Let's All Resolve...

By Susan J. Ellis

Happy new year to you all! May 1998 be wonderful professionally and personally.

How are you doing with deciding on your new year's resolutions? To give you a break from the really hard ones like not over-eating, smoking, drinking, or whatever other vice-ing you may have, let me propose some professional commitments. If we all, individually and collectively, promise to take action on these small but vital things, the field of volunteerism will be strengthened over the next twelve months.

So, here are twelve proposed resolutions. If we each do one a month...just think! Let's resolve to:

1. Write letters to the editor pointing out that some event they covered in the newspaper was really due to the efforts of volunteers. Examples: parades, historic re-enactments, county fairs.

2. Read a book on fundraising--even if it sounds like an unpleasant subject. Schedule a lunch meeting with the organization's development staff and discuss ways the volunteer office and the development office might work together. If necessary, pay the tab.

3. Schedule similar lunches with any agency staffer whose work intersects with volunteers. The agenda may vary from "thanks for all your support" to "why haven't we been working together?"

4. Visit at least two colleagues who lead volunteer programs in completely different settings (maybe make this an exchange program). Set a goal of identifying, say, five ideas or program techniques that could also apply back home.

5. Contact any nearby college or university offering "nonprofit management" or "public administration" courses to ask if they've considered the subject of volunteer management. How? Taught by whom? Check their library to see if any (current) volunteerism books are in the collection. If not, give the librarian copies of book catalogs in our field. Go to the public library and do the same thing.

6. Examine the data kept on volunteers and their work. Is it useful? Why these bits of information? Why not others? If computerized, run a completely new kind of report (such as the diversity of education/degrees of the volunteer corps) that might surprise others with what it reveals about volunteers.

7. Visit the Volunteer Center and see what it "feels" like. Check out the data on file about your volunteer program (and others like yours). If the Volunteer Center is underfunded, write a letter to its sponsor or funder and explain why a strong Volunteer Center is vital to the volunteer community.

8. Read at least two new volunteerism books this year. (For suggestions, see the Online Bookstore.) Re-read (you can skim!) a book you used to think was useful. Is it still?

9. Once a month, pick a group of volunteers at random and hold a 30-minute coffee-klatch to ask for their input. Possible questions: What else could volunteers do around here? What parts of your orientation and training have you actually used? What do clients tell you that maybe they don't tell paid staff?

10. Engage in some sort of dialogue to share your opinions: speak up at a DOVIA meeting or conference workshop; write a letter to The Journal of Volunteer Administration; post to the Web (like respond here!--or to CyberVPM).

11. Attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting and see if it is helpful in making business community contacts. Look for representatives of mid-size, local businesses as well as the usual suspects of banks, phone companies, and other over-contacted companies.

12. Run for office or volunteer to do some of the necessary work to build the local DOVIA, state association, and AVA into the best and most worthwhile professional associations. Ask what you can give, not just what you can get. (Surprise! The giving ends up getting, too. And isn't that what volunteering is all about?)

O.K., so some of these aren't exactly quick and easy. But they certainly all would make a difference if a critical mass of us did even a few.

What other volunteerism resolutions would you like to propose?

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