An inspiring and validating sound in Volunteer Management

In my most recent blog post “The sound of silence in Volunteer Management” I bemoaned the fact that our sector is so reticent to engage social media and develop a voice – a voice that should and must be included in the volunteerism narrative.

The quality of responses merits a blog post of its own.
I believe Jayne Cravens has the best blog on volunteerism and related matters in the globe. Jayne emailed me this response:

"Volunteer managers will say so much in a workshop, but online, the silence is deafening.

I think a lot of the silence comes from a culture volunteer managers have created for themselves, a culture that requires us to be nice, to be team players, to be safe, to be non-confrontational and to never, ever rock the boat. I've met volunteer managers who are so terrified of saying the "wrong" thing in writing that they won't write emails to volunteers, let alone respond to a blog post!

I'd love to blame others for this culture. I'd love to say its senior managements fault. Or donor pressure. Those groups have played a role, but the reality is that volunteer managers have done it to themselves. They self-censor. They hold back. They say, internally, or to me in the bar at a volunteer management conference hotel, "I don't want to sound stupid. I don't want to get into trouble. I don't want to make a public misstep. If one person disagrees with me, I'll be crushed."

I take heart in this: in the early days of OzVPM and UKVPMS, debates were rare. Rob and Andy were practically begging for people to post something, ANYTHING. Now, conversations and debates *do* happen. As more volunteer managers are connected to these groups (I still think they are woefully under-publicized), more will be connected to blogs - and I hope the evolution will continue and volunteer managers will DARE TO COMMENT.”

Dave had some great responses to my blog:

“So, DJ, perhaps the lack of response to the high profile volunteering gurus such as Martin Susan, Jayne and yourself is not really the sound of silence. If you listen closely, you'll hear the echoes in the sounds of volunteering and volunteer support takes place at a local level.”

In another post he went on to say “Every time I talk to or read something by a volunteer manager, I learn or re-learn something. This is as true for my conversation with a volunteer in a village-based organisation here in South Derbyshire as it is when I read a blog by someone who have become nationally and internationally known through their willingness to share their experience and ideas about volunteering.

I hope that I never stop learning, and I promise never to stop expressing my views.”

Now that is inspiring!

Wendy joined the conversation and had this to say “I also took a great leap of faith to start participating in online forums, hot topics and start commenting on blogs. In fact my first venture in commenting on a post on I-Volunteer was inspired not by a volunteer management guru per se, but by a person who I related to, a “newbie” to blog posting. I was inspired by her openness and honesty and willingness to give it a go. I just had to respond to congratulate her on her post and for her frankness. This was the start for me. I had taken the first big step.”

You sure did Wendy and now people reading this can be inspired by you.

Well done!

Another respondent, Carey, had a powerful message for us all:

“Truth is a powerful thing that can often liberate silence- as you have so affectively done with your post here. You have many comments because being validated can do wonders to empowering people to speak their truth. I believe that volunteer administrators are not too busy to speak up, they are in reality fearful of what will happen if they speak up. Just look at the comments on my first article. One person used a fake email and name. The other is out of her old position, like me, and now has liberty to be honest.

People yearn to feel free, and have the catharsis to speak up- but do not always have that privilege.

SO THANK YOU for writing this and empowering people to comment. Thank you for helping to validate this profession and the experience of our community"

Thank you Carey for expressing this so beautifully. Your words are powerful and will resonate with many !

Martin J Cowling practiced what he preaches and responded whilst also pointing to his own informative blog:

“So, I read the blog post which was excellent and I am posting as I have a blog...I am convicted to practice what I sentence is enough (I am going to have multiple sentences!)

While I am here, let me point to my blog post on the Volunteering Queensland submission re the flood volunteers in Queensland. See The Cowling Report: Friday Facts- No Follow through. The Post has been up for a week and already is the second most read blog post @The Cowling Report! (and only has your comment DJ!)”

I received another email with an inspirational message from a Volunteer Coordinator today which links in beautifully with this post:

“In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a Roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if Anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by And simply walked around it.. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did Anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of Vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed
a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

When we find our voice we find we have a lot to say. Because we are the difference makers. We are at the forefront of a movement that changes lives.

We need to get rid of our fear of validation.


You are great.

Now if you haven’t done so already click on the heading of this post. The short movie “Validation” is only 16 minutes long. But it will be the best 16 minutes of your day today!


  1. You do realise DJ that with your blog post "The sound of silence in Volunteer Management" that you inspired and encouraged people to not just comment on your blog but also comment on other blogs including The Cowling Report and OZ VPM Hot Topic. Through your open and honest dialogue you have empowered volunteer managers and coordinators to take courage and actively contribute.

    You have truly followed the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi "Be the change you want to see in the world". Thank you for your encouragement, inspiration and leadership DJ.

  2. Great postings! At ADVR we decided to take a leap of faith and develop a blog not only to keep our members informed about what we were up to, but to give your members a place to voice their thoughts. So far responses have been minimal, but we’re still hopeful.

    In the meantime, we’re encouraged by reading blogs such as yours which are gaining momentum and challenging the perception that Volunteer Managers don’t have anything to say.

  3. and thanks must go to you Wendy for having a say and contributing to the narrative.

  4. Well done ADVR for taking this leap of faith! Please keep up the great work and we'd love to hear more from you here. I'd welcome an article for the future!!!


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