We all hate lying. It’s dishonest and harmful. It sucks. But it seems like we are ok with telling ourselves lies because well, we can take it or maybe because we think the truth is too scary to face or maybe we just like messing with our own heads or heck, I’m no psychologist, I honestly don’t know why we do it.
A lot of volunteer managers, myself included have been lying to ourselves for years. And how do these lies manifest themselves? With stress, frustration, passive-aggressive behavior, shutting off, self-doubt. Lying to ourselves is destructive.
So let’s just examine some of the top volunteer manager self-lies and put them to the volunteer manager Truth o’ Meter test. The volunteer manager Truth o’ Meter is foolproof. I know this because I paid no attention when I asked it if I should announce at the volunteer luncheon that “you volunteers should go on strike and hold out until all staff tattoo ‘we couldn’t do this without our volunteers’ on their arms.” Yeah, the Truth o’ Meter was right on that one.
The top 6 lies we tell ourselves are:
- “Volunteers need my undivided attention or they will leave.”
- “When I can’t provide a volunteer, I’ve failed.”
- “If I just give it some time, problems will work themselves out.”
- “I have no business asking for resources or a raise or a promotion.”
- “I can’t make others see how important volunteering is.”
- “No one wants to hear my version of leadership.”
So let’s go over these lies and see why that little voice that whispers in our ear is destructive and wrong.
To #1,”Volunteers need my undivided attention or they will leave,” I’m thinking no. (Well, wait, when volunteer Dottie comes in and recounts her serious accident for the fifteenth time, the one that happened 10 years ago, it’s because she needs to voice her feelings and…woah, there’s that voice again..) No. Stop the voice. Volunteers are with us because they want a volunteer experience that enhances their lives. Enabling long non-productive volunteer interactions (or gabby staff for that matter, am I right?) accumulates and robs other volunteers and clients of your time. We don’t have to hear and invest in every personal story over and over. We can listen for a few moments and redirect the volunteer to their volunteering. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 89% false.
To #2, “When I can’t provide a volunteer, I’ve failed.” Ok, so sometimes we’re busy doing something else and sometimes we are in a funk or can’t remember the name of that volunteer who told us during that long conversation like the ones in #1 that he played the bongos and now staff wants to get a bongo playing volunteer. Sure, once in a while it’s actually our fault and we can own that, but it’s time to realize that not every task will be filled and that doesn’t detract from the tremendous impact made by our volunteers. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 98% false.
To #3, “If I just give it some time, problems will work themselves out.” Do we need to talk about avoidance? We can hope all we want that Clarence in accounting will stop calling volunteers “little nuisances” and will see the light or volunteer Ed will stop interrupting staff to tell multiple old elephant jokes, but we’d be wrong. Meeting challenges head-on saves us from bigger headaches down the road. Tactful mediation ensures solving challenges so that all sides can satisfactorily work towards meeting mission goals. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.5% false.
To #4, “I have no business asking for a resources or a raise or a promotion.” Hmm, have you told the CEO she doesn’t know what she’s doing lately? I thought not. Why can’t we ask for a promotion or resources or a raise? We manage a huge amount of human capital that positively impacts people, have mad engagement skills and know our organizations inside and out and have ideas that will work. Yeah, we need to keep our heads down and keep telling ourselves we’re not good enough. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.8% false.
To #5, “I can’t make others see how important volunteering is.” Ok, sure, it’s hard, no, actually it is really hard. There’s so much to engaging volunteers and how do we put that into an elevator speech or a sound bite? But our passion to see volunteers respected will lead to better ways of showing impact and as we all work towards professionalized and elevated volunteer management, it will become more clear. Hang in there for The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.9% false.
To #6, “No one wants to hear my version of leadership,” Uh huh. Yeah, why would they? We don’t inspire anyone. We don’t lead volunteers to do amazing things. Nah, who would want to hear that anyway? If your comfort zone (you know the one where fluffy pillows embroidered with “I’m just the volunteer coordinator” lay atop bean bag chairs filled with ‘keep a low profile’ nuggets and ‘no risk zone’ signs adorn the zen green walls) is holding you back, then venture out of it, one toe at a time. Speak up at a meeting, enter into discussions, offer to present some findings and showcase your style of organic leadership. You have so much to offer. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 100% false.
There you have it. The top 6 lies volunteer managers tell ourselves has been debunked.
And remember, the Volunteer Manager Truth o’ Meter never lies.
Thanks Meridian for sharing this article. It’s so true and I can relate to especially number 2 from a different angle.
As a young volunteer partnerships professional many years ago, I one day found me stopping myself in my tracks when I felt upset with myself for not being able to place volunteers. I felt bad, I felt like a failure.
But soon after, there was a revelation and a paradigm shift for me; I realised I had clean forgotten about the beneficiaries and the organization and had unknowingly taken them out of the equation. I was too focused on finding roles for volunteers and developed a false sense of personal responsibility to fill every role and/or place every volunteer; I was becoming a “job centre” for volunteers.
as a result, I might have taken up volunteer projects which had no value-add at all to the beneficiaries, organization or cause. I realised I was doing great injustice to the beneficiaries, organization, the volunteers themself and even myself as a professional.
l started to realise I’m not God and having a successful volunteer placement that value-adds require more than just me, a volunteer partnerships professional, but also realistic and clearly designed roles, ample runway for recruitment, right timing, the right volunteers responding to our call-to-action and a robust selection process that is able to identify the right volunteer for the right role.
And for number 5, I do so agree with it being a lie because it will ultimately keep us from being successful as volunteer partnerships professionals. The lie only serves to further stumble us in our roles when others just don’t understand why we do what we do and how volunteers can be a game changer for the non-profits they help. Maybe that’s also why some volunteer managers might then find themselves believing in like number 4.
As such, I have shared some observations in an article I wrote about helping to create a culture which is conducive for volunteer engagement at http://emmaus.sg/public/mindsetchangers/.
Do feel free to also share your views.
Thanks again Meridian for the insightful article.
Hi and thank you so much for your insights, I completely agree with you. You said something very profound here.. ” I might have taken up volunteer projects which had no value-add at all to the beneficiaries, organization or cause.” So true, often we try to match every volunteer and fill every task, thinking that a 100% fill rate measures success and instead, we should be focusing on volunteer projects that add value (I call them mission centric volunteer projects) and impact and concentrate our efforts there. Thanks again, pleasure to hear from you.
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