Saturday, April 9, 2011

What’s holding us back? Discuss

Do the words volunteer, volunteering and volunteerism hinder and hold us back as a sector?

Now that’s a bit of a controversial statement isn’t it?
I recently gave a presentation at a conference. I got some strange looks. I do this. Normally at speaking engagements I give a personal opinion type of talk. This surprises people. I’m not into the “how to recruit and retain volunteers” talk. Though I can do so and have done so.


Volunteering is free therefore there is less value placed on it

It’s noble

It’s lovely

Like volunteer management?

Do we have an embedded subliminal fear that our jobs are not “real” because we manage a movement that is unpaid – and thus devalued? Would a psychological analysis reveal some real fears on job security, career authenticity and a predisposition to not rock the boat at any cost?
Do we keep our heads down so we aren’t really noticed and thus keep our positions? Do we therefore have problem putting up boundaries. Do too many of us take on too much, with too little resources? We try to do it all, and then wonder why we aren't provided with the resources, pay, etc.
We won't be until we demand it by saying "No", I cannot do this without additional resources.

Our jobs create and add enormous value to our societies. Let us stop being afraid to acknowledge that. Let us cease being fearful of validating ourselves and our profession.

Let us change our language

“It’s the volunteers that do all the work not us”

“ it’s the volunteers who deserve the recognition and not us”

“I get paid – that’s enough for me”

“I am not in it for the money”

There have been critics of International Volunteer Manager’s day. Apparently it makes people cringe. There have been critics of the AAVA Volunteer manager of excellence.

Apparently we are afraid to strive for excellence.

I believe that AAVA may even be changing the name of this award.

We need a dialogue happening now. We need a movement. What we are today as a sector is a result of our own past actions. Whatever we wish to be as a sector in the future depends on our present actions. We need to decide how we act now. We are responsible for and whatever we wish ourselves to be.


  1. "Apparently we are afraid to strive for excellence."

    Fear will imobilize us.

    What are we afraid of? Criticism from our peers? Possibly.

    I have just started reading a book. "Life Without Limits - How to live a ridiculously good life." by Nick Vujicic

    Nick is a 27 year old guy born without limbs. "[He]...Travels the world encouraging millions of people to overcome adversity with faith, hope, love and courage...."

    "Often it is the challenges in life that show us who we are truly meant to be."

    Nick can achieve all of this without limbs or limits. Imagine the possibilities if we could go beyond our comfort zone and truly believe in ourselves enough to promote our sector to the world.

  2. Thanks for the post and inspiration Wendy!


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