Love Thy Volunteers (Respect the Title)

That's right. I'm proposing to you the radical idea that for the people who give of their time, their physical labor, their emotional work and gas money, "Volunteer" is a title. And one they (should) wear with pride.

I've been in a couple situations lately where the word has been bandied around in a casual way, or given to groups, who, while very generous and caring, are by no stretch of the imagination "volunteering."

Namely, I was at a presentation at a fundraising conference and the speaker talked about young people wanting to "volunteer" in "fun ways that fit their lifestyle" and showed a group of 20-somethings bowling while dressed like band members of Devo.

*sound of car brakes screeching to a halt and a giant explosion here*

That isn't volunteering.

I'm not saying volunteering can't be fun. But referring to people who attend an event or gather a group of friends to go bar hopping for a cause as volunteers cheapens the word and disrespects the folks who really are volunteers. Is it just me?

Volunteers are people connected to the core work of your organization. In most nonprofits, they're the ones who actually do said core work. They show up, they sacrifice. They have some skin in the game.

I'm all about going to the bingo game that benefits the organization (beers at Hamburger Mary's? Heeeeyyyy!!). I'll walk a charity 5K on a Saturday with a friend. But I won't call myself a volunteer for those groups.

Here's to the Volunteers who have earned the title.