Surviving "that" conversation at holiday gatherings-a guide for volunteer managers

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courtesy https://gratisography.com/

Yup, holiday gatherings are upon us and everyone fears the inevitable politics-driven shouting between grandpa and cousin Timmy, but guess what? Those conversations are nothing burgers compared to what we, volunteer managers must endure. You know what I’m talking about.

You arrive at a party and the snarky attorney guest of a friend of a friend of a friend is introduced to you. She hears “manager of volunteers” and looks down her nose at the scuffs on your Gucci knockoff shoes that you bought at your organization’s thrift store, because, hey, you have a conscience and want to contribute some money instead of just spending it and besides, recycling is the way to go, but you just keep mum and let her rake you over with her eyes like you’re some bargain basement hobo.

So, in the spirit of defending our #lovols profession, here are some comebacks for those inevitable questions that arise when you are introduced to uppity distant cousin Prunella or your best friend’s very successful investment banker neighbor, Chase who is usually alone on holidays.

Q: “So, you’re a volunteer manager, did you say? I’m confused. Does that mean you volunteer for the job or do you actually get paid to do that?”

A: What a great question. It’s complicated. I don’t get paid in money, but I do get to pick from all the stuff that is donated to my organization. Last week I got a case of lentil soup. The cans were out of date, but that’s ok. I’ve not gotten sick from donated food yet, unless you count that time I was throwing up for a week, but I don’t think it was from that out of date cheese, and heck, I picked off all the mold, but you never know. Anyway, I’m hoping for a toaster oven this week. Mine’s like 20 years old and it only toasts on one side so you have to turn it over and run it again.

Q: “Volunteer manager, you say, what’s that? There’s no degree in that, is there, I mean, you’re basically a party planner, right?”

A: You wouldn’t think we’d need any skills, would you? Actually, I have a Bachelor of Science in cat herding, with a minor in balloon animal engineering. It’s a pretty popular degree but the work is intense. I mean I think I’m still suffering the effects of helium-osis (raise your voice’s octave to a squeak) which makes me speak in a higher than normal voice at times. Currently, I have a scholarship at Nancy’s Nonprofit University for a Master’s degree in Little Old Lady Management. I hear the internship is brutal, you know all that tea drinking and knitting and getting shanked by a wayward knitting needle while scrambling for the ball of yarn the 17 cats ran off with. There’s this one class I hear is really hard, it’s ‘The Symbolism in Grandchildren Stories, or Does Grandma Secretly Despise Her Offspring?’

Q: “You work with people who don’t get paid? That’s not really management, is it?”

A: You got me. Don’t let this get out, but when a volunteer signs up, we pretend to give them a tour of the organization and we usher them into the basement and lock them up in a room until they complete their assignment. We all take turns poking them with a stick until they do what we want. Sometimes, and this is the hilarious part, we just poke them for laughs. I have my own special stick made out of hickory. I call it “Ol’ Persuader.” And you’re correct, it’s not management at all, ha ha, it’s so much easier and more fun.

Q: “So, you work for one of those nonprofits, right? You know, they’re always bothering me for money. Don’t you people just get money from the government? Why are you people hounding me?

A: Ha, ha, awww, we can’t fool you, can we? Don’t let this get out, but we actually get millions and I mean millions from the government but since we don’t need money, we invented this game. We like to see if we can get gullible people to donate and we give a prize at the end of the year to the staff member with the most lucrative sob story campaign. And I shouldn’t be telling you this, but do you know what we do with all those extra donations? One word. Stock market. Hey, it’s almost the end of the year. I wonder if I won the award with my “Life Sucks, Give Me Cash, You Cheapskate” campaign.

Q: “Wow, managing volunteers, that must be really easy, right, I mean how hard could that be?”

A: Oh, you, you are so perceptive. It’s hands down the easiest gig I’ve ever had. I’ve got volunteers who bring me coffee in the morning and volunteers who clean the office while I just sit back and watch YouTube videos. I even have volunteers who do my laundry, can you believe that? And, don’t tell anyone but I even have a volunteer who rubs my feet in the afternoon. Yeah, crazy, isn’t it? Crazy good! I’ve been told the foot rubbing and come to think of it, the volunteer who pays my bills violates some sort of fair labor practices, but hey, they volunteered, right? They’re not protected by anything, ha ha ha ha ha!

Well, there you have it. Use these answers in good, holiday health and don’t stress about those absurd questions.

You are welcome.

-Meridian