Extending Volunteer Expiration Dates
Anyone who leads volunteers has had this experience: an enthusiastic volunteer arrives, plugs in, provides consistent and thorough service, becomes central to your organization, and then one day, leaves. This can leave a volunteer manager both perplexed and dismayed. “What did I do wrong? Did I not show enough appreciation? Did I not challenge them enough? Or provide them with enough responsibility?”
The Volunteer Shelf Life: A No Fault Look at Volunteer Retention and the Reasons Volunteers Leave is the first book by Meridian Swift, a seasoned volunteer manager. She has captured a practical and realistic approach to understanding the reasons why volunteers might choose to leave, possible ways to prolong their service, and how to deal with their departure. Examining the many reasons volunteers end their service, Swift argues the case for offering quality over quantity and rejects the idea that someone is at fault if a volunteer moves on. Swift takes real situations, many from her experience in hospice, and offers constructive lessons learned from each departure.
Gregg was now going to start living a brand-new life, a life that did not include hospice work. Although he would miss the patients, the other volunteers, and most certainly the volunteer manager, Gregg was preparing to travel, to go to dinner, to reinvest in living. His time with hospice was over, not because he did not like the work anymore, and not because he stopped finding the patients interesting, but because he no longer needed it. He had closed that chapter. His immersion in volunteering did not have a prominent place in his new life. No longer did he need to help others the way he had been helped. This volunteer’s shelf life lasted for as long as the work fulfilled his need. He had strengthened himself through helping other families. He had used his time for healing. Oftentimes, we chastise volunteers for using their patients or clients to mend their sorrows, but there are some volunteers who can walk that fine line and help not only everyone they come in contact with, but themselves as well.
…It’s difficult to be happy when great volunteers leave because their life has taken a positive turn, because we are mentally tallying the hours of hard work it will take to replace them. We can bemoan the fact that they are abandoning us, or we can move on and be happy for them and proud of ourselves and our programs. It is another layer of volunteer services.
Written in a conversational style, those responsible for volunteer engagement will be able to apply the lessons contained in this book to their work, whatever the setting. Energize is delighted to be offering The Volunteer Shelf Life in our online bookstore as an e-book.