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volunteer badge

Volunteer manager Lilly looked up to see the CEO standing in her doorway. “I’m trying to remember our volunteer, Gladys Williams, can you tell me about her?”

“Oh,” Lilly said, “Gladys was a wonderful volunteer who did office work in finance. She volunteered there for about 12 years, even before I got here. I attended her funeral last month.”

“I think I remember her. Small lady, white hair?”

“Ahhh, yes,” Lilly said thinking that description fit any number of office volunteers and added, “she always wore a purple ribbon in memory of her husband.”

“I think so. Well, we were just told that she left us $25,000 in her estate. I thought you should know.” The CEO paused for a moment. ” Now I’ll have to let finance know too.”

I read an article recently about the generous surprise gift  bequeathed to a Detroit museum from the estate of a 19 year volunteer. While the incredibly benevolent support of her organization speaks volumes, the tone of the article made me wonder how this volunteer would have been remembered (beyond the staff that obviously cared about her) had she not given such a sizable donation. And exactly how much does a volunteer have to give before the fundraising arm of our charities becomes giddy?

We all know our volunteers regularly donate money and goods, which seems to now be a trendy topic among the fund-raising gurus who gleefully point to these stories as if they’ve discovered a whole new vein of gold. But again, how much do volunteers have to give in order to be smiled at and afforded that extra bit of silky attention normally reserved for the donor crowd? Is it $1,000, $10,000, $24,999 or more? Will $50,000 pressure upper management into inviting a volunteer to an exclusive luncheon?   Will $27,856 make the organization really, sincerely interested in the wonderful work that volunteer is doing?

So, I’ve hatched a plan in the basement laboratory of my brain. I think all volunteer managers should include an estate planned giving form with our volunteer applications. We should coerce our volunteers into committing to an amount they will bequeath after they die. Then, that amount should be printed in bold type on their badge. On a really valuable volunteer, it will look something like this:

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That way, at a glance, everyone in the organization can see the worth of that volunteer. Now granted, those, like volunteer Mary above, who are not giving very much may be relegated to the nameless rabble heap, but hey, at least some of our volunteers will achieve recognition.

And so, when volunteer Imani holds the hand of that distraught client and gently dries flowing tears while staying that extra two hours until family members arrive, her pledged gift of $14,000 might just get some notice.
After all, it’s all about the money, er work, isn’t it?