Volunteer programs aren’t always equated with value.  This one event may help to change that perception.

Last month, I tried something new. In addition to holding a retreat for volunteer managers, I held a separate one for Development Directors. After all, DDs are our cousins in the nonprofit world.  Their work is also about building capacity, but with dollars instead of volunteers.

And while the issues we discussed were slightly different, the need to meet collectively to share ideas, receive support, and explore the what’s meaningful about the work was the same.

There was one other difference that I noticed between my volunteer manager and development director participants: in general (and this is a big generalization to make a point, readers), the development folks who attended the retreat did not question the price   ̶  or the willingness of their workplaces to fund their attendance.

When you are the person who brings dollars into an organization, the need for your role is rarely questioned.  It’s like the expression of a simple equation:

Money = value.  Value = power to get needs met.

Volunteer managers, on the other hand, seem to have more trouble asking their workplaces to fund trainings. They are often uncertain whether their decision-makers are willing to support an investment in their professional growth.

Somehow the equation for volunteer managers seems more complicated, more like:

Volunteers = free.  Free = less valuable. Less valuable = not a whole lot of power.

I want to be careful here because it’s easy to take the victim’s position and see the de-valuing of volunteers as beyond our control.  I spend a lot of time unpacking these kinds of limiting beliefs with coaching clients. We cannot thrive when we tell ourselves that the important work we do is less worthwhile or appreciated than what others do. That’s a setup for frustration and stagnation, not growth.

That’s also why I encourage volunteer managers to mark their calendars for July 26-28 and attend the 2017 National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership.

The purpose of the summit is to convene professionals in the field – people like you – to “act as a catalyst to inspire and secure the future of volunteer engagement.”

If you look at the Summit web page, you will see that it’s all about promoting the field, building our visibility, and strengthening our professional skills.  It’s like a mega-retreat in a way, where we can come together with the goal of making our individual work more impactful and more rewarding.

Needless to day, I plan to attend the Summit. I hope you will, too. There is an excitement and energy around our work that can only be fostered when we join together to address common goals. Imagine how different your volunteer management will feel when you know that an entire profession has your back.

p.s.  If you’re thinking the conference costs too much, this is good practice in asking for what you need.


What’s your workplace vision for 2017? 

Don’t wait until July to start planning the best year yet in your volunteer program. Try my FREE Envisioning Worksheet to get clear on what you might accomplish.  Email me for a copy – and I’ll add you to the Twenty Hats mailing list.