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One of my good friends who is a volunteer coordinator has a volunteer, Janelle that we frequently discuss. The other day we were talking about Janelle and my friend was describing Janelle’s erratic, over the top behavior. See, Janelle is a very talented artist and wants to help that organization start an arts program for disadvantaged youth. Great idea and my friend would love to see this program flourish.

So, what’s the problem? Well, Janelle is unique. My friend said that she had tried to describe Janelle to a counselor and the counselor said that if you are not clinical then you shouldn’t use clinical terms like “manic” or “delusional”.

Hmmm. So, as she was trying to non-clinically describe her frustrations with Janelle and the torrent of over the top ideas that Janelle throws at her, I said, “so, she’s nuts, right?”

Ahhh, can we say that? Well, last I checked, nuts is not a clinical term. And if you practice volunteer management, you have created your own clinic. In our clinic, there is the crazy volunteer, the insane volunteer and the volunteer whose elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.

There, I said it. Janelle is just one example of the many volunteers we deal with everyday. She is that perfect shiny apple you pick up off the fruit stand. It is a work of art. And then you turn it over and find that bruised spot that indicates some rotting inside. Do you put it back or do you just eat around that spot? You know what I’m talking about. We take volunteers in all shapes, sizes, agendas and craziness levels. How deep and troublesome is their bruised spot?

Can my friend create a successful arts program while working with a “nuttier than a fruitcake” volunteer? I have all the faith in the world in her. Why? She’s smart and she’s resourceful. She’s eaten enough fruit to know when a grape is just not worth saving. I think Janelle will be fine. Just watch out for the fruit flies, those little harbingers of fruit going unmanageably bad.

No, I’m not going to tell a volunteer that he’s flipping out of his mind. But, since I can’t diagnose them except in volunteer manager terms, I’m stuck with “wack-a-doodle” and “one fry short of a happy meal”.

I love having my own little clinic. I think I’ll call it ‘The Fruit Basket.” All fruits and fruitcakes welcome!