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Uncertainty sucks big time, but guess what? We, volunteer managers deal in uncertainty all the time. Think about it. Everyday we wonder…

  • Will anyone who attends my speech at the local Classic Car Collector’s Guild on Saturday actually sign up to volunteer? Will one or two attendees fall asleep in the back and snore so loudly I have to shout over the noise?
  • Can I trust that Magda in event planning will communicate the revised meet-up spot to the volunteers and not forget again? Will I get a frantic call from a volunteer asking where he should be while I’m at my son’s violin recital and then I get shame-shushed by snarky Heather who always sits behind me?
  • Will volunteer Trevor stop bringing his herbal supplements to clients’ homes or do I have to have another conversation with him? Will he ever stop trying to sell his energy pills to everyone? (huh, maybe that’s why I’m so jittery...)
  • Will I come in to work this morning and find a volunteer has once again written a letter to the editor of the local paper, calling out the lack of volunteer department budget? (after I’ve patiently explained that going to the press ensures WE WILL NEVER GET THE MONEY NOW!)
  • Will the A/V equipment break in the middle of my presentation to the chamber of commerce and then I’m stuck drawing a graph on volunteer impact from memory on a chalkboard? (and I hastily draw a graph that resembles male body parts
  • Will I have to carpool volunteers to the luncheon because finance did not pay for the bus and driver I reserved? (and we arrive late because volunteers have to stop to use the restroom along the way)
  • Will the printing company get this year’s appreciation theme correct and not print 400 balloons saying, “Volunteers have no heart.”

We, volunteer managers routinely operate in an uncertain world so we’re already positioned to navigate these times.  But wait. Not everything is uncertain so let’s look at what we do know.

  • People want to help: If anything tell us that volunteerism is alive and well, this pandemic proves it. From neighbors helping neighbors to social media groups that mobilize participants to 750,000 people signing up in the UK for the NHS, people are still volunteering. The spirit of volunteering is alive. 
  • We know there will be an end: There’s always an end. Sure, there will be a new normal with new challenges so this is the time to start strategically planning for the new normal in a way that benefits you, your volunteers, and your volunteer initiative. How do you envision yourself coming out of this? Better equipped to speak up and mold your volunteer program for this new normal? 
  • Change is an opportunity. No one is more adaptable than a volunteer manager. We can come out of this with the adaptations that fit the modern volunteer. Change can be an opportunity, so let’s make it work for us.

  • Priorities rise to the top: What does that look like for you? Communicating with volunteers, serving clients or revamping archaic systems? Challenging circumstances have a way of exposing flaws and outdated methods while highlighting the greatness of the things working well. Now is the time to sort through and document what is working, what is not working and why, so that moving forward, you have supporting information that will back-up your plans moving forward. 

  • We are in this together. Yep, we are, because we, volunteer managers have a common purpose. Let’s take this time to find each other, band together and further our goals. Volunteer organizations are forced to stream their volunteer award events. These are the events we can all support by virtually attending or commenting on in a show of solidarity. 

We are no strangers to uncertainty and the same strength, courage and resolve we employ everyday will see us through these times. We will come out of this stronger, more resilient and more determined to see volunteerism and our volunteers elevated. 

We will come out of this more connected to one another, more supportive of one another, and more able to speak as unified voices. One thing we can do to create a swell of united support is to stream more. Let’s use this time to record, stream, and create videos showing volunteer impact so we can build an audience that sees the work firsthand. Let’s not relegate volunteer awards to a nice lunch at a moderately priced hotel, seen only by attendees. Let’s share volunteer value and impact with the world. Let’s go big and take our message to everyone. 

Because our message is crucial.

Of this, we are certain.