Bug or Butterfly?

Andy Fryar January 1, 2007 4
Bug or Butterfly?


By OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar

Have you ever considered the lifecycle of the average volunteer program manager?

We tend to run through a busy lifecycle that includes the planning and preparation for each new volunteer intake, the facilitation of information sessions and publicity, conducting the seemingly ‘never ending’ process of interviews, running orientation days, educating at training sessions and performing on-going volunteer evaluations.

To further complete the cycle, we have to attend an ever increasing number of meetings, complete a growing pile of reports, and operate highly effective volunteer week and end-of-year volunteer recognition functions – while all the time wearing a smile on our face!

It’s little wonder we are exhausted when the last of our volunteers leave for their annual vacation!

Thoughts of CS Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ come readily to mind – where it was ‘always winter .but never Christmas’ , and I wonder how many of us ever take the opportunity to step back, evaluate our progress and celebrate our achievements?

Sadly the effects of this ‘lifecycle’ can be seen and measured by the high turnover rate of those in our profession, and by the many others who through burn-out, simply no longer have the time or inclination to get involved in opportunities for professional development or networking.

If we were to compare ourselves to butterflies, I wonder how many of us ever have the opportunity to move beyond the ‘bug’ stages of being either a caterpillar or withdrawing into our cocoons?

How many of us ever show our true colours and potential by becoming a butterfly and soaring high – even if only occasionally and for short periods of time?

The beginning of any year offers the ideal opportunity to make this happen and to create some resolutions of change:

. To make the new year a time when personal as well as organisational goals can be set and achieved

. To resolve to put some time aside for you in the midst of a busy schedule. Take up a hobby, read a book, or dare I say it – go do some volunteer work for another agency!

. To commit to joining a newsgroup (or posting more regularly if you are already a member) , attending a conference or to reading that pile of year old journals in the corner of your office

. To read two new books on the topic of volunteerism

. To link with a colleague doing similar work either in your home country or overseas, to compare notes on the work you do, to exchange ideas and to offer mutual peer support to one another

. To pencil into your diary regular ‘time out’ periods in which to have lunch with a work colleague or even one or two of your program’s volunteers once a week, fortnight or month

. To play more and worry less

. To spend more time with your family and less time at the office.

. To deliberately change your work patterns. Maybe ask your boss about working from home a day a week.

. To delegate more

. To be an advocate for ‘volunteerism’ by writing letters to the editor on issues you believe are misrepresented in the media

. Make a commitment to attend your local volunteer managers network group or join a committee on a topic which interests you, perhaps through your local volunteer centre

Planning personal as well as organisational objectives not only allows for much needed respite throughout the year, but has the added benefit of helping you to keep ‘fresh’ while retaining your sanity at the same time!

So what’s stopping you?

Do it now!

Pick up that diary before it gets too full, and start to schedule some time for you !

Plan to be a butterfly for at least a little time this year – I guarantee that you will appreciate it, and better still others will take notice.

Now why not start by responding to this hot topic and sharing at least one goal that you pledge to achieve in 2007!

This month’s Hot Topic is an adaptation of an article Andy Fryar originally wrote for Charity Channel’s ‘Volunteer Management Review’ that was first published in January 2003



  1. ozvpm_andy April 9, 2012 at 1:17 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 17th 2007 by Clare Doyle, Program Manager, Community Visitors Scheme, Multiple Sclerosis, NSW/Vic

    Dear Andy
    This is my year to become a butterfly and after 14 years as Manager of the MS NSW/Vic Community Visitors Scheme’ I plan to ‘fly off on long service leave for 2 months and take a cruise form Athens to Instanbul. It is time to recharge the batteries and have some time for me. I know after so long in the one position and although I love the CVS, I will come back with renewed energy and new thoughts and plans about our work practices.

  2. ozvpm_andy April 9, 2012 at 1:17 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 10th 2007 by Peter Heyworth, Coordinator, Volunteer Services, Royal Society for the Blind, Adelaide, South Australia

    Unfortunately I think Andy is right.

    At most levels of volunteer management – unless we manage to come into much higher level management / strategic positions, much of our time is taken with day to day stuff. I think we also tend to have to deal with more immediate issues which can come fast
    and furious and can’t be planned for.

    The immediacy of this work load can lead us into the tyranny of the urgent and it is easy to forget the important. Planning, relaxing, envisioning
    is the important stuff. It saves us time and empowers us in the long term, but always gets missed out in the short term.

    Today for example, nothing on the plate – except prepare some training for volunteers and some planning. Instead a lengthy call from a volunteer who has got his nose out of joint, a volunteer who had an accident in a company car, a stressed out client needing a service, a volunteer who wanted to resign over a misunderstanding with another volunteer, resolving an issue with an office volunteer, a number of contacts with several departments organising training / meetings etc., a tough call on two police checks + follow up, computer problems, etc

    So the plans go astray and the urgent crowds out the important.

    Scheduling time to be a butterfly – you bet ya – it is essential. We wont survive without it

    One of the reasons AAVA is including a component on professional development in the accreditation program they are developing is to make sure we have time to smell the roses, look after ourselves and take time out to plan and envision.

    Absolutely essential!
    By making professional development a component of accreditation it forces vm’s to think about looking after themselves in our busy worlds
    Incidently, I wonder if you have looked at a butterfly fly. They fly in a jerky manner and flit quickly from flower to flower while seeing the bigger picture

  3. ozvpm_andy April 9, 2012 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 10th 2007 by Adaire Palmer, Volunteer Management Branch, SAFECOM and Vice President AAVA, Adelaide, AustraliaI couldn’t agree more with both your’s and DJ’s comments!! Linked in with the points you make, I’ve been pondering the notion of lifelong learning and professional development for what seems like eons! Some of the research I’ve done indicates that while younger people are keen to keep learning, experimenting different ways of doing things and taking on new concepts (as well as being proponents of new concepts), there are a number of ‘older people’ who reckon that while its a great concept, its not for them.

    Lets all make the commitment to change one or two things: use the list suggested by Andy, or invent your own!!!

    I, for one, have put up my hand to become a board member of another professional association (as well as AAVA) to promote the wonderful world of volunteer management to the industry of human resources.

    What will you do?

  4. ozvpm_andy April 9, 2012 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 2nd 2007 by DJ Cronin, Manager Volunteer Services, Greenslopes Private Hospital and Board Member AAVA, Brisbane, Queensland

    Thanks Andy for encouraging us all to be butterflies and I for one would certainly love to fly high in 2007. It can be a funny old business, this volunteer management. Personally I am quite content in my career choice but I haven’t always been. I’ve taken more interest in the sector itself in recent years after I worked hard to ensure that my job was respected and valued and on an equal footing with other managers within the agency. My goal this year is to continue on that path and to encourage others in the sector to take more pride in their important roles and gain the recognition they deserve.

    I feel that if we stick to the comfortable warmth and security of our cocoons then our profession will not soar. I was surprised by the lack of support in some areas in 2006 for International Volunteer Managers Appreciation Day. The reasons given for this varied from “I don’t like patting myself on the back or “you don’t see HR people having their own recognition day” etc. I researched the latter and in fact they do have at least an awards ceremony for those in the industry each year. I don’t see IVMAD as merely patting ourselves on the back. I see it more as a vehicle for promoting our wonderful sector. Ditto with the inaugural volunteer managers award being run by AAVA. Another of my goals this year is to nominate someone for that award. I hope that you do too. http://www.aava.asn.au/pages/International%20Volunteer%20Manager%20Appreciation%20%20Day.php

    I end with a quote from Norman Vincent Peale and my final goal is to apply it to our sector:

    “You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired of doing nothing. Get interested in something! Get absolutely enthralled in something! Get out of yourself! Be somebody! Do something. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”

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