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kiddie pool

“Stats, reports, time management sheets, I’m sick of all of them,” Clara lamented. “None of these truly depicts my day. When I include activities for volunteer retention on my day book, the entries look so superfluous. Unless I write paragraphs as to why spending time with a volunteer is necessary to retain them, it just sounds like I’m having a coffee break all day.” Clara laughs, “sometimes I think I’m just viewed as a caffeine junkie.”

Yes, stats,  the way we justify our actions. If you, like I, have struggled with showcasing the complex work involved with attaining, training and retaining volunteers, you feel Clara’s pain. Volunteer managers everywhere keep stats on all sorts of activities-impact, volunteer retention, volunteers trained, return on investment (ROI), clients served, events staffed, recruitment efforts, etc. We include anecdotal stories, quotes, pictures and anything else to illustrate the impact of our volunteers on organizational missions and the efforts required to support that work. (Sometimes it feels like bringing a kiddie pool filled with water to describe the ocean.)

In a recurring fantasy, my Day book  is covered with glittery gold stars and smiley faces and called, “The Doing the Right Thing Day Book.” It is frayed and loved and cherished by the CEO because she believes in doing the right thing above immediate numbers and simplistic reports . Of course in this fantasy I’m also 30 years younger and I actually know how to catch a Pikachu, but I’m off topic here.

So what if we could report stats that revolved around doing the right thing, even if that meant traditional reporting occasionally fell short? How would that huggable soft leather day keeper look? (Sorry, in my fantasy, the day book is paper based, ’cause you can’t hug excel)

Here is an excerpt from Week 26 in the “Do the Right Thing” Day book:

DAY 1 at 9AM:     Trusted my instincts to spend extra time with a 5 year volunteer whose partner has just been diagnosed with cancer. I can see he needs to take some time off and I have placed him on the inactive list thus reducing the number of active volunteers. He may or may not resume volunteering, but, due to his positive experiences volunteering so far, will remain a friend to our organization forever. I will be spending some time to check in on him periodically because I truly hope he returns to volunteering, but also, because I care about him as a person.

Day 2 at 2PM:  Realized that a situation requiring a volunteer was overwhelming for just one volunteer so took the extra time (three days) to find and enlist the right two volunteers who could support one another while dealing with a very difficult and challenging assignment. Did not meet goal of finding a volunteer in 24 hours, but instead, created a workable solution that avoided one of our excellent volunteers becoming embroiled in a difficult situation, thus retaining two good volunteers for the future and ensuring our client received excellent care.

Day 3 at 11AM: Temporarily removed a marketing volunteer from staffing events because of recent health challenges. Although volunteer insists that he is physically able to carry boxes, his wife informed me that his doctor has prescribed no lifting or standing for three months. As a result, I reduced the number of available marketing volunteers but salvaged this volunteer’s future potential and eliminated the substantial risk for a workman’s comp situation should this volunteer injure himself while under his doctor’s orders. More importantly, we sent a message to all volunteers that their health and well-being is important to us and we view them as valuable assets. 

Day 4 at 3:15pm: Spent 45 minutes with a prospective volunteer who admittedly can’t volunteer until sometime next year. This prospective volunteer’s father was helped by our organization and she is interested in giving back, although current commitments are preventing her from taking training. I have set reminders in my calendar for scheduled contact with her throughout the year as I perceived her as an excellent future volunteer. Rushing her at this time will only increase her overload of responsibilities and will cause her to quickly quit. As a result, no new volunteer stat has increased but time spent will pay off in future because this potential volunteer also belongs to several key civic groups that I have been recruiting.

Day 5 at 6pmAttended funeral of long-term volunteer who retired due to health reasons more than two years ago. No stat will be affected, but please folks, this is the right thing to do.

When you think about it, this fantasy Day Book is really a book about trust-trust that volunteer managers everywhere know how to spend their time wisely. VM’s know what to do and how to do it in order to ensure a volunteer program built on excellence, not just for the present, but for the future as well.

If Executive Directors and CEO’s would just trust their volunteer managers to do the right thing, then stats will fluctuate at times, but will also naturally increase due to the good and hard work put into a volunteer program.

It’s a huggable fantasy, isn’t it?