When Volunteers Become Voluntold
This blog originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Corporate volunteer programs offer such a multitude of benefits that they sometimes seem beyond reproach. When these programs are executed well, employees get to participate in meaningful work outside of the office that is recognized and supported by their employers; companies earn the appreciation of their employees and communities; and nonprofits benefit from added manpower - especially if it comes in the form of skills-based volunteering.
But as corporate volunteerism becomes commonplace in workplaces across the world, there’s one word that no one wants to hear: voluntold.
Here’s how Dictionary Slang defines “voluntold":
When someone "volunteers" someone else for something so that the other person really doesn't have a choice. (My boss voluntold me for the United Way Campaign.)
To be told that you have been volunteered for something. Volunteered without your express consent or knowledge. (I was voluntold for the charity event at my fraternity house by my brother.)
When a person is not given an option to volunteer; instead, they are told that they must. (When my friend decided not to volunteer to help set up for the sports banquet, he was voluntold by his boss that he should.)
Forcibly volunteered. A task that was once voluntary has now been ordered to you. ("You slack ass ensigns. Since none of you are going to volunteer, consider yourselves all voluntold. See you tomorrow morning at 0600.")
Not volunteering for something but then being told by someone with a higher authority to do it. (Adult: Who would you like to volunteer paint the fence today? *No-one answers. Adult: OK Billy you’re going to it. Teenager 2: You just got voluntold.)
Voluntold is also less commonly referred to as “mandateering,” or mandatory volunteering.
You get the picture.
Whatever name it goes by, voluntelling your employees defeats the purpose of volunteering. While office administrators understandably want their program’s participation rates to be high, workers should never feel pressured or, worse, ordered to participate in corporate volunteer programs. Whether your program asks workers to align behind the company’s social mission or it supports the individual causes your employees care about, increasing your program’s participation rates is best accomplished through creative tools that make volunteering more accessible and appealing.
Forget voluntelling; think voluntechnology. Businesses can better promote volunteer and giving programs if they’re using sophisticated volunteer management software that links social media tools to volunteering, uses mobile applications to feature volunteer opportunities in real-time, creates high visibility internally and externally for campaigns and promotes and manages such volunteering incentives as dollars for doers, matching and fundraising competitions.
Keeping your program modern, creative and easy to engage with will help get employees interested in volunteering and ward off any need to become voluntells.