Volunteer Management Dictionary

Volunteer Management Words Added to the Volunteer Management Dictionary by 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 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 of the fruit and maybe scrape the tuna salad from the finger sandwiches and make a pate’ so that I don’t use any of my budget for healthy snacks. Always appreciate re-snacking and besides, the volunteers can never tell, they’re just mindless little extra layers of caring!”

N.A.R.vol: That unicorn type volunteer who magically comes No Assembly Required as in, “While I appreciate your faith that our volunteers universally have our clients’ best interests at heart and just instinctively know our policies and procedures, even the obscure ones like no sitting in the Executive Director’s chair, 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, too want to add more volunteers because 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. I’m expecting that next year we will have the funds necessary, because this year I’m working from our studget. For now, I’ll do more re-snacking. Do you know whose half 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, well, you know, the volunteer manager has a desk in the office, duh, as in “Sigh, if I stay here and monitor the phones, I’ll have to cancel my training at the University which means we won’t be getting the help from those enthusiastic new people who are passionate about our cause. And, my goal this year is to increase the diversity of our volunteer base, even though there’s no more money in my studget. I guess you’d rather have a volunteptionist than benefit from potentially game-changing volunteer involvement. And, sure, I’ll clean up after the senior management lunch meeting. Yes, I know there’s some leftover potato salad.”

Open-world requests: Requests for volunteers in which the requesting person feels they can roam freely, changing the number of requested volunteers, the objectives, the time-frames or any other aspect at will 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 that our volunteers are cute little characters like Steve in Minecraft but I can’t promise you all these changes with less than 24 hours notice. Believe it or not, our volunteers have real lives and are not characters in open-world requests.”

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 out the chasm between lip service appreciation (cake and balloons) and year-round appreciation (whole organizational buy-in) 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 you so much more? Our volunteers want to know they have made a meaningful contribution to our organization. Knowing their impact is valued the 364 is what keeps them coming back.”


volsplaining: when someone who knows nothing about volunteer engagement but has a grandmother who has been volunteering for 31 years, explains that you “should go to the senior center and talk to those people. Ha, ha, they have nothing better to do.”

voltriloquist: when a staff member speaks through a volunteer by taking advantage of the volunteer’s kind nature and manipulates the volunteer’s opinions so much that volunteer Betty says to you, “my gosh, have you seen how the records department is so overloaded? I can’t imagine how they get everything done. I try to help these poor, overworked people as much as I can. It’s such a pity they can’t hire more staff. You know, I should get a bunch of volunteers together and march up to the CEO’s office and complain. ”

GVOAT: Greatest volunteer of all times-you know, you have one. And, sigh, you compare every volunteer to the gvoat. (yeah, wish they would all just be polite and earnest and have this twinkle in their eye when they speak…. oops, sorry, just thought about my gvoat for a minute)

bogovol: Buy one, get one vol. Some volunteers travel in pairs; they might join as a pair or they might find each other during orientation. They just like to have a buddy to share in their experiences. The bogovol is great when filling requests for multiple volunteers. Also know as 2fervol.

self-serve volunteering: Volunteering only to enhance a resume, pad a college application, or use the mission to further a goal. You know the ones. Their blinding white smiles and almost superhuman enthusiasm are too good to be true, but hey, you’re not one to judge so you just assume you’ve got a good one, and they arrive the morning of their first assignment, all perfect-looking and they slide a form onto your desk as they plead in their charming way, “can you just fill this out now instead of after I volunteer, it’ll save you time later and well, there’s a deadline to turn this in and I promise I will do everything I said I would do and time got away from me just a bit and besides, I know you don’t want me to miss my deadline, do you?” Then BAM! No sooner has the ink dried on your signature, they’re out the door before you’ve dropped your promo pen back into your wizard pen holder. Also know as reputation robbers. There’s an old post about this topic here.

volbot: pre-programmed robotic volunteer. Push the microphone icon, tell it what to do and blip, beep, they whir into action. Staff may not say it to your face, but, oh, they all want one. Need I say more?

sVaddling: Babying a volunteer because she is friends with your CEO, or the niece of a board member so you’re stuck and you bend the rules and keep her all wrapped up in layers of protection. You can’t tell other volunteers that the reason you’re insulating her is because she will report you to higher management if her feelings are bruised so you just give her lots of slack. You say things like, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she turns in her paperwork, maybe it’s just hard for her,” and then you call her up and try to make her understand that paperwork is mandatory but she brushes you off and so you fill out the paperwork yourself. When the CEO passes by in the hall and says, “oh, hey my friend Annabelle likes volunteering but wants to know if she can change her day to Saturday, would you be a sport and come in this Saturday, you know, to make her fee welcomed,” you just clench your teeth and nod. Also know as kid glove volunteer.

kudo-slap on the wrist: When wimping out of reprimanding a volunteer by setting a meeting and having all your policies ready and even your documented instances of the volunteer’s infraction of the rules and you’re wearing your best business suit jacket, the one you interviewed for this job in, and then Ba-boom! You’ve got the sandwich principle in your head, the one where you first compliment a person, then talk about their shortcomings, then end on a positive note, but you get started on the compliments and the volunteer is looking at you with those volunteer eyes so you go on about how wonderful they are and how you know their heart is in the right place cause gosh, they said that a new volunteer was dumb but trainable, right? You prattle on for so long while the volunteer’s face glows with the syrup of validation that you can’t bring yourself to actually reprimand them and instead, you hastily type up a commendation certificate which makes you end up in a worse place then when you started. (But the volunteer is happy as heck and proudly shows the certificate to all the other, stunned volunteers)

vacant lot of praise: The throwing out of meaningless phrases like “we love our volunteers” and “we couldn’t operate without our volunteers.” (and when you point out that volunteers would like specific appreciation, you get a vacant stare.)

egocorporate: A group of corporate vols who want to volunteer, but want you to arrange their involvement to benefit only them. Time-frame, task, juicy assignment all need to work for their day of volunteering. And so, you bend and bend and bend and then, on the day of volunteering, the 13 extra volunteers that show up because they were kind of shamed into coming, are standing around, checking social media and Ivan, a client’s family member who agreed to speak to the group about how the mission helped his family, can’t be heard over all the pockets of conversations and there’s not enough shovels to start that “garden of love” and half of the volunteers are in suits and high heels and it’s hot out and there’s not enough water so you run to your office and call a trusted volunteer who agrees to go out and get some water and then the corporate volunteers who are just standing around start leaving because they showed up, right and that’s pretty much all they agreed to and poor Ivan knows that everything he said fell on deaf ears and now you could kick yourself because you just probably lost this awesome speaker for future events and the garden is half dug and you have to clean up and now the water arrived, but everyone is gone, so your trusted volunteer is bummed and you missed your nephew’s birthday for this debacle and your brother is going to be mad, not to mention the “dirt hole of love” needs to be filled in.


Volvorce: When a volunteer divorces the organization as in “No, I just can’t go get new volunteer Dinesh, because since no one called him back about getting started after I introduced him to finance, he volvorced us.”

Meetcolepsy: When too many meetings cause you to simply fall into a stupor at the thought of another talk-fest as in “No, I couldn’t make that fourteenth meeting about using the volunteers to stand by the back door in case someone gets confused because I contracted meetcolepsy. Want to see my doctor’s slip?”

Latespectation: A last-minute request for volunteers that is expected to be filled as if you were given weeks to prepare, as in “Oh, so you need 5 volunteers tomorrow morning for an assignment that you said was extremely important? Your latespectation is showing.”

Creditjacking: When another staff member takes credit for a successful endeavor that you or your volunteers accomplished as in “Yes, I’m glad you praised that project during the senior managers’ meeting, but let’s not creditjack the volunteers’ work, ok?”

Duhtistics: Stats that are so incredibly obvious, like volunteers are super nice as in “I won’t bore the board with duhtistics that you’ve heard before. No, instead I want to point out some new and exciting projects we are undertaking.”

AVOL: A volunteer who inexplicably does not return calls, emails or letters as in “I’m glad you noticed volunteer Myrna has been missing lately. I’m trying everything in my power to get in touch with her. Right now she’s AVOL.”

Volunteer Lite: A request for a volunteer to do a menial, mindless task as in, “You’re asking me for one of our highly trained volunteers to clean out the storage closet so you can use it for your supplies? You don’t want a full-bodied volunteer, you want a volunteer lite.”

Miracalls: Calls made to volunteers for an especially challenging or late request as in, “Woah, that’s a really challenging request (or time frame). I’ll be holed up in my office for the rest of the day, making miracalls.”

Informashunned: (pronounced in-for-may-shunned) Not given the essential information needed to properly place a volunteer as in “I have recruited four of our best volunteers for that assignment, but my pleas for crucial information have been ignored. Right now, our volunteers are informashunned.”

Nopinion: Volunteers wanted, but not their opinions as in, “I’m glad you were able to use volunteer Mark’s expertise, but he felt rebuffed when he offered additional knowledge. I guess you really want an expert but nopinion volunteer.”

Vombie: That volunteer everyone is afraid of and no one wants to council or fire, as in, “I know Janey is a handful and she’s been here for what, twenty years now. I guess she’s been allowed to attain Vombie status and now that I’m here, I will deal with it in a professional manner.”

Callwaiter: The notion that volunteers sit by the phone just waiting to hear from us as in, “It is Friday afternoon and most of our volunteers have already made plans for tomorrow. I’ll make some miracalls, but our vibrant and diverse volunteers aren’t callwaiters.”

Marathonitor: The running around, checking, double-checking and rechecking to ensure that volunteers have all the information and tools they need to succeed as in “Our fifteen volunteers are ready for Saturday’s important annual event, but in order for them to excel, I will be marathonitoring their involvement, so I won’t be attending any meetings tomorrow or making miracalls to fill latespectation requests.”