OZVPM HOT TOPIC – JANUARY 2008
By OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the end of December can be a time of fun, family, reflection and celebration. It’s a time to get together with others we seldom see, to take a break from a busy work year and (in Australia at least) a chance to soak up some sun as we head for the beach.
Yet within what should be the pinnacle of the year, I observe more and more that people become very ritualistic in the ways that they celebrate the Christmas season. Grandma’s on Christmas Eve, opening gifts with the kids first thing on Christmas morning, church, lunch with the in laws, BBQ dinner with the parents, boxing day with the neighbours….
Of course there are many variations on the above theme, but my point is that we easily fall into creating annual ‘habits’ in the ways that we celebrate, not just Christmas, but many other important annual occasions in our lives.
It is really easy to fall into the habit of believing everyone else celebrates in the same way as we do. But what of those with no families for whom Christmas is the most lonely day of the year? What of the homeless and the poor who cannot afford even the most simple of celebratory items? What about those from different religious backgrounds for whom Christmas means little?
As this is the first Hot Topic column of a new year, I thought it appropriate to put this into a volunteerism context, particularly relating to the ways that we go about celebrating the important ‘peaks’ in the year of our volunteer programs.
For instance, how does you program celebrate occasions like National Volunteer Week, International Volunteers Day, International Volunteer Managers Day or other internal events like your AGM?
Is it a little like the above scenario, where you have pretty much have the same routine planned year after year, having your volunteers grudgingly work their way through ‘the’ annual routine? Same venue, same day, same time. Everyone knows what to expect before they arrive and where feigned smiles are the norm – as your team are presented with awards and speeches which are dusted off from year to year?
Or are you one of those programs who constantly seek to do things differently? Spicing it up, keeping volunteers guessing – and where there is an understanding that these events (like Christmas) actually mean really different things to different people?
The truth is you’ll never please everybody. But by evaluating your celebratory events, seeking the input of volunteers, being flexible with your format and at least being mindful of the fact that different people celebrate in different ways, you’ll have a good start to finding new ways to make these important times of the year less of a chore and more an opportunity to build your program.
So if you fall into this category, now is the time to make a New Year’s resolution to make some changes during the upcoming year!
Let’s hear what you have planned, or for those of you who already keep things fresh year after year, let’s hear your ideas about how you do this?