This year, the “Committee to Define Volunteer Management” met a week late because they had forgotten to set up a meeting room and so they got together one night at Big Al’s truck stop off Route 37. Feeling like they should come prepared for once, each committee member conducted an impromptu survey of all the volunteer managers they knew in an attempt to write a statement that “encapsulates the essence of volunteer management” (Their words, not mine).
Most of the volunteer managers on their list had either become real estate agents, yoga instructors or fugitives. One former director of volunteers went to live in the woods as witnessed by her angry father who pleaded on the phone call, “What have you people done to her?”
There was one volunteer manager still at his job and he reluctantly gave his statement on the essence of volunteer management, but sadly it can’t be published in family-friendly company.
And, after several hours downing “the trucker’s special,” the committee threw away their stream-of-consciousness statement because when reading it back, even they couldn’t understand it, but they did chuckle at all the references to pack mules.
As usual, the committee deferred to their second item on the agenda, which was adding new words to the volunteer management dictionary. In no particular semblance of order or reality, here are the words they included this year:
Volisms: Those cute words or phrases used to describe volunteers in overly sweet terms like “volunteers give from their hearts,” or “that extra layer of caring,” as in, “While I appreciate the sugar rush and future cavities from all your volisms, let me tell you about the meaningful contributions our volunteers are making to our programs.”
Re-snacking: All the left-over snacks from board meetings, senior management birthday parties and donor functions that are given to the volunteer manager to share at the volunteer orientation class as in, “Thank you so much for the half-eaten cake I’ll just cut off the sides, form it into a heart and cover it with sprinkles. I can trim the brown spots off the fruit and maybe scrape the tuna salad from the finger sandwiches to make a pate’. Always appreciate re-snacking and besides, the volunteers never complain, they’re just mindless little extra layers of caring!”
N.A.R.vol: That unicorn type volunteer who comes No Assembly Required as in, “While I appreciate your belief that any warm body will do and our volunteers just magically know all our policies because somehow when they apply to be a volunteer, poof! All the training and knowledge they need just flies into their heads and all I do is just stand back and marvel at the miracle before me! However, I won’t send in a volunteer who has not been properly vetted and trained. Just as we thoroughly screen and train staff, we must thoughtfully develop our volunteers to succeed so I’m sorry, the N.A.R.vol doesn’t exist.”
Studget: The volunteer department budget stuck in a no-increase mode although requests for volunteer help has risen as in, “I know we need to add more volunteers and I have amazing ideas for furthering our mission. In order to do so, I need to increase our budget to provide more training and resources. So yeah, maybe next year we will have the funds necessary, because this year I’m working from our studget. For now, I’ll just do more re-snacking. Do you know whose leftover sandwich that is in the fridge? I’ve got a volunteer meeting this afternoon.”
Volunteptionist: When the volunteer manager is expected to always fill in for office staff when they are at lunch or on holiday because what else does the volunteer manager do besides chat and have tea parties, duh, as in “Sigh, sure I’ll stay here and monitor the phones but I’ll have to cancel the training at the University which means we won’t be getting help from those amazing students who are passionate about our cause. And by the way, why didn’t you ask me for a highly qualified volunteer to fill in? We have them, you know. Our volunteers not only give from the heart, they give from the brain too! No, you think it’s better that I be the volunteptionist than actually do my job. And, sure, I’ll clean up after the senior management lunch meeting. Yes, I know there’s leftover potato salad.”
Open-world requests: Requests for volunteers in which the requesting person thinks they can roam freely like Steve in Minecraft, killing zombies and randomly changing the number of requested volunteers, the objectives, the time-frames or any other aspect at will. They think the volunteer department is a sandbox as in, “So if I’m hearing you correctly, you now need 5 more volunteers and they must be there tomorrow 2 hours earlier, right? Oh, I know you think our volunteers are endless tools like diamond swords or blocks of oak and we just pick the ones we need in creative mode, but I can’t promise you all these changes. Believe it or not, our volunteers are human beings and are not in never-ending supply so we can’t do open-world requests. This is the real world and we’re in survival mode.”
Exploiteers: Volunteers who are celebrated, not for their volunteering, but for their potential donations or for whom they know as in, “Yes, volunteer Sal’s brother is that famous movie star. Did you know that Sal was the one who braved the storm when staff was at home so those families could get the supplies they needed? If Sal wants to ask his brother to endorse us, I’m sure he will do so on his time. And, what? What are you asking? How much money did Sal’s brother make from his last movie? Please, let’s not turn Sal into an exploiteer.”
The 364: The rest of the year, you know, those days when volunteers are not given an appreciation luncheon. Also known as the 51 if volunteers are celebrated for a week. It points to the chasm between lip service appreciation (cake and balloons at a lovely 3 star hotel banquet room) and year-round appreciation (whole organizational buy-in everyday) as in, “Yes, last years’ leftover donor lanyards might make a nice table gift for our volunteer luncheon, but you know what says we appreciate volunteers so much more? Our volunteers want to know they have made meaningful contributions to our organization. So, save your leftover ‘Fund Development is Fun, 2018’ lanyards and let’s work on the 364. Allow me to set up a true year-round appreciation program, because the encouragement we show all year is what keeps volunteers coming back. Then, our once a year luncheon is the culmination of our year-round volunteer engagement. And oh, by the way, we need to talk about the studget.”
Well, there you have it, the new words added to the Volunteer Management Dictionary for 2019. The committee has asked that any questions or complaints be filed in the circular file.
For previous years’ words see:
or, for all of the words, the new Volunteer Management Dictionary page.
Thanks to the Committee to Define Volunteer Management for all their hard work in once again not being able to define volunteer management.
But, appreciate the new words.