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Happy IVMDAY 2021! November 5th is International Volunteer Managers Appreciation Day. The theme this year is “What is Excellence? Pushing Us Beyond the Ordinary.

What a great question! What is volunteer manager excellence anyway, and more importantly, who gets to define it? Volunteers? Staff? Community? Your neighbor?

Whose excellence are we seeking?

Would I, a volunteer manager tell a neurosurgeon (I can’t even spell it, I had to use spell checker) what defines their excellence? Would I dare tell a poet their sonnet lacks emotion or a fireman their gear is improper? Not unless I want to be a fool.

What is an expert, anyway? According to Dictionary.com, an expert is: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority, Woah, wait a minute. Authority?

Authority: the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.

The Power to Determine

You know where this is going, so I’ll be brief. As experts, we have the power to determine. What we need is the confidence and conviction to wield that power. We need strategies to build programs in this new reality.

The people who have formerly determined excellence in volunteer engagement and impact (organizational founders, senior management, organizational boards) are not super beings. They are human, just like we are, and as such, can be persuaded, can be convinced, can be appealed to, can be shown. By no means is this easy or simple or done in a day. But with a vision and a strategy to implement the vision, things can change.

Small wins can lead to bigger wins. It’s nearly impossible to change minds with broad, sweeping concepts. You need specifics and outcomes to back up your vision. Bite-sized wins are more easily digested by those we seek to convince.

Beyond the Ordinary

Ordinary to me is this: Accepting the systems we’ve inherited and complaining about them. Yep, did a lot of that in my time. Until I realized I was holding myself back. By taking things personally, I was failing the volunteers and the projects. And the good news? In this chaotic upheaval caused by the pandemic, change is now a norm. We can use change to set forth our vision of excellence. Change = need for new vision = new excellence as defined by you the authority = better outcomes/better value/better benefits.

Excellence should feel excellent. The thrill of accomplishing something excellent is like nothing else. With that feeling in your heart, be confident, have conviction, be the authority. Let go of the personal frustrations and strategize. Go for small wins and build. Go beyond the ordinary.

Happy IVMDay 2021 to all you EXPERTS in our field. You have the power to determine. You got this.