Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Semantics War: Volunteer Management not Looking Afterment!

Looking Afterment. Have you ever come across this term? I’d like to think I’ve coined a phrase here.

”Hi my name is DJ and my profession Is Looking Afterment? Any idea where this might be going? I came across another article today on the wide world of web. An article on Volunteer Management. The author referred to “looking after” volunteers. Volunteer Looking Afterment! I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Even amongst ourselves. “What do you do? – “I look after the vollies”. Double cringe point!

Language is important in our profession. The semantics battles that we have are interesting though. Some people have issues with ‘Volunteer Manager’. People will argue that we manage Volunteer programs and not Volunteers. As if, by the very act of volunteering one does not require management. Balderdash and political correctness to the extreme. I’ve just had a look at the brilliant publication by Noble. Fryar, and Rodgers on volunteer management. It’s their 3rd edition of their essential guide. I recommend it thoroughly. But I grimaced at the title change. It used to be 'Volunteer Management: an essential guide'. We all got that within our industry. Now it’s changed to 'Volunteer Program Management: an essential guide'. I just want to say to the authors that we have always got what you were on about in the first place. By no means is this a criticism of the book . I can’t speak highly enough of it and it is in fact visionary in many of its proclamations and is universal in nature. Thus being as relevant to the American or English reader as it is to the Australian reader.

But I am a Volunteer Manager. And yes I do explain that my role is not voluntary. I understand peoples concern with the title of Volunteer Manager when they argue that folk might think we are volunteers ourselves (as if there was anything wrong with that in the first place!)

But this argument that volunteers don’t need management? It’s still people management right? So people in other departments don’t need management? Or do they only need management when they are paid?


The semantics war is doing our profession a great disservice.

Instead of the time wasting arguments on titles amongst ourselves ( and it has been going on for years) can we grow up and concentrate on what the real issue might be whether that be advocating for volunteering, demonstrating the importance of effective volunteer management or making the world a better place!
Let’s stop “looking after volunteers” and wasting our energy on whether we are Volunteer Managers or Volunteer Program Managers because it is a semantic war that no one outside our sector give two flying fiddles about!

And neither should we!


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