Well, it was the yearly meeting time again for the Committee to Define Volunteer Management. This year, the members decided to video conference instead of getting together in person because no one could scrape up the gas money to drive up and back. So, after three hours trying to get the program to work, they all finally called it a night and decided to email each other.
Once again, none of them could really come up with a statement of less than 3,763 words to define volunteer management, so they decided to quit arguing over whether or not attending volunteers’ birthday celebrations constituted volunteer management and instead, they tackled item number 2 on their agenda and added new words to the volunteer management dictionary. Here are the terms added this year in no particular order of relevance: (or sanity)
volsplaining: when someone who knows nothing about volunteer engagement but has a grandmother who has been volunteering for 31 years, explains that you “should go to the senior center and talk to those people. Ha, ha, they have nothing better to do.”
voltriloquist: when a staff member speaks through a volunteer by taking advantage of the volunteer’s kind nature and manipulates the volunteer’s opinions so much that volunteer Betty says to you, “my gosh, have you seen how the records department is so overloaded? I can’t imagine how they get everything done. I try to help these poor, overworked people as much as I can. It’s such a pity they can’t hire more staff. You know, I should get a bunch of volunteers together and march up to the CEO’s office and complain. ”
GVOAT: Greatest volunteer of all times-you know, you have one. And, sigh, you compare every volunteer to the gvoat. (yeah, wish they would all just be polite and earnest and have this twinkle in their eye when they speak…. oops, sorry, just thought about my gvoat for a minute)
bogovol: Buy one, get one vol. Some volunteers travel in pairs; they might join as a pair or they might find each other during orientation. They just like to have a buddy to share in their experiences. The bogovol is great when filling requests for multiple volunteers. Also know as 2fervol.
self-serve volunteering: Volunteering only to enhance a resume, pad a college application, or use the mission to further a goal. You know the ones. Their blinding white smiles and almost superhuman enthusiasm are too good to be true, but hey, you’re not one to judge so you just assume you’ve got a good one, and they arrive the morning of their first assignment, all perfect-looking and they slide a form onto your desk as they plead in their charming way, “can you just fill this out now instead of after I volunteer, it’ll save you time later and well, there’s a deadline to turn this in and I promise I will do everything I said I would do and time got away from me just a bit and besides, I know you don’t want me to miss my deadline, do you?” Then BAM! No sooner has the ink dried on your signature, they’re out the door before you’ve dropped your promo pen back into your wizard pen holder. Also know as reputation robbers. There’s an old post about this topic here.
volbot: pre-programmed robotic volunteer. Push the microphone icon, tell it what to do and blip, beep, they whir into action. Staff may not say it to your face, but, oh, they all want one. Need I say more?
sVaddling: Babying a volunteer because she is friends with your CEO, or the niece of a board member so you’re stuck and you bend the rules and keep her all wrapped up in layers of protection. You can’t tell other volunteers that the reason you’re insulating her is because she will report you to higher management if her feelings are bruised so you just give her lots of slack. You say things like, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she turns in her paperwork, maybe it’s just hard for her,” and then you call her up and try to make her understand that paperwork is mandatory but she brushes you off and so you fill out the paperwork yourself. When the CEO passes by in the hall and says, “oh, hey my friend Annabelle likes volunteering but wants to know if she can change her day to Saturday, would you be a sport and come in this Saturday, you know, to make her fee welcomed,” you just clench your teeth and nod. Also know as kid glove volunteer.
kudo-slap on the wrist: When wimping out of reprimanding a volunteer by setting a meeting and having all your policies ready and even your documented instances of the volunteer’s infraction of the rules and you’re wearing your best business suit jacket, the one you interviewed for this job in, and then Ba-boom! You’ve got the sandwich principle in your head, the one where you first compliment a person, then talk about their shortcomings, then end on a positive note, but you get started on the compliments and the volunteer is looking at you with those volunteer eyes so you go on about how wonderful they are and how you know their heart is in the right place cause gosh, they said that a new volunteer was dumb but trainable, right? You prattle on for so long while the volunteer’s face glows with the syrup of validation that you can’t bring yourself to actually reprimand them and instead, you hastily type up a commendation certificate which makes you end up in a worse place then when you started. (But the volunteer is happy as heck and proudly shows the certificate to all the other, stunned volunteers)
vacant lot of praise: The throwing out of meaningless phrases like “we love our volunteers” and “we couldn’t operate without our volunteers.” (and when you point out that volunteers would like specific appreciation, you get a vacant stare.)
egocorporate: A group of corporate vols who want to volunteer, but want you to arrange their involvement to benefit only them. Time-frame, task, juicy assignment all need to work for their day of volunteering. And so, you bend and bend and bend and then, on the day of volunteering, the 13 extra volunteers that show up because they were kind of shamed into coming, are standing around, checking social media and Ivan, a client’s family member who agreed to speak to the group about how the mission helped his family, can’t be heard over all the pockets of conversations and there’s not enough shovels to start that “garden of love” and half of the volunteers are in suits and high heels and it’s hot out and there’s not enough water so you run to your office and call a trusted volunteer who agrees to go out and get some water and then the corporate volunteers who are just standing around start leaving because they showed up, right and that’s pretty much all they agreed to and poor Ivan knows that everything he said fell on deaf ears and now you could kick yourself because you just probably lost this awesome speaker for future events and the garden is half dug and you have to clean up and now the water arrived, but everyone is gone, so your trusted volunteer is bummed and you missed your nephew’s birthday for this debacle and your brother is going to be mad, not to mention the “dirt hole of love” needs to be filled in.
Well, there you have it! The committee called and asked me to include a round-up of last year’s words and you can see those words here.
Thank you Committee to Define Volunteer Management. As usual, you did a great job! (wait, that’s a vacant lot of praise, isn’t it? I really should be more specific. Hey, committee, sorry, I meant you clearly have a talent for massacring words.)