Thursday, May 3, 2018

Let’s not kill Volunteering

I draw you in dear reader with a provocative headline. In reality the title refers to the word “Volunteering”
Rob Jackson put it so well in a recent comment of his that there is no problem with the word volunteering. Rather there is an issue with the perception of volunteering.
There are issues with the perception of a volunteer and therefore by extension the Volunteer Manager.
But it’s the word Volunteering I am looking at here.
There has been some dialogue and movement of late to disassociate from the word Volunteer. I have seen some debate about the need to capture new audiences utilising a different framework to describe how people give time, freely for the benefit of others.
I am with Rob Jackson. It’s the perception of volunteering in our communities that we need to work with and not the semantics.
Volunteering is amazing. It is life changing. It is inspiring. Volunteers are making an enormous impact on our society and communities but we are utilising a dated viewpoint on such activity.
As National Volunteer Week approaches here in Australia watch out for the speeches that include the lines “Volunteers are the backbone of our society” and “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation” etc. etc. Ad Nauseam.
This has become Lazyspeak because volunteering is much more than that and we are tired of hearing the same platitudes rolled out once a year especially when volunteering is undervalued and under resourced at an organisational and sector level.   
And if I have just ruined your volunteer recognition speech check out my Thank you speech to Volunteers I wrote 8 years ago and which I still believe should be the type of language we should use around volunteering.
‘As a volunteer you bring much to this organisation. Skills, advice, experience, friendship, vision, leadership, inspiration etc.

When you hear the word Volunteer what image do you conjure up in your mind? What unconscious bias may be there?
Getting rid of the word itself won’t help. Educating our organisations and our society and our Government on the massive impact of volunteering will!
And those of us who understand volunteering have a massive job to do. Let’s do it, change perceptions and encourage millions more to take voluntary action!

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