Not 'Just' a VPM

By Andy Fryar
From , Energize, Inc., 2003, pp. 28-29

Be warned.

The next few pages are not rocket science!

They are, however, necessary reading for all managers of volunteer programs who have ever complained about the way they are viewed or treated within their organisation or protested about issues such as their rate of pay, the number of hours they work or just how overworked they are! 

Those of us in the volunteer management sector have become really good at chastising those volunteers who periodically spurt out that age-old rhetorical saying: “…but I am just a volunteer!” We incessantly preach to those who transgress this sacred boundary about the value that they hold to our organisation and about how they achieve such good work. We vehemently encourage them to consider all of the benefits they receive from Participating as a volunteer. We are quick to espouse their value to our organisation’s hierarchy, we diligently ensure that recognition systems and training opportunities are first rate, and we are always on the lookout for any signs of dissatisfaction amongst our ranks—ensuring that the satisfaction of our charges remains our highest priority.

Yet how often do we practice what we preach?

Sadly, volunteer program managers are amongst the worst advocates for their own profession going around! For example:

  • How often do we find an organisation’s volunteer department tucked away in some windowless basement level corridor?
  • How many times do we experience understaffed and under-funded volunteer resource departments?
  • Why is it that there is such a high turnover of volunteer management positions?
  • Explain why there are such difficulties in getting volunteer program managers to attend and join into network meetings, conferences, workshops and online discussion groups?

Sadly the answer lies in the fact that we are not good at transferring the rhetoric we deliver to our volunteers to our own professional circumstances. It is high time as a profession that we added the term “not just a volunteer program manager” to our repertoire of phraseology!

We need to write it on our office walls so that we see it everyday (to which end you’ll find a printable mini-poster at the end of this essay!), we should set our electronic diaries to send text message versions of the quote to ourselves on a regular basis, and we should make a point to tell a colleague that his or her work is valued. We should say it often, we should say it loudly, and we should say it where and when it matters most. We should believe it but, more than that, we should live it! 

Let’s consider for a moment the difference that volunteer program managers (yes, that’s you) make every single day.... 

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