Nigel's notes

Random thoughts on the world of kink

We’re volunteers, not the help

BLUFcommunity / September 4, 2016 /

As most of the people reading this will know, I run BLUF, and I spend a huge amount of time on it – probably a couple of hours a day most days, and when there’s a new feature being rolled out on the site, or an update to one of our apps, that can easily extend to several hours a day, for a couple of weeks at a time.

Around the world, BLUF and other clubs rely tremendously on volunteers. These are the people who sort out your memberships, and post your newsletters, and talk to bars, and arrange events, and try to make people feel welcome, and all the many, many other things that make the non-commercial side of the leather community what it is.

None of us begrudge doing this. After all, if I did, I could just retire and hand BLUF over to a successor. However, I do think it’s important that people realise that the time spent on the leather scene by volunteers isn’t just the hours they’re visible in front of you at an event.

Why am I bringing this up? Because over recent months, I’ve had a surprising number of conversations with people from different groups and organisations who have all expressed – often unprompted – similar feelings to my own. And that is that, sometimes, when we go to the events we’ve put time and effort into, we don’t enjoy them as much as we used to, because we end up feeling more like staff than like part of the community we’re trying to serve.

Perhaps that’s an inevitable side-effect of the fact that there are lots of commercial events where the people looking after you are staff. Or maybe it’s because I’ve not had a real holiday for three years. Whatever the root cause, it’s one reason why, for example, I didn’t march in the leather group at London Pride this year. I was there last year, holding a banner, and organising people to assemble, but I didn’t feel part of it any more.

People who volunteer accept that, to a degree, when they go to events it can be a bit of a busman’s holiday. I know that at Folsom Europe, I’ll be chatting to plenty of people and answering their questions about BLUF. That goes with the territory.

However, there are times when, even as volunteers, we do want to soak up the atmosphere around us, and feel part of something. We don’t necessarily want to be asked right now why there was a problem with the cloakroom at an event last month, or why it takes so long for something to be done. So if someone asks you to talk about it later, respect that.

Of course constructive criticism is welcome – and even more welcome is people who want to become involved themselves. Most clubs would love to do more things that their members like – but it takes time and effort. If you don’t like what’s being done, why not offer to help? If you think an event should happen in a certain place, offer to talk to the venue and see if you can arrange it. If you believe someone’s made a wrong decision, explain calmly, instead of calling them names.

Volunteers are precious, and the lifeblood of many, many leather organisations. They’re also people just like you. They aren’t a punching bag, and they aren’t on duty all the time. So please don’t treat them like the help. If you do they may well start to walk away.

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