volunteerplaintalk

Top 6 Volunteer Manager Lies We Tell Ourselves

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:

  1. “Volunteers need my undivided attention or they will leave.”
  2. “When I can’t provide a volunteer, I’ve failed.”
  3. “If I just give it some time, problems will work themselves out.”
  4. “I have no business asking for resources or a raise or a promotion.”
  5. “I can’t make others see how important volunteering is.”
  6. “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.

-Meridian