I’m so glad you posted here! I responded to you on Reddit, and so I know you have already read this, but I’m going to post it here too, for others to read. And I really hope other people here on TechSoup will offer their own advice on your situation:
“so I am afraid I cannot approach her again about like “do you actually want me to do this work” or “when will you let me do more work”.”
First off, thank you for your service. Secondly, I wish I could say that your experience is rare and unique, but it’s not. It’s the case so so often: a staff member gets told to find a volunteer to do some database project or transcription project or some other internally-needed thing, and they aren’t all that bought into the idea but they do it, and the volunteer does a great job, but feels like “Does anyone care that I’m doing this?”, and the manager is distant, uncommunicative and not as supportive and helpful as they should be.
I think it’s time for you to approach her again. IT’S HER JOB. Have a meeting - don’t do this via email. Ask for a time and date of a meeting, and then say, “so, I’m feeling like this work I’m doing doesn’t really matter, and this database I have created is not even gonna be used. I’m treating this work very seriously, but I’m not feeling like it really matters. I really, really want to do this project and I want to do a good job - it’s important to me to do a good job for you, to do something you will value. I was really hesitant to come to you with this, because I know you are very busy, but I think it’s time for us to revisit this project and make sure what I’m doing is what you want and I’m not wasting my time.”
And if she gets mad, or you get the feeling she’s frustrated, you get to leave. You do. And you get to chalk this up to a learning experience. And you still get to put it on your resume and when you get asked about it, you get to talk about how you learned about how important it is, when upper management creates a need for a consultant or a volunteer or even a full time staff person, they need to make sure middle management has bought into the idea and will support it.