Directors sees no need to take the time to develop specifics such as rules of conduct, expected behaviors, or guidelines.The supervisor follows this example, because she believes that it is important to use their time for the festival and the programs instead of the permanent staff, especially because the staff can be managed one-on-one if training needs are identified. The primary support for the agency initially came from individual donators and, later on, more grants which supported the annual event and the ongoing educational programs.The Board of Directors itself consists primarily of those who support the arts and the community. Some are serving as political appointees and none of the members has any experience in running a business.Volunteers have noted in the past how there are inconsistencies in the decisions coming from the Board of Directors, depending on personal interests and sometimes as favors for friends.
Volunteers and Staffing
Staffing is always a challenge for supervisor and the Board of Directors.Many who have the interest and the inclination to volunteer hold full-time jobs, and many of those jobs were outside of the community in the larger metropolitan area; therefore, they have little time to donate because of the time it takes to commute back and forth from their jobs. Nonetheless, there are always some volunteers available, but there is turnover from year to year depending on how much time individuals could contribute, whether or not they have taken a full-time job in another location, or whether they still remain in the community.
In the past, a member of the Board of Directors has acknowledged that staffing is a concern, because those who are truly interested are not available, and sometimes, when seeking volunteers, the organization has to “settle” for whoever shows up. One of the primary concerns is that some of the volunteers and the permanent staff have exhibited more interest in being “in charge” than actually supporting the community festival. When individuals are more worried about who is in charge rather than what needs to be done, there has been an issue about what priorities could actually be accomplished and whether those were personal priorities or festival priorities.Nevertheless, volunteers are still needed, so all volunteers are accepted.Some volunteers have known each other for several years, because they have worked together through the festival organization, but there was always enough turnover to provide the need for new volunteers every year.
Some volunteers have speculated openly over the last few years on the reasons why volunteers leave. The general consensus among the volunteers is that personality conflicts or authority conflicts with other volunteers, and even other staff members, drove people away. On some occasions staff members were also aware of political appointees by the Board of Directors.These appointees were perceived by the general staff and volunteers to be “untouchable” and their behavior beyond reproach.Poor interpersonal experiences and ineffective conversations between volunteers and staff members suggest that staff members are frequently ineffective in their interactions with volunteers. Such incidents, when they occur, are shared widely and quickly among the volunteers through the organizational grapevine, a highly effective communication method for relaying personal dissatisfaction and personal events with the permanent staff and other volunteers.One example of a personal experience is a conversation where a permanent staff member told a volunteer “if you don’t like the way I do things….then you can just leave. We can always get more volunteers”.A witness to that conversation indicates that the permanent staff member has this same attitude with other volunteers and has repeated the same comment or similar comments to other individuals in the organization on various occasions.Permanent staff members have also developed a tendency to blame volunteers if something does not go as planned or if something unplanned occurs in a manner that causes problems.Volunteers have the perception that they are the ‘scapegoats’ for the staff and, by default, for the Board of Directors. This has precipitated a perception that staff members hold themselves in higher esteem and at a different level than the volunteers. Volunteers have become very sensitive to this and discuss it frequently.
Local artists who have regularly participated in the festival provide anecdotal support about similar interactions with permanent staff. One of the artists indicates that he feels as if he is an “intruder” when trying to obtain information about dates and events for the upcoming festival. Others report a similar lack of responsiveness; more specifically, phone calls are not returned while other artists note a ‘rude’ tone of voice and curt treatment by staff members.A number of the artists who have participated in the past have now elected not to apply for a vendor position for the upcoming festival.The loss of local artists has also contributed to the community festival need to focus on nationally known talent to generate revenues and interest that have been forfeited through the loss of local artists.
Implementing the Community Festival
About six months before the community festival was scheduled, the Board of Directors proceeded with the normal activities required to facilitate the festival. Some of these activities included activating an 800 phone number to facilitate ticket ordering, publishing the brochure for the festival, and proceeding with efforts to advertise both inside the community and outside the community about the upcoming festival.The Board approved the brochures before they were printed and distributed, reviewed all information for accuracy and correctness, and then proceeded with the brochure printing.
The Brochure Incident
One day, Mark is at work in the drugstore where he serves as an assistant manager when the first call comes through to order tickets for the festival. Mark is quite surprised, because the drugstore has nothing to do with the festival. Mark advises the caller that this is the wrong number if the caller wishes to purchase tickets.That same day, many more calls come in with requests to purchase tickets for the festival.Mark is puzzled by the number of phone calls, because he is certain that the phone number is incorrect.He can think of no reason why people are calling the 800 number of the drugstore and asking for festival tickets.He checks with a member of the Board of Directors the following day and discovers that the 800 number to order tickets that is printed in the festival brochure is actually the 800 number of his drugstore.The phone calls have been very disruptive to business in the drugstore.
After numerous complaints and pleas from the drugstore manager to adjust the 800-number, the Board of Directors discuss the problem and decide that the best interests of the festival are served taking over the 800 phone number at the drugstore and using it for the festival.This is completely unacceptable for the drugstore, because it has used this 800 number for many years. The 800 number is integral to the identity of the drugstore within the community. The drugstore refuses to give the number to the community festival agency, and the calls continue. Finally, the festival Board of Directors request a correction be printed in the brochure, and the correction to the 800-number is made on the front of the brochure. None of the corrections are made inside the brochure where the 800-number is listed multiple times.The Board of Directors considers the “brochure incident” resolved. The calls still continue at the drugstore.
Several days later Mark calls in to check on the days he is scheduled to work in the coming week.At that time he is informed by one of the drugstore employees that he has been removed from the schedule, and the rumors are that the store manager blames Mark for the phone number problem as well as the lost business that resulted from the phone lines being tied up by calls seeking tickets to the community festival.Mark is fired because the store manager blames him as being ultimately responsible for the incorrect phone number, the misdirected phone calls, and the resulting loss of business.
In an effort to “clear the air” and prove that he is not responsible, Mark approaches a member of the Board of Directors of the festival organization and explains that he lost his job over the misprinted phone number in the community festival brochure. The Director with whom he speaks apologizes for the problems and advises Mark to blame the store. The Director suggests that he, perhaps, consider filing a lawsuit against the store, because this is not an issue of the community festival organization or of the Board of Directors but, instead, between Mark and the drugstore.The Director also offers to write a letter of recommendation to Mark if he needs this to find another job.However, when Mark needs a letter of recommendation and approaches the Director several weeks later, the Director refuses to provide the letter. Mark is frustrated, because he believes he is not being treated fairly. He now writes a letter to the entire Board of Directors and explains what has happened and asks for an investigation.He never receives a response or any acknowledgment from the Board of Directors about his request for an investigation or about the letter addressed to the Board.