Keeping things fresh in a new year

Andy Fryar January 1, 2008 3
Keeping things fresh in a new year


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?



  1. ozvpm_andy March 26, 2012 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 13 by Angela Burford, Chicago, USA

    I was interested in reading your thoughts on thinking of new ways to celebrate and show gratitude. I’ve been examining this recently and it seems that many of our volunteers are happy with more of the same. Interesting. I personally like to push the boundaries but so far it seems better to tinker around the edges. So, I keep the main things like our annual recognition lunch the same but add the spice with little surprises such as entertainment, gifts, presentation etc. and bits and pieces we do throughout the year. I do however certainly take the point that it’s important not to take what we think works for granted – I’ll think and talk some more about that with the staff and volunteers. It seems to me that coupled with useful, interesting, fun work it’s the small things that we do everyday to show our respect and appreciation that are most important.

  2. ozvpm_andy March 26, 2012 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 10 by Michelle Hodshon, Volunteer Services Coordinator, City of Salisbury, SA, Australia

    Thanks Andy for another thought provoking article. Yes, i’m one of the Coordinators who fall into the category of repeating celebrations; cards at International Volunteer Day, dinner during National Volunteer Week…. I suppose I continue recognising volunteers this way because it works for the majority, but you got me thinking…. Our organisation is situated close to a Cinema and maybe they would consider reducing their ticket fee for 2 or 3 hundred volunteers – its mutually beneficial… so maybe this year the volunteers might celebrate differently! Thanks for the wake-up call!

  3. ozvpm_andy March 26, 2012 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Response posted on January 5 by Glenn Burton, Senior Sergeant, State Coordinator VIPs, Qld, Australia

    I am the State Coordinator of Volunteers in Policing (VIPs) for the Queensland Police Service. This job was previously done non-members of the Service. It was task that I did not want to take on, but after learning more and more about volunteers, it is a task that I now relish.

    I have taken the ball and run so to speak, and have done this since November 06.

    07 was a challenging year for me and the Volunteers in Policing Program. Gaining a suitable budget for training and recruitment was a challenge too. When I took over this position we had 201 volunteers in policing, there are now 280 and the figure will be close to 320 by the end of the financial year. I am excited about this and proud of the fact that I have contributed to this.

    During 07, I conducted a Volunteers Forum, a first for the QPS. This was held in Volunteers Weeks. It was huge success. I attended the VIP Program Annual Conference in Goulburn, NSW, and gained valuable knowledge and networking. Throughout the state at my instigation various district held BBQs or presented Certificates to some of our VIPs.

    We do not have an AGM. But this year will be the inaugural conference for VIPs, along with the Volunteers Forum, they will be held in Volunteers Week.

    There is a difference; the Volunteers Forum, consists of all programs, who have volunteers, associated with the QPS, e.g. PCYC, NHW, VIP’s, Safety House, Victims of Homicide, Community Supporting Police, Selection Panel Community Members. All of the programs have speakers and then we have an open forum and panel at the end, with the Commissioner of Police opening. I initiated this forum, feedback was that it was short and when is the next one. The idea of the forum, was for all to find out what each program was about and networking.

    The VIP conference is for VIPs only with their supervisors. As it is the first one, I looking forward to it.

    We will training some 30 more VIPs within the coming three months.

    Hopefully all will come to plan.

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