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Team in Training and The Alumni Problem

Team in Training Alumni- The Problems of Mentors & Alumni
How can an organization treat it's Volunteer Support staff poorly and expect to grow a program? That is the question that remains unanswered by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's top management in White Plains, NY. After volunteering as Support Staff (Mentor) for 10 months straight, I have been blacklisted from the organization by Upper Management. Why you might ask...I voiced my opinion on volunteer treatment and on how management in the Chapter I was involved in do a substandard job of growing the program.

After my local Chapter(Greater Los Angeles) did not hear the concerns of a group of Mentors, I went to a higher level to try and seek help. What I have learned is that no one cares about the issue of Mentor treatment, all the way up to the CEO. Although other Mentors across the country are disenchanted with the way the program is going, no one is hearing them and most are afraid to speak up. Their only solution was to get rid of me and then this little problem would go away. When I left a great many Mentors left with me, all disenchanted with the treatment they received by Greater Los Angeles Chapter.

Once you finish the program as a participant, they don't have a need for you if you are not fundraising or a current Mentor. There is nothing in place to keep the a connection to those who have participated in an event. If you are taking time off, you cannot join your team for practice or workout with them (they claim because of liability issues-it is as easy as signing a form). This is how they reward those who have given so much of their time (not to mention money). As a participant you are treated like royalty, and as a Mentor you are treated like a slave. If you are a non fundraising Mentor, that translates into inconsequential person. If you wish to go to an event with your participants, you get nothing from the Society. You pay your own hotel (you cannot stay with the team at a discounted price), you pay your own airfare and race entry with no discounts offered. Then you have to purchase tickets for Pasta and Victory parties, which will run your around $80 for both!! If you need transportation to and from the start and finish line, then you need to buy your own transportation, another $25-$30 per person. Never mind that you just gave 5 months of your time-there are no DISCOUNTS or BREAKS if you are NOT fundraising. It got so petty that they refused a 50 cent emergency shoe tag to a non-fundraising Mentor. Do the math LLS-you lose 60+ people that will never come back to fundraise, and you worry about a 50 cent shoe tag? What that says is that you don't care that someone gave of their time, if they drop on the course, it's NOT your problem!!

This organization cannot retain volunteers or past participants (known as Alumni), because they have no plan in place to do that. What they call their "best practices" is a cookie cutter method in which the Chapters run their Team in Training program. The problem here is that it does not work, and you cannot do the same thing in Los Angeles that you are doing in Jackson, Mississippi. Two different areas with different demographics. Would I recommend becoming a Mentor in this program-NO!! It will be nothing like your experience as a participant and you will be disenchanted and feel unappreciated.

While they have blacklisted me, they have not silenced me.

I believe in the cause and the mission, I do not believe the people running this organization know what they are doing or how to handle volunteers.

This is evident in hiring Marathon Coaches with little or no experience to Coach. Westside Marathon Team specifically has two Walk Coaches-one that was never a Mentor and did one event, and the other that Mentored once and has done two events. So walkers will be asked to fundraise yet they get substandard Coaching from people who have little or no experience!! This is due to the fact that so many people left that they have no core of experienced people to choose from.

Reliable Info: Professional fundraiser says TNT Staff from the Chapter level to National are all inept!! This comes from someone close to the person who gave me this info. Said person did not want to donate to my friends fundraising back in 2004 because she was with TNT and the person says they are "the worst".

Losses of Greater Los Angeles Staff since April 2005:
Campaign Directers-2
Campaign Managers & Coordinators-over 10

Staff turnover in this Chapter is high. Both Campaign Directers were gone in less than a year. The second only lasted 9 months! What is the factor that is causing the Staff losses? One woman!!!

Nike Women's Marathon Update: There were 11,980 finishers in this years race. Last year there were 12,566. Apparently LLS (TNT) speculated they would have a much larger group than in 2005, and reserved too many spaces. At the end of September, LLS was selling these spaces off on and one did NOT have to fundraise-it was not through TNT.

Speaking with a woman from Seattle on Monday after the race, she told me she had done an event with TNT her first race, but opted to go it alone for Nike 2006. She was asked to be a Mentor because her team had "lots of Mentors leaving because TNT asks too much and gives too little-it is like a second job". So the problem is not just within GLA Chapter.

Update April 2007: It is amazing that the Westside Team continues give their participants people who's experience is very limited. The current Summer 2007 Team has two Assistant Coaches that have done one and two marathons. What makes them qualified to be an Assistant Coach with so few events under their belt? Their ignorace to give people without proper training this type of position, is a recipe for injury prone seasons. It use to be that you had to work your way up the ranks, and put the time in. Desparate to get warm bodies, they have even emailed Alumni to come back and help them recruit in an effort to get some experienced people back.