Change the language, change the relationship

by Jini Stolk

At a recent Ontario Nonprofit Network strategy meeting, we were reminded that many volunteers don’t think of themselves as “volunteers.” They are, instead, deeply engaged individuals who want to make a meaningful contribution in their communities.

Doesn’t that make more sense? It does to me, and led me to think about how that simple change in perspective could transform our relationships with board members, event committees, ushers and anyone else who gives of their time and skills to help us succeed.

And, as Claire Hopkinson, Executive Director of the Toronto Arts Council and co-founder of Creative Trust said in a Toronto Arts Coalition Newsletter, some volunteers may be colleagues too. “Volunteering works both ways. As there is not a great deal of opportunity for professional development for people working in the arts, volunteering helps to build skills, increase knowledge, gain confidence, and make new friends.”

Maybe it’s time to review our Board Handbooks and Volunteer Information Sheets to see that they reflect that sense of partnership and shared commitment to the artistic vision of the organization.

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