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In this issue...

February Hot Topic: Volunteering Is Inherently Political 


Energize on Social Networks and What You Think About It

New in Our Online Journal, e-Volunteerism

Susan's Tip of the Month: Revisiting Fundamental Values
Upcoming Volunteer-Related Events

February 2012


February 2- Online Webinar from Stevenson Inc. - Risk Management and Your Volunteer Program


February 13-19 - Random Acts of Kindness Week 


February 20 - March 17- Everyone Ready Self-Instruction Guide: Reports with Clout: Showing the Impact of Volunteers 


February 20-26 -- U.K. Student Volunteering Week 


February 27-- Global Corporate Philanthropy Day 


March 2012


American Red Cross Month 


March 1 - Deadline to register for 2012 Certified in Volunteer Administration cycle 


March 8 - International Women's Day 


March 18 - Anniversary of the founding of Energize, Inc. 


March 19 - April 14 - Everyone Ready Online Seminar: New Approaches to Volunteer Recruitment 


March 31 - César Chávez Day of Service and Learning (U.S.) 


Submit an Event 

Follow Energize

Follow us on Twitter

Find us on Facebook

e-Volunteerism: A journal to inform and challenge leaders of volunteers

Everyone Ready Online Volunteer Management Training
Energize Volunteer Management Update
February 2012
a1February Hot Topic: Volunteering Is Inherently Political


The United States is at the start of a contentious presidential election year in which candidates with widely differing views each attract thousands of volunteers. We see election volunteering as a political act but any type of volunteering is inherently "political." What does this mean for your organization?


Read this Month's Hot Topic
You can subscribe to the Hot Topic as a podcast or RSS text feed - or listen to the audio online. 

a2Energize on Social Networks and What You Think About It


We like to think that Energize stepped into the social networking concept many years ago when Susan Ellis posted her Hot Topic to our Web site for the first time and asked for readers to post responses and start a conversation on the topic. Over a year ago, we ventured off our own "page" and delved into Facebook and Twitter hoping to broaden the conversation. Last month, followers of our Energize page on Facebook passed 1,000 and we've had well over 1,000 Twitter followers for some time. We've seen a big increase in the activity on these networks during 2011.


We are trying to find the balance between an interesting flow of postings and flooding followers with messages. Of course we keep you informed of news as it happens, both on the Energize Web site and anywhere in the world. We also highlight provocative quotes from our many books and pass along well-articulated opinions written by others.


The fun aspect of social networks for us has been the ability to speak directly to leaders of volunteers and connect with others working in volunteerism without having to wait for in-person conferences or workshops. But we still feel like newbies in the social media world and want to know what all of our followers think about it, even from those of you who haven't joined the social network craze.


So, please take a few minutes and respond to this short survey by February 29th and tell us your preferences for staying in touch with Energize. Thanks so much!

a3New in Our Online Journal, e-Volunteerism


e-Volunteerism is our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers. A new issue, XII, 2, launched on January 15th. These articles are already available:

Still to come this quarter are articles on the Student Volunteer Army responding to the earthquakes last year in Christchurch, New Zealand and an update on the Volunteer Impact Program in King County, WA.


This issue continues through April 14th and then, as always, will remain accessible to subscribers in the journal's Archives.


You can subscribe to e-Volunteerism for a full year or for 48-hour access. Note that subscribers have full access to the archives of all twelve volume years.

a4Susan's Tip of the Month: Revisiting Fundamental Values


Identifying the values about volunteering held in your organization is a worthwhile exercise. It uncovers what executives, frontline employees, and volunteers themselves think about why volunteers are involved at all. It points the way for creating meaningful volunteer assignments and provides a framework for working together. It also reminds us that volunteering is bigger than our one setting or even this one point in time. Start the conversation!


Here are some statements of my own philosophy. Do you believe in these, too? What else do you feel is fundamental to understanding volunteer involvement?


1. Participation by citizens is vital to making democratic communities work.


Participatory democracy is based on the value that it is a good thing for citizens to participate in running their communities and in making sure that things happen the way they want. This is the heart of volunteerism and is why, in a free society, volunteering is a right, not a privilege. (This is not to be confused with the parallel right of any agency or individual to refuse the services of a prospective volunteer.)


Volunteering generates a sense of ownership. People who get involved feel connected to others and affected by the outcome of their "sweat equity." It's the complete opposite of the attitude "that doesn't concern me."


2. Volunteers are more than free labor and fill a role that's different from employees.


First, volunteers are not "free." There are costs to an agency for their support and tools, as well as out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the individuals donating time.


Most important, when placed in the right positions, volunteers bring a value-added component that actually changes or is lost when a paid employee does the same work. The point is not that volunteers are better than employees. It's that sometimes their status as volunteers can provide a useful difference. Therefore, volunteers are vital to an organization and would be an asset even if there were all the money in the world to pay more staff.


3. Equal respect is due to work that is volunteered and work that is paid.


The value of any work should be determined by its intrinsic quality and impact. Work done by employees does not automatically have a higher value than that done by volunteers (and is also not of lesser value). The contributions of paid and volunteer workers are compatible, collaborative, and integrated.


Even more important, the skills and dedication of the person doing the work are not determined by the presence or absence of a paycheck. There are extraordinary volunteers and extraordinary employees. The potential for excellence always exists.


4. Volunteer involvement is a balance of three sets of rights: those of the client/recipient; those of the volunteer; and those of the agency.


Despite wrangling over employee and volunteer points of view, each situation defines which perspective takes precedence. In most cases, the bottom line should be what is best for the recipient of service. But there are also agency and other long-term considerations. The key is not to presuppose that one perspective always outweighs the others.


5. Volunteers, as citizens of a free society, have the right to be mavericks.


The way that genuine social change occurs is that a few pioneering volunteers are willing to be ostracized (even jailed) for their actions. While an agency has the right to refuse a placement to a volunteer, that individual has the right to continue to pursue the cause or issue as a private citizen.


This right to see things differently also raises an ethical consideration in how we develop assignments for volunteers within our organizations. Do we expect to keep volunteers always "under control"?


6. Volunteering is a neutral act - a strategy for getting things done.


Volunteering is not inherently on the side of the angels, nor is it an end unto itself. It is a means to accomplishing a goal and is done by people on both sides of an issue: Republicans AND Democrats, pro-choice AND anti-abortion advocates, etc. Volunteering is a method that allows people to stand up for their beliefs. Which is why, paradoxically, it is also always a political act - see the current Hot Topic for more on this point.


7. The best volunteering is an exchange in which the giver and the recipient both benefit.


Volunteering should not be confused with charity or noblesse oblige - those who have so much, give to those who have so little. Because volunteering puts the time donor directly into the service delivered, the impact of the activity reverberates back to the volunteer in ways much more complex than writing a donation check. Further, when volunteers also benefit from their service, they have even more motivation to do a good job, which means better service to the recipient, and an upward spiral of reinforcement.


8. Volunteering empowers the people who do it.


Volunteering empowers volunteers, both personally and politically. On the personal level, volunteering contributes to individual growth, self-esteem, sense of control, and ability to make a contribution to society. At the community level, the collective action of volunteers who share a commitment to a cause is extremely powerful - real clout for real change.


9. Volunteering is an equalizer.


When people volunteer, it is often more important who they are as human beings than what they are on their resumes. In a volunteer role, people can rise to the level of their abilities regardless of their formal qualifications: teenagers can do adult-level work, those with life experience can contribute to client service without a master's degree, etc. Similarly, when running in a fundraising marathon, the corporate CEO and the school custodian are indistinguishable, as are all members of a nonprofit board of directors who share the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of this position whether they are employed in professional capacities or represent grassroots perspectives.


10. Volunteering is inherently optimistic and future-oriented.


No one gives time to a cause they feel will fail. In fact, the whole rationale for volunteering is to assure the success of a cause. So, while people may take a paying job that is relatively meaningless if the salary is enticing, the reward for volunteered service is accomplishment. This also means that people volunteer with a vision of the future, often in hopes of a better future in which a problem or disease will be conquered, communities will be safe and inclusive, and the world will be in harmony. This may sound terribly mushy (which may be why such a value is not expressed every day), but it is ultimately true.

About Us
Energize empowers and inspires leaders of volunteers worldwide. Our specialty is creating and selecting the most relevant, innovative resources in volunteer management. We're advocates for the power of volunteers and for the recognition of the leaders who unleash it.

Energize, Inc.
5450 Wissahickon Ave. C-13
Philadelphia PA 19144 USA
Phone: 215-438-8342
Fax: 215-438-0434
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