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March 2011

SmileyExercise Your
Volunteering Funny Bone

By Susan J. Ellis

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Mother Nature seems angry with us.  Snow and ice across the northern hemisphere, floods in Australia, earthquakes in New Zealand, volcanoes in the Philippines, rapid ice melt in the Arctic.  Next we’ll work our way through the ten plagues!

Is the weather getting you down?  How about the economy?  Things looking generally dismal?  I don’t know about you, but I definitely could use a good laugh! 

One of the earliest covers of Ms. Magazine was a cartoon of a man was asking a woman, “Do you know feminists don’t have a sense of humor?”  To which she replies, “No, but if you hum a few bars, I’ll fake it.”  The beauty of a great cartoon is that it captures the essence of a multi-layered situation.  Like feminism, volunteer management can be unremittingly serious, yet we are in the middle of the human condition and lots of aspects of working with volunteers are pretty funny, if not hilarious.

Man trying to pick up woman and says Hey.. how would you like to see my by-laws?
Sandy Sineff in Secrets of Successful Boards, ed
by Carol Weisman

Here at Energize, we’ve always tried to find and share humor:  cartoons, jokes, funny anecdotes, and other things that show the lighter side of working with volunteers (a few are in the column to the right).  But after all these years, there are still only a few postings.  Often the humor that can be found is related to boards of directors and association management, not the whole world of volunteering. 

It’s time to take action!  With many countries coming upon their various National Volunteer Weeks (and since this is both IYV+10 and the European Year of Volunteering), let’s exercise our collective funny bones and generate more laugh-worthy materials. 

Our Challenge to You:
Send Us Your Volunteer Humor!

We want to find – or create – anything funny that either celebrates the joy of volunteering or illuminates the frustrations we all encounter while working together with volunteers.  Bonus points if the humor is about being a director of volunteer involvement!  So…

  • Smiley Community Service: It isn't just for celebrity offenders.

    If you have any favorite funny items, jokes, or stories, please type them into our response field below.  If you want to send us an illustration, cartoon, audio, or video file, please e-mail those directly to If the material is copyrighted to someone else, please make sure you have permission to post them.  If in doubt, let us know and we’ll help you determine the rights.  (For example, there is a funny ecard online that we may not reproduce here, but it can be sent as a free postcard from its host site.)
  • SmileyThe ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.

    If you know of any Web sites with a collection of volunteer-related humor – even if it is related to a specific type of setting – please give the URL (often the keywords can be changed to reflect another setting and still apply).
  • If you know anyone with skill as a cartoonist (you might see if anyone on staff or in the current corps of volunteers has this talent), invite him or her to create an original humorous image.  S/he can retain the copyright, but needs to give us permission to post to our site (with full attribution, of course).

Vote for Your Favorites on Facebook!

We will post your submissions to a special "photo album" on our page on Facebook.  Go to the album and select "like" for each of your favorite pieces of humor. 

The top three winners will receive a $25 gift certificate to shop in the Energize Online Bookstore.  Please submit your entries by March 31, 2011.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook  because we will announce the winners there on April 1st (no fooling!).

Whether March will go out like a lion or a lamb, let’s at least make sure the animal has a smile on its face!  Looking forward to seeing your submissions.

And the winners are...

SmileyCongratulations to the winners of this month’s volunteering humor contest!  Receiving a gift certificate for shopping in the Energize Online Bookstore are:

  • Nicolette Winner (yes, that is her last name!), HandsOn West Central Ohio Director, Council on Rural Services, Piqua, OH
  • Elizabeth Ellis, Consultant, Writer, Trainer, WI
  • Mirna Sherberg, Executive Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator, Fresno Philharmonic, Fresno,  CA  (who gets a special shout-out for gumption in sharing her photo!)

Thanks to everyone who submitted items and those who voted on FacebookThe contest is now closed, but we are happy to keep accepting and sharing things that allow us to laugh about the lighter side of volunteering.

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A Sampling of Volunteering Humor

SmileyA daughter had just helped her 90-year-old mother through the strain of moving from the family home into a new unit in a senior apartment building. The daughter was trying to tidy up all the arrangements and tactfully said: "Mum, what about Meals on Wheels?" To which her mother replied: "No, dear, I don't think I could volunteer for them anymore."
--Participant at Australian Volunteer Conference

SmileyReaching the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked the Volunteer Management applicant “And what starting salary are you looking for?"

The Volunteer Management applicant said, "In the neighborhood of $95,000 a year.”

The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to equal pay in comparison to all of our managers, a package of five weeks' vacation, genuine recognition of your role, a company policy that values volunteering, financial support for your membership of your Volunteer Management Association, and a party for all staff on International Volunteer Managers Day?”

The Volunteer Manager applicant sat up straight and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"

And the interviewer replied, "Yeah, but you started it."

-- DJ Cronin,  Volunteer Blogspot

SmileyTake this quiz to find out if it's time to re-evaluate your volunteer job:

  1. You spend more than 50% of your therapy session talking about your volunteer job.
  2. Your spouse is threatening to name your nonprofit as the correspondent in your divorce proceedings.

…and 8 more questions by Carol Weisman,

Smiley A fire started on some grasslands near a farm. The local volunteer fire department was called. The volunteers arrived in a dilapidated old fire truck. They rumbled straight towards the fire, drove right into the middle of the flames and stopped! The firemen jumped off the truck and frantically started spraying water in all directions. Soon they had snuffed out the center of the fire, breaking the blaze into two easily-controlled parts.

Watching all this, the farmer was so impressed with the volunteer fire department's work and was so grateful that his farm had been spared, that right there on the spot he presented the volunteers with a check for $1,000. A local news reporter asked the volunteer fire captain what the department planned to do with the funds. "That ought to be obvious," he responded, wiping ashes off his coat. "The first thing we're gonna do is get the brakes fixed on our fire truck!"