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Patricia Jakubowksi: Why make it so hard to be a volunteer?

Recently, the media reported on the tragedies in Boston and Texas and the importance of first responders and the assistance they provided to the victims. Also mentioned was the presence of an internationally known disaster relief organization. Its motto is that it is a “volunteer-led organization that helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

I, too, was taught throughout my life to volunteer to help when people are in need. I was raised with this philosophy. Years ago, when a family member died from a heart attack, the family was devastated because we did not know what to do.

I did not want anyone else to have to go through this. The experience led me to choose my career as a registered nurse. I also volunteered and took training to become a cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor for this disaster relief organization. I have been a volunteer CPR instructor for more than 20 years.

So I was surprised to receive an email notice that if I wanted to continue teaching CPR as a licensed training provider (LTP) with the organization, I would have to submit a business plan.

A business plan for a volunteer? I thought it was a mistake, so I contacted the account executive. I was told that if I wanted to continue as a volunteer LTP CPR instructor, I would need to submit a business plan.

I also needed to include the following information in this business plan: start-up considerations, accounting and financing, cash flow planning, e-commerce plans, e-commerce budgeting, a market plan, advertising and promotion plans, a plan for competition in the market, who my target audience would be, my annual teaching goals, pricing and the number of students I would teach.

I was required to teach 10 classes with 10 students in each class or I could not continue as a volunteer LTP CPR instructor. The program manager also contacted me and stated in his email that he was asking these questions about my business plan “to have a successful and sustainable training provider.”

I thought that was what I had been accomplishing for the past 20-plus years as a volunteer.

My brain could not reconcile e-commerce plans, e-commerce budgeting, a market plan, advertising and promotion plans with the word “volunteer.”

As a volunteer, I did not charge for my services as a trainer, and I borrowed the training materials and the manikins for the participants so they would not be discouraged by the cost. I wanted to try to reach as many people as I could to equip them with the knowledge to save lives.

I have taught classes for friends, organizations such as the Boy Scouts, and people in the community to give them the ability and empowerment to respond in an emergency.

I did submit a business plan and adjusted it several times as per the organization’s directions, but I was informed that I would not be renewed as a volunteer LTP CPR instructor.

I am a volunteer – or so I thought. I do have enthusiasm and the willingness to help out my community. Unfortunately, the next time someone suffers a heart attack, I may have to walk on by because I do not have a business plan.