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Empowering and recognizing the catalyst: International Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day
30 May 2005
by Nan Hawthorne

Everything about International Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day has been empowering… from my own realization that as the editor of the former CyberVPM.com I had the standing to found the observance to the ever-expanding recognition that this day is important to the future of volunteerism itself. Implicit in the often expressed "just a volunteer" is the lack of recognition on our own part that we are professionals whose skills are essential to the effectiveness of the contribution volunteers make all over the world. Nurses have a day. Teachers have a day. Our profession deserves -- and has -- a day. And that day has evolved to a new level with a new home and a new date.

Observance of the day has grown rapidly and steadily. You will find information on it on the web sites of the International Volunteer Administration, the Points of Light Foundation, on Energize and its sister site Volunteerism, on Volunteer Today, the School of Volunteer Management, Australia's OZ-VPM, and of course CharityChannel. Add to these numerous volunteer centers, individual organizations, and official acknowledgement of the occasion by the governors of Washington and Maryland, just to name two states in the U.S. I will never forget the experience of sitting in a restaurant and overhearing someone at another table distinctly say, "International Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day"!

I have more or less sponsored IVMA Day since its first year, with a tremendous amount of creative and moral support of course, even after I "switched careers" and no longer ran CyberVPM.com. How wonderful it was to have Volunteer Management Review adopt my treasured project. Stephen Nill and I will be spearheading this annual observation of the value of the work we both – with you -- recognize.

How has IVMA Day been celebrated? One DOVIA obtained and distributed the declaration of the day by the state's governor to its entire membership. The Thanks Company created a special card for the occasion. The executive director of one agency, after learning about the observance from the county United Way, had a bouquet delivered very publicly to her manager of volunteers.

Starting in 2005 International Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day will be November 1. Why the new date? When IVMA Day was first proposed in 1999 the then steering committee felt that scheduling it for the same day as the United Nations observance of volunteers on December 5 was an important way to express the integral role of effective management in the success of volunteering. Since that time a number of individuals have expressed a concern that on one hand the observance steals some of the volunteers' thunder and on the other hand the impact of volunteer managers as professionals was obscured by sharing the date. A new date would mean that both could be honored for their part in so much community good weal. When IVMA Day moved its home to CharityChannel a new date for the observance was selected.

There have been a few who question observing a day for professional managers of volunteers. They say that volunteers are the ones who should receive all the praise. There are many others who, with me, believe that the profession's essential part in making what volunteers offer work, for the community as well as for the volunteers themselves, is too little recognized. By publicly honoring the professional we raise the level of recognition for the importance of volunteers and their work. The hope is that no more will we hear, as I did once, "We have to pay for volunteers?!" Professional expertise keeps volunteerism effective and vital... so let's remember:

"Volunteers are the glue that holds the community together... Volunteer Program Managers are the professionals who know how and where to apply the glue!"