March 9, 2014
Whenever I hear the sad tale of a manager of volunteers who is wrung out by overwork and lack of support, who is under-appreciated and sometimes un-noticed, I get reminded of that old folk tale that turns up in every generation as a child’s reader. You know the story: how the Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat, asks the farmyard animals to help plant it and when they refuse she says “Then I’ll do it myself”.
(If you have forgotten the tale, see this beautifully illustrated version.)
What I hear in my mind is not the moral of caring and sharing and helping each other. I hear the tone of the Little Red Hen as she says “Then I’ll do it myself”, repeated at each stage of the growing and harvesting of wheat. I can see her puffing up her chest, giving a loud sniff and a dismissive shrug of her shoulder, and her tone of voice is one of martyred self-righteousness.
I’m sure that is not how a manager of volunteers reacts, though some may feel like it. So let me tell another version of the LRH story to see how life could be turned around for those who are over-burdened…..
LRH sighs when yet another task lands on her* desk. Maybe there is something here that would interest volunteers. She asks around, but there are no takers. Not this week please; not really my thing; I want to stick with what I’m doing; sounds interesting, hope you find someone: these replies make LRH even more depressed.
Enter Cinderella’s fairy godmother, who waves a wand and says: “Let’s look at this job you’ve got to do – or think about your current tasks that could be handed over to a volunteer. What’s involved – tasks, time, responsibilities, skills required? Let’s work up a job description and see if there is an existing volunteer who might fit the bill. If not where could we go to find one? You’ve got to ‘market’ volunteer opportunities, not send out vague messages about needing help.”
LRH protests: “That takes time, and then I have to do a screening and orientation and training and monitor what the volunteer does on the job, and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy”. FG has to do some straight-talking about excuses that mean nothing will ever change, and trusting volunteers to do a good job. “I mean”, says FG with a rather intense stare, “what’s the point of running a volunteer programme if you have to keep such a tight hold on the reins?”
LRH buckles under the charm of FG and before long she has engaged the volunteer of her dreams: enthusiastic, willing, skilled in all the right places, and experienced. “You just need to know how to make time and see new possibilities” she tells her peer support group.
She’s fired up now. She devolves to volunteers responsibility for a lot of daily administration, managing social media posts, collating items for a newsletter, even gets a volunteer on the organisation’s Health & Safety Committee where they get to meet and participate with paid staff. Soon she is going to find a volunteer competent enough to interview new recruits.
LRH is not so much a manager now, pulling all the strings to her tune. She’s a leader, supporting and nurturing her team to be the best volunteers they can be. And they are. They love their work; they are sharing in the creation and development of the volunteer programme, and even better, demonstrating to the wider organisation what powerful contributions volunteers can make to its mission.
No longer does LRH get excuses when she invites a volunteer to take on a new role. She has turned around from potential burn-out, and no longer has to puff up her chest, give a loud sniff and a dismissive shrug of her shoulder, or say in a tone of martyred self-righteousness “Then I’ll do it myself”. And when it comes time to eat the loaf of bread, the fruit of all her efforts, she does not do that alone in the time-honoured ending of the folk tale. Instead she holds a joyous celebration for all volunteers who have shared in the undertaking.
* Yes, I know a hen is always female, and yes, I know there are many men who manage volunteers – so please take this narration as gender-neutral.
March 2, 2014
I’ve written quite a lot about definitions and meanings of ‘volunteering’ over my blogging years. And I have to keep thinking about questions of ‘who is a volunteer’ as the word’s connotations expand to embrace corporate volunteering, internships and community service. Now I have been snared yet again into debating with myself about the work I have been doing this week.
For the past few days I have been helping my daughter get her house in order for putting it up for sale. She did not ask for my help: I offered. I did not receive any monetary payment. I gave my time freely without expectations of reward. I gained enormous satisfaction from cleaning up the garden and washing windows, and seeing the improvements I achieved. And I toned up a lot of muscles I hadn’t used in a while. I got lots of hugs of appreciation. I would volunteer likewise for friends and neighbours too. And I have done the same sort of work when engaged as a volunteer for an organisation supporting new settlers in my community.
By many accounts, what I have described fits generally accepted criteria for ‘volunteering’ – except when I go looking, I find variations in definitions and additional conditions to determine the use of ‘volunteer’.
Volunteering England would exclude my efforts to help my daughter from definitions of volunteering. It’s ‘informal volunteering’, which extends to all such unpaid help to someone who is not a relative.
So I need to understand there is a distinction between being a ‘helper’ and a ‘volunteer’, and a formal / informal dichotomy of volunteering, even when I am doing the same sort of work.
Volunteering Australia goes further, in restricting ‘formal’ volunteering to an activity which takes place through not-for-profit organisations, and in designated volunteer positions only. That sounds like a higher status is attached to formal volunteering. Or, that the work I used to do freely and on my own initiative in my local community has become institutionalised as an economic resource, as unpaid labour.
That’s when warning signs light up contradictions. NGO contracts with government rarely include funding for the costs of volunteer programmes, like a manager’s salary or reimbursement for volunteer out-of-pocket expenses. Neither does ‘formal volunteering’ guarantee recognition and status for volunteers and the manager of the volunteer programme within the organisation.
In the meantime my informal volunteering continues to go un-noticed and uncounted. A colleague reminded me of the words ‘natural support’ to describe all that child-rearing, house-keeping, befriending, good neighbourliness that goes on and on in our communities. So if all that volunteering is ‘natural’, does that mean there is something ‘unnatural’ about formal volunteering? That might sound flippant, but I have to ask the question.
One place where volunteering is not designated formal or informal is the data collected during a Census. In New Zealand we are asked to record details about ‘unpaid work’, those activities performed in the four weeks before the census date, without payment, for people living either in the same household, or outside. Statistics NZ describe volunteering as:
“Voluntary work supports groups and organisations whose activities contribute to social well-being. Volunteers give their time and skills to help others and give back to their community.”
Maybe this description is too simplistic for purists. Yet the concept of ‘unpaid work’ enables an overall account of the scope of freely given activity in our communities wherever and however it occurs. ‘Formal volunteering’ is a label that has evolved with the growth of the NGO sector. It is a pity that institutional understanding and appreciation of volunteering and its management within organisations has not grown with the label.
Some years ago Andy Fryar raised similar questions about definitions of volunteering:
- Why do we continually have to define volunteering only within the constraints of ‘formal’ volunteering?
- Why can’t we create a definition that covers all types of volunteer involvement?
These questions are not so silly, and there are no easy or even silly answers. We are continually tripped by meanings attached to different types of volunteer involvement. It’s worth having a look at Volunteering Vocabulary (see inset p5) to see how many ways there are to use ‘volunteer’.
‘Volunteering’ is a word that has grown in use and expanded in meaning alongside social, political and economic change in our communities. To confine ‘freely given time, skills and energy for the common good’ within the boundaries of a rigid definition could restrict our willingness to give so freely.
February 23, 2014
Two items referring to volunteering turned up in my news reading this past week. One cast a slur on the meaning of ‘volunteer’ and the other described volunteers as ‘committed staff’.
The bad news story is about a man who drove a pub’s courtesy van and undertook other tasks on request from staff. He was paid $50 per shift, but did not have an employment contract despite repeated requests. The hotel’s new owner decided the man’s services were no longer required and a text message was sent to that effect. However, our man took his case to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to claim unpaid wages and compensation for unfair dismissal. The hotel owner argued the man was “just a lonely elderly volunteer”.
To be dismissive of volunteers in this way is enough to start a protest march, a vigil outside the hotel, or a boycott of the pub’s services. Or all three! The protest can be generated on several counts:
- Nobody is ever ‘just a volunteer’
- Not all volunteers are lonely and elderly
- Neither are all older volunteers lonely
- Not to mention demonstrably shoddy HR practice
There is a good ending to this story. The ERA decided our man was a regular on-call casual employee: he was paid regularly for regular work days and he answered to a manager. The dismissal was found to be unjustified and monetary compensation duly awarded.
I am hoping that the hotel’s owner will heed two important messages from this experience. Firstly, volunteer work is not to be taken lightly: it is an honourable commitment that should be valued regardless of age and status. Secondly, and possibly more important, is the fair and professional practice of HR management. Volunteers and paid workers might be simply the labour inputs for a business, but employers need to apply a duty of care to both those resources.
The next story offers much better news. The International Rugby Sevens was hosted in Wellington a couple of weeks ago, an annual party event that has been going on for fifteen years. This year misbehaviour and drunkenness by a small proportion of the crowd got more media attention than New Zealand’s team carrying off another tournament win. Yet the event was still counted a success, attributed to “300 committed staff … the vast majority of them volunteers”. There speaks a manager who understands the parity status of paid employees and volunteers. He adds:
“All of them are dedicated to our values – being passionate about Wellington; delivering excellence (which includes learning from our mistakes) and teamwork.”
There will be many managers of volunteers who can applaud the people they work with for the similar qualities. Wouldn’t it be great if more organisations could proclaim equal status on these grounds for volunteers and their paid staff?
February 16, 2014
Stand up the manager of volunteers who does not have a worry about volunteer recruitment, staff-volunteer relations, establishing a new volunteer role, training and equipment for volunteers, getting funding for recognition events, maintaining database records, writing reports, and making time to check out volunteer satisfaction. OK – perhaps not everything at once, but maybe one or two that are fast turning into Problem Pumpkins. You come slap-bang up against something related to policy or practice you have not thought about. Like: you are all for diversity in recruiting volunteers, but are you open to all comers? Or you encounter that curly organisational infection you wish would go away. Like: how do I turn around the organisation’s view of volunteers as economic saviours for the organisation?
Oh dear, is there no-one to claim they are worry-free? So you are all suffering sleepless nights, chewed-off fingernails, failing to give full attention to volunteers, missing important deadlines? These options are not to be wished on anybody. What to do?
When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.
Well, that’s not much help when you have to go find the recipe for making lemonade. Better go find your local network of managers of volunteers, the peer support group you belong to or your favourite online group. You ask for some answers, aka solutions. Do not be surprised if people come back smartly to ask What is the lemon?
That’s the trick, you see, getting to look at the lemon on the outside and the inside, to smell that tangy citrus, to taste the acid of the juice on your tongue. Your peers are asking questions, getting you to explain, get into detail, digging to find out why this thing is a lemon. Stick with this process, because you will discover the eureka moment that reveals the recipe for making lemonade. Now you can see how the solution to the problem was there all the time.
No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking. (Voltaire)
Of course you have to frame the problem to fit with your circumstances. It is not for other people to tell you what it’s like for you. When that lemon fits the frame it’s amazing how clear the picture becomes: you can see what needs to happens, and all you need now is to work out how to get there. You’ve got some ideas, but let’s go ask your peers about possible actions.
Caution: walk away if people start saying ‘If I were you I’d………’, or ‘What you need to do is………..’ Solutions have to fit with your scenario and your style, not according to other people’s quick-fixes.
A Trouble Shared is a Trouble Halved
OK – a proverb is not always a truism. Extended metaphors might be useful illustrations of a process, but you still have to get down to doing something, to deal with the other half of the trouble. Supportive peers will offer suggestions like ‘When I had a similar experience I found this helpful……….’ Someone else might be able to share written material, like a policy or a template. Another person refers you to useful on-line resources.
Enough! Time to return to your desk, to draw up the plan and plot the strategy to deal with this lemon once and for all. Some lemons are larger than others and take time and constant resolve to get them to the done-and-dusted phase. Some lemons need collective action, so your first step might be to find allies for the purpose.
When you report an outcome to the peer group you will also tell them what you have learned from this experience: No-one has to go it alone.
The quote comes from Lennon’s song: Watching the Wheels
February 9, 2014
Ask a reasonable question about why volunteers are involved in non-profit organisations and don’t be surprised if the answer is To Save Money! It’s there in writing as well, in comments about budget constraints which ‘increase reliance on volunteer support’, and in ‘saving on administration costs’.
Annual Reports can include acknowledgement of volunteer numbers and hours contributed translated into monetary value, but rarely any analysis or demonstration of why they are valued and important for the organisation.
This money thing really gets in the way of thinking about volunteers and understanding volunteering.
The people who claim ‘volunteers are priceless’ have not looked at the costs of running a volunteer programme. Somebody should be adding up expenditure on recruitment and training, provision of support and supervision, functions for recognition of volunteer work, and reimbursement of expenses. Hang on, why should we reimburse volunteer expenses? Paid employees don’t get reimbursed for travelling to work, nor their parking fees!
When I hear about organisations saving money by using volunteers I am hearing ‘exploitation’. To ‘use’ volunteers is close to ‘abusing’ their goodwill, and their time and their talents.
If the budget shortfall really means increasing volunteer support what extra work will they do? Taking up jobs that used to be paid? That would mean relaxing some of the current rules that limit volunteer roles like a ban on undertaking personal cares for frail and vulnerable people or the constraints of safety boundaries. And let’s not overlook a potential backlash from worker associations.
What is it that so many people need to understand about volunteering?
For starters, ‘volunteering’ is a modern-day term for an ancient human practice that provided mutual support and protection for the collective group, binding people within their communities. These days we call it ‘Civil Society’, denoting all those activities that bring people together to pursue their mutual interests. Volunteering is noted for its diversity and the wide fields of interests, for large national organisations and small informal and local groups. These days, volunteering is a means for community engagement, for maintaining social relations and stability. Volunteering is also the agency to promote a cause, to bring enlightenment and create change.
So when we get down to organisation level, to the place that employs paid staff, what’s the point of volunteering, if it is not to save money? Here are some pointers to finding an answer:
- At a basic level, volunteer assistance will support staff and enable them to focus on specialist responsibilities.
- Volunteers help to create a positive image of the organisation in the community. As ambassadors they can be a real asset, attracting donors and more volunteers, and being the best-ever marketing agents. (Or, as the worst-ever critics, they could be your biggest liability.)
- Volunteers can bring new insights, energy and time to the organisation. It was probably volunteer enthusiasm and commitment that got it started in the first place. So why not harness that energy to develop and trial new strategies or processes, to push the envelope beyond existing limits. The voluntary sector needs a research and development function as much as manufacturing corporations.
- When volunteers bring a diverse range of skills and experience they enrich the organisation, and help expand community connections which can extend the reach of organisation services.
- At best, volunteers offer added value to the organisation’s vision and contribute to achieving its mission.
These are general points, and will need to be tailored to organisation specifics. More importantly, getting to grips with the real reasons for volunteer involvement will mean you never have to say ‘volunteers are priceless’ or that they save you money. And, you’ll find the words and phrases to give real meaning to volunteering.
February 2, 2014
Volunteers. They are everywhere. You wouldn’t notice them in a crowd. There are no distinctive physical characteristics, nor can they be marked by their age cohort. They are people like you and me, living like you and me in a community, everywhere.
When they are on the job they can be easier to identify, by the badge or the bib or the branded T-shirt, or the full uniform of a volunteer emergency service. Except I can’t remember wearing an ID for any of my volunteer positions, apart from stints of street- collecting, the annual fund-raising event. And that’s the organisation brand being in-your-face, rather than noticing the volunteer giving time and goodwill.
Last weekend I encountered volunteers in two different contexts, and I wasn’t looking at the T-shirt or the name badge. What I noticed before anything else was the quality of their work and their professionalism.
First up is a visit to a scientific and historic reserve, a place for visitors to explore, to get to know native plants and wild-life, and to see how forest restoration is developing. There is no doubt there has been huge growth in the 14 years since I first visited. And all of it started with plantings by volunteers. Now volunteers are involved in maintaining tracks and predator-free status, guiding visitors, and of course in the governance of a charitable trust that oversees management of the reserve. Development here is remarkable for the collaboration between at least three different volunteer organisations and the Department of Conservation.
There are no special IDs for the volunteers we meet. What impresses me is the way they mingle quietly with the visitors, giving us information without being encyclopaedic, helping us understand and appreciate what we are seeing. All friendly and relaxed – just the right touch.
It gets even better when a volunteer invites me and my two young charges to take a look at a special project to establish a breeding colony of Fluttering Shearwater. We get to see the chicks in their burrows, and learn about their care. It’s a big commitment for volunteers: the chicks need to be fed sardine smoothies by syringe, on a daily basis.
The next day we visit an aquarium, a popular place to find and handle local rock pool inhabitants and to view tanks of fish from deeper waters. Volunteers here wear well-labelled T-shirts, and their ages range from teenagers to retirees. Again they are unobtrusive, yet ever ready to answer questions, to show children how to handle the creatures, and tell them something of their life cycle. These volunteers know their stuff too.
The volunteers in these contexts are dedicated enthusiasts for their fields of interest. No doubt newcomers are oriented to responsibilities, and there is a leadership role to ensure organisation protocols are met. It is this autonomous confidence in their role, and enthusiasm for their work, that I would wish all volunteers could experience.
January 26, 2014
In all the on-line chatter between managers of volunteers it seems strange we do not raise ethical issues very often. Yes we can get hot under the collar about job substitution or whether mandatory service is really volunteering – but I do not recall discussion about privacy and confidentiality or codes of conduct. It’s like we – and volunteers – have a built-in recognition and sense of ethical responsibility for such matters.
Yet I am quite certain this does not mean volunteers are all perfect and we never have cause to deal with breaches of privacy.
I spent the first half of my life in a small town where my name and pedigree were widely known. My face was familiar to storekeepers without having to present an ID card. Youthful indiscretions could be reported to parents before I got home. Later, my children were bewildered by the number of pauses I made in walking down the street to greet and chat with all the people I knew. Back then the idea of individual privacy and confidentiality was nothing to worry about. Why would you, in such an open and inclusive community?
But still there are slips of the tongue, sometimes unthinking. Sometimes there is gossip-mongering. So what is a manager of volunteers to do?
A story is fed back to me that a couple of volunteers were overheard chatting about their work in the queue at the supermarket. The volunteers are not identified, and there is no major transgression evident. I choose to put up a sign in the volunteers’ office: Loose Lips Sinks Ships, and in the next newsletter I include a reminder of the importance of protecting client privacy. I can also reinforce this message at a volunteer support meeting.
On another occasion a staff member hears a volunteer in conversation with a service user about another part of her volunteer work, disclosing information about another client’s condition. When the volunteer is known I say thank goodness for the volunteer code of conduct. I can remind her of the clause about confidentiality, and about the potential impact of the private information getting back to the client. It’s not quite a disciplinary matter, and the direct approach is usually sufficient to avoid a repeat.
In an ideal world people would not need to be reminded of this ‘duty of care’. We would know the limits of what to share, with whom and how. Even better, we can learn to say quite firmly We shouldn’t be talking about this, or Hey, that information is private. And when I say I can’t tell you – it would be breaching the Privacy Act, I am sending a clear reminder of the rules we need to follow.
And then you will point out the paradox. In the world of journalism and internet social media there are no boundaries. We chase the gossip about celebrities and crave the latest details of personal and public tragedies. Social media offer a platform for disclosing personal information and sharing it widely. My small town village pump gossip has not gone away – it’s gone global, along with inherent risks of abuse.
Yet privacy law remains a benchmark for organisations, their staff and volunteers. Personal information is given by the individual; it is held for organisation purposes; and disclosure elsewhere needs individual permission. Let’s keep it that way, as a principle of our professional ethics.
January 18, 2014
On New Year’s Day 2014 I was far from windy and wet Wellington. Beachcombing on a wide bay under a hot sun was just the tonic to clear the head.
I had a few things to sort out about developments in volunteering, social services and the community sector.
I have been mightily impressed with the promotion of volunteering during the past year. The work of Volunteering New Zealand for National Volunteer Week (June) and the International Days in November and December was truly encouraging. The model of NGO partnership between Volunteering New Zealand, ANGOA and Social Development Partners is one to follow for other organisations, for economies of scale if nothing else. I would like to think such a partnership will enhance the status and influence of the community sector on political decision-making. I also noted how managers of volunteers got to find greater confidence in undertaking their roles, and the value of meeting and learning from each other – the VNZ Conference in November was testimony to that.
But the devil in my mind is in a bigger picture, not the detail.
The growth and status of NGOs After thirty years of neoliberal economic policies and devolution of government I should not be surprised to find organisations tending to act like corporate businesses. Of course they needed to lift their game, to become more businesslike in governance and financial management and to comply with all the regulations that filtered through government contracts and obligations to philanthropic funding. Of course time and changing social conditions can alter an organisation’s focus on its mission and vision. But the trend to seek sponsors and partnership arrangements with private sector business, and the rise and rise of corporate employee volunteering is another dimension that risks turning NGOs into ‘subsidiary businesses’.
Three matters of concern arise from this trend.
Ongoing lack of understanding about volunteering The commercial and consumerist world has trouble accommodating the idea and practice of time, skill and effort given freely for the benefit of others. We get platitudes of appreciation, not genuine understanding. It seems the wealth of volunteer action cannot be counted therefore it must be of little value. Which explains why so many managers of volunteers remain poorly paid and of low status, while fundraising and marketing personnel are the rising stars. The resulting outcome is to find pursuit of sustainable funding sources taking priority over connections with the communities organisations purport to serve.
Volunteering is a utilitarian tool Volunteers have all sorts of reasons to volunteer, and it’s good to be open about wanting work experience, social interaction, practice in speaking English, to be job-seeking or doing court-ordered community service. Altruism has always involved a reciprocal benefit, even if it was a simple feel-good factor. But we are close to perceiving volunteering as an asset to be exploited, to be traded like any other commodity.
Two-tiered non-profit sector All this business development for NGOs has led to overlooking what is happening in the rest of the sector. We should not need to be reminded there are thousands of not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) keeping communities keeping on mostly without the benefit of government contracts and philanthropists’ largesse. Outspoken concern from writers, researchers and commentators on poverty and inequality during the past year has highlighted the distance between government rhetoric and social reality in many parts of our communities. The words ‘democratic disconnect’ resonate, emphasising voter apathy and a populace focussed more on survival needs than on gathering people power. ‘Democratic deficit’ highlights government opposition to criticism and a lack of real consultation which pressures NGOs into silence for fear of jeopardising their funding arrangements.
So where does all this leave managers of volunteers? In the spirit of New Year optimism I think there are heaps of indicators for a positive future. The role of managing volunteers might have emerged in concert with the growth of NGOs and the sector, yet over the last ten years the profession has made huge strides in defining the role and articulating best practice. Technology and the internet have fostered global and local communication. There are opportunities for training and development. There is an established sense of identity and collegial fraternity among practitioners which extends to supporting people new to the role.
The challenge for now will be to protect volunteer programmes from the encroachments of utilitarian managerialism, to maintain that spirit of volunteering we have taken as an article of faith for generations. Or shall we accept a radical shift in our ideology and go with the flow of larger interests?
December 1, 2013
“Outsource to Volunteers” were the words inscribed on a floating pendant at Festival for the Future, a weekend event to celebrate what’s possible, “supporting the next generation to spark & grow world-changing ideas for a better New Zealand”.
Now there’s an idea, I thought, and my mind raced away on the potential for community organisations to outsource work and even whole service delivery to volunteers. All I need to do is work up a business plan and organise a few contracts.
After all, hospitals outsource food and cleaning services to private operators; local authorities outsource waste collection services; airlines might have aircraft servicing done outside their country of origin; and we are all familiar with local businesses that outsource the manufacture of their products to way beyond our shores, along with IT services and Call Centres .
How could I make this work for volunteering? It would be a non-profit business for starters. I would recruit and train volunteers, undertake the whole professional management of volunteers, and organisations would contract with me to supply and deliver their volunteer programme. I would make sure a contract price included provision for volunteer rewards and recognition, and also allowances for travel – as well as the costs of administration and training and support and so on – and reasonable recompense for my own efforts. Volunteers do not come for free, you know.
Outsourcing will foster a strong volunteer identity, give volunteers a sense of ownership and pride in their status instead of being reminded of that professional/amateur inequality. Nor would volunteering fall into the black hole of ignorance and being ignored by management in the organisation. Outsourcing could make volunteering more visible in the community rather than being confined to particular organisations. Ultimately volunteering would become an attractive proposition to a wider range of people, and stimulate widespread recognition as well as a broader range of activities. Outsourcing will also give a manager of volunteers the freedom to apply best practice away from the curbs of restrictive organisation processes.
But would it still be ‘volunteering’? Sigh. Such flights of fancy always have fish-hooks. Worst is the inference that volunteers are just another tradable commodity, even if they do not get paid for their work. Market principles do not, should not ever, apply to volunteering. Outsourcing might also expose a shameful concession that volunteer programmes are not part of an organisation’s core business.
My ideas also cut across some of the present work of Volunteer Centres. Many organisations would never dream of letting an outsider take over ‘their’ volunteers. There could be practical objections when it comes to specialised services like emergency services, telephone help-lines and befriending programmes. Some people will protest that outsourcing changes the whole flavour and meaning of volunteering.
But think about it. Think about the words ‘outsource to volunteers’. They do not mean ‘replace paid staff with volunteers’, nor ‘let’s exploit volunteer willingness to help’, and nor do they imply ‘volunteers can do anything’. But they do encourage me to think about extending volunteer responsibilities and developing new initiatives that would add value to organisation services, or to trial new ways of operating.
My realist head is now seeing ‘outsource to volunteers’ as a simple slogan to remind us of the wealth of goodwill, of talents and experience, that volunteers bring to any organisation – and why we should place high value on their services. If we forget that then our organisations and our communities are the poorer for it.