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The Volunteer Whisperer

Ahhhh Nicknames! Those memorable, defining little monikers that people give others. Do you have one at work? If you don’t, what would you imagine yours to be?

Here’s a creepy thought. Are there mean kids in your organization? Behind their creaky passive-aggressive doors, are they hunched over their cauldrons of electronic devices, cackling cruel names as they toss the hair strands plucked from sweet volunteers into the pot? Do they call you something unnatural behind your back?  Think:

Sir Plays All Day as in “Sir Plays All Day just got his shipment of Astrobright colored copy paper. Must be nice.”

Tea Party Tess as in “Wouldn’t it be great to plan tea parties for a living like that Tea Party Tess? I mean, do volunteers even need a tea party? Volunteering in my department is reward enough.”

Fluffy McFlufferson as in “Oh, look balloons in the lobby that say thank you volunteers. Fluffy McFlufferson is at it again.”

Invisible Inez as in “This volunteer isn’t working fast enough. Who’s in charge of them anyway?”

The Geriatric Guider as in “Think I’ll come back here and volunteer when I retire. Ha, then maybe I could be the Geriatric Guider. It would be so much easier than my job.”

The Cat Shepherd as in “That event is Sunday and I have to deal with all those volunteers. Make sure the Cat Shepherd has to be there too.”

Trivial Ted as in “I’m too busy. Who can we get to move that desk? I know, Trivial Ted!”

But wait. Nicknames can give us power, almost like donning a suit of armor-think of these famous nicknames and how it must have felt to put on these names when confronting the world:

The Great One-Wayne Gretzky-arguably the greatest hockey player ever.

The Queen of Soul-Aretha Franklin-anytime you’re dubbed queen, you’ve done something remarkable.

Ol’ Blue Eyes-Frank Sinatra-the definition of cool.

Fab Four-the Beatles-simple, yet fabulous.

The Land Down Under-Australia-who wouldn’t want to visit a land with a name like that?

So, before you are handed one, choose your own nickname, one that acts as a buffer against misconceptions. Then gather your volunteers and cleverly ask them to begin to refer to you as your chosen nickname.

By cleverly, I mean, announce in the next volunteer meeting, that from now on, you will not be answering any questions on where the flipping copier is located, listening to any stories about prodigy grandchildren or clicking on any emails about dogs opening refrigerator doors from anyone who does not refer to you as:

The Goddess of Goodness

The Adorable Accomplisher

Ned Stark Raving Awesome

He Who Must Not Be Blamed

Git Er Done Gabe

Han So-lo Down Amazing

Katniss Cleverdeen

Lord of the Volunteer Things

You Can Call Me Queen B: Why? Because I Will Be Your Ruler (eh, maybe that’s too long)

Ok, perhaps we’ll never be called “The Greatest” like Mohammed Ali. Maybe they’ll just continue to call us by our given names.

Maybe. But, when the lights are low and the family is all gently snoring and I’m tucked in under my Minions comforter, that’s when I’ll turn on my little book light and refer to myself as “Fifty Shades of Great.”


Hope to see you at the National Summit On Volunteer Engagement Leadership in St. Paul next week!