In the early 1980s, Energize produced a mini-poster with the dramatic title of “The Seven Deadly Sins of Directing Volunteers,” which proved extremely popular as a bulletin board item at the desks of many volunteer resources managers. In fact, we tweaked the language and redesigned the mini-poster in 1990 and it continued to sell well. I just found a stack of them in our back room and thought it would be fun to see whether the “sins” have changed now in 2013. And you can help!
Here is the 1990 text:
The Seven Deadly Sins of Directing Volunteers
First, knowing some colleagues’ aversion to anything negative, I realize we could have made a list of the “Seven Virtues.” But really, aren’t vices far more interesting? And, of course, we wanted to grab people’s attention to make some important points. So even today I’d keep the title, though I’d think about the word directing. I’m one of the diehards who does not like the current word preference of engaging volunteers, particularly when referring to the person whose job it is to be the leader of an organization’s volunteer involvement strategy.
Question:If you were updating this list, would you keep the word “directing” or choose something else? What word is better?
However, I would definitely replace all mentions of a volunteer “job” with words such as role, assignment, activity or position. And I’d change “salaried staff” to employees or paid staff.
Updating the Sins
I am very interested in your reaction to these Sins, since my overall feeling is that every one of them still speaks to real issues still of concern today. On the other hand, a few might not make the cut for the top seven once some new challenges are added to the list. Here’s what I’d do:
In our time-deprived society, Sin number 7 is an especially vital admonition today. Shame on us for wasting the time of someone we pay, but to waste freely given time is truly sinful.
I’d also keep Sins number 3 and 5.
Number 4 is clearly something I still feel strongly about, having even written a Hot Topic, “Practicing What We Preach: Volunteers Helping Us, Too,” on this theme this past October.
Question: Which Sins would you keep as written now?
Sin number 1 remains important, but today I’d delete the second part because it is not worded well. As a leader of volunteers, it doesn’t matter if you personally want to do every task for which you recruit a volunteer. I wouldn’t like financial accounting or software troubleshooting work, nor would I ever coach sports, but such activities are perfectly legitimate for volunteering assignments.
So number 1 can simply state: To recruit a volunteer for a cause or program in which you do not believe.
What does matter is that every volunteer position be designed well so that the organization benefits the most and the volunteer is never exploited. Therefore, I’d edit Sin number 2 to say: To sign a person up even if he or she is not right for a vacant volunteer position you need to fill, or to ask a volunteer to take on a role that misuses or underutilizes that person’s talents.
Question: What editing would you do?
Sin number 6 remains valid, but I’d drop it because I feel that the following has risen in importance:
To be more concerned about satisfying volunteers who resist needed change than supporting those who are eager to innovate and adapt, particularly in the use of new technology.
That would be my new Sin for 2013.
Question: What Sins would you add (and therefore which would you drop)?
So that’s what I think. Please share youropinions. And once we get consensus, Energize will post a new version of the Seven Sins on this Web site as a printable PDF – our gift to you. Thanks in advance.