“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Since then, every U.S. president has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. Today, most organizations celebrate the entire month in honor of volunteerism.
“Tis but my name that is my enemy,” Juliet might have said when asked about a major career challenge to the future of volunteer resource managers. Many professional volunteer program managers seemed to agree when they participated in a “Future of Volunteer Resource Management” research survey conducted by Tracy Connors prior to his keynote address before the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management. In fact, following his address the organization changed its name from Florida of Volunteer Centers.
Connors, who published the first handbook for nonprofit management in 1980, and seven such handbooks since then, including The Volunteer Management Handbook, 2e by Wiley in 2011, designed the national survey to explore a number of issues bearing on future directions in volunteer management.
“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked, “that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet…” And forsooth, we might add (staying in character, of course), why need we consider relabeling our rose of “volunteer administrators?” By any other name, their enormous contributions to the human services delivery missions of our voluntary organizations would be the same—or would they?
One of the most interesting responses was to a question asking the respondents
recommend the title that best reflected the professional status, experience, and contributions to the success of their organization’s mission by a full-time staff member responsible for managing and developing volunteer resources. Overwhelmingly, the respondents preferred the professional title: “Director/manager of Volunteer Resources.”
Changing the professional title to more accurately reflect the substantial duties and responsibilities fulfilled by incumbents may also help address another challenge reported by volunteer managers. When asked if they saw their position as a manager of volunteer resources as a credential for career progress toward the role ofin their organization, the respondents were about equally divided between the position that such experience might be a credential under some circumstances, and others who felt that it was absolutely career enhancing to serve in that capacity.
A major barrier was not being included in top-level planning. Closely related to this issue was the inadequacy of current management training for volunteer resource managers and such executive skills as strategic planning and implementation. Clearly, a change of title from “administrator” to “manager/director” is a step toward a more accurate representation of executive duties for these dedicated individuals. However, simply changing the title, without improving management education resources and opportunities for professional advancement, will show the futility of “in name only.”
What’s in a name? In this case, perhaps a better future for many volunteer resource managers.
Tracy D. Connors has published eight nonprofit management handbooks—an unsurpassed publication record in the field of email@example.com—a field that he helped advance and define beginning with the first NPO handbook in 1980. He is an NPO management , a Leadership Faculty Member for HandsOn University, and a PhD student in Nonprofit Organization Management at Capella University completing a Dissertation focused on achieving and sustaining excellence in human services management. For any additional questions or comments, please contact Tracy Connors at: