What is it about Volunteer Managers and our frequent lack of ability to say ‘No‘? Is it that we have all graduated from the school of ‘nicey nicey’ and we just don’t want to upset people? Do we lack the confidence to turn down a gift of time?
‘No‘ is a powerful word and one we as volunteer managers we should not be afraid to use. Indeed I’d like to suggest we should be confident and comfortable using it. It needs to be part of our everyday vocabulary. Too often it isn’t.
For those of us working in the formal volunteering sector it is probably a word we don’t use often enough. Too often when I’m training staff, and indeed volunteers, in managing and supporting volunteers one of the revelations for them is that they can say ‘No‘ to people who want to volunteer their time. Some of you will be reading this and thinking this is nothing short of heresy. Surely we should be enabling people to volunteer with us at every opportunity?
Let me make my case. For me, volunteer management is all about making a good match between your volunteer’s skills, interests and abilities and the roles your organisation has available. Where this is achieved it results in a fulfilling and rewarding experience for the volunteer and the organisation being able to achieve more. Win win. All the volunteers I’ve ever met want to feel that their donation of their ‘time and talents’ is helping the organisation make a difference (whatever that might be). Not unreasonable really. Surely that’s also our role for our organisation, why else are we there? We are about recruiting volunteers that will make a clear and important contribution to our organisation and its work aren’t we?
If we can’t make use of a potential volunteers ‘time and talents’ then surely the right, fair and honest thing to do is to say so. Too often we can get tempted into saying yes, taking someone on and trying to create a role for them to undertake. Big mistake. In my experience volunteers aren’t fooled by this and quickly realise what is going on. When they do they usually leave and not with the most favourable impression. They feel their precious gift of time was wasted, quite rightly.
Where we don’t have a suitable role that fits a volunteers time and talents then lets make sure we direct them to an organisation that we think can. When someone steps forward and says they want to volunteer I believe whole heartedly we should make every opportunity to find something rewarding and fulfilling for them to do. If that’s not with your organisation then let’s signpost them elsewhere, to somewhere where they really can put their time and talents to best use. Surely as volunteer managers we owe it to each other, and those stepping forward to volunteer to do so.
‘No‘ is also a word we should use when we are not convinced the person who wants to volunteer is the right person for our role/the team/ the organisation. As a volunteer manager one of the key tools in our kit bag for ensuring we, and our organisation, does not have problem volunteers to deal with is getting our recruitment and selection right. Key to this is the confidence and ability to say ‘No‘ where you don’t feel that person/their skills is the right fit for the role/organisation/the team. After all, recruitment is simply about getting the right person with the right skills in the right role. Not one of these, but all three and where we don’t have all three we owe it our organisations, and indeed the volunteers, to say ‘No‘.
So let’s get comfortable just saying ‘No‘.