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I’m just going to say it: Volunteers are expected to work holidays. Every single holiday, every single time. No exceptions.

Sonia, the volunteer coordinator for a busy health care clinic was approached on December 21st last year by the CEO. “We need you to round up a few volunteers to man the front desk on Christmas day so that our receptionists can be with their families. Thanks.”
Sonia stammered, “But the volunteers want to be with their families too. I don’t know that I can find anyone. A great number of them are going out of town.” The CEO just stared at her and so she hurriedly added, “but I will do my best as always.”

Ahh, the holidays or as I like to call them, the “hol the heck in the world will I find all these volunteers days”.
I remember one year being asked to “get” volunteers to go into nursing homes on Christmas day to deliver  baskets of goodies for the staff  who were working that day.

When suggesting that volunteers could deliver the baskets on Christmas eve or another day, I got a peevish look. “We want it to be for the staff working that day and we want them to you know, remember us for thinking of them on the actual holiday.”

Oh, so you want the volunteers to spend their holidays marketing, is that it? Then, why are you paying a marketing specialist? And why are we thinking of everyone else on the holidays except our volunteers?

But back to Sonia who sighed and said, ” I do not ever remember being told to give the volunteers a day off on holidays. Rather, I was always asked to find more so that they could fill in for the droves of staff that took the holidays off. I guess I just wish that organizations would realize our volunteers are people with lives and family. I wish volunteers would be the first ones thought of when my organization considers family needs during special occasions.  And I wish that organizations would properly thank the volunteers who give up their day to help out on holidays with true recognition or a gift or something special. I know my volunteers see through the gifts I buy and pass off as being from the entire staff.”

It’s frustrating to hear organizations say they value volunteer contributions but fail to treat volunteers as real people who have lives beyond their commitment to us. And really, volunteer managers shouldn’t have to “educate” our management on that fact. Organizations’ managers should have enough people skills to realize that volunteers deserve to also be thought of when planning holiday coverage.

As management clears out for the holidays, they will turn off the lights and shut their doors. Their laptops and phones and tablets will sit on their desks through the holidays, ready to be utilized, for machines never require time off. Machines are tools without needs, made to be used without consideration.

But volunteers aren’t just tools now, or are they?