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IVMA Day: Thankfulness in Action

Every day, we have the opportunity to quietly accept the world around us or reach out and show our true appreciation for the tremendous work that is being done. Thankfulness springs from an awareness and genuine appreciation for a person and their contributions. Thankfulness is embodied in our societies when we are not only grateful for the contributions made by others but also when we pause and reflect on the nature of the contributions made by those around us. The dual nature of both awareness and appreciation increases the significance of heartfelt thankfulness. I am thankful for the work of professional volunteer resources managers (VRMs).

Most nonprofit organizations would not be able to operate or provide services to their clients without the work of volunteers. While volunteers impact almost every area of service delivery, VRM’s provide a seamless delivery of support to those volunteers. International Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day (IVMA) Steering Committee Chair, Andy Fryer commented, “People recognize the valuable contributions of volunteers throughout the world. In fact, volunteers are involved in just about every aspect of service delivery in all walks of life however the role that trained VRMs play in directing those efforts is often overlooked.”

Every day, VRMs go to work mobilizing volunteers to address issues affecting communities around the world. They motivate, challenge and recognize the efforts of millions of volunteers around the world. They inform and educate volunteers so that they can understand the impact their work has and whom they are serving. They often work in difficult conditions with few resources. Yet these truly gifted professionals make the impossible happen every day.

It is time to celebrate the field and the practitioners of VRM!

On November 1, 2006 International Volunteer Managers Appreciation Day will be celebrated around the globe. The profession and practitioners of volunteer resources management are being celebrated because:

1. Volunteer managers have the skills and knowledge to help people be part of the solution in meeting community needs. Even in cynical times, they practice the art of the possible.

VRMs are particularly skilled at matching a volunteer’s skills and interests with opportunities that can have an impact. When the opportunity itself may not be a particularly interesting one, such as envelope stuffing or filing, VRMs demonstrate how the contribution of the volunteer’s time integrates into the work of the organization as a whole, thereby turning a tedious task into an educational opportunity. Through their work with community volunteers, VRMs further the cause of an organization in unparalleled ways. Without their efforts, most nonprofit organizations would be unable to achieve their missions.

2. Volunteer managers change lives — both the lives of volunteers themselves and of those served by well-led volunteers. It is a life-changing profession. Volunteer managers provide the leadership and direction that allows people to build a good and just society and to mend the social fabric. Without professional leadership, people’s time, talents and efforts would be wasted.

Many VRMs come to the profession because of their appreciation for the giving spirit and their love of the community. Through their experiences, they become community agents of change. Their work creates an educated citizenry and directs a community’s talents to the areas of greatest need. “The spotlight is generally on the volunteers who work in the community but VRMs quietly facilitate their vital community efforts. Their work is cause for celebration,” said Committee member Stephen Nill.

3. A well-run volunteer program shows the community, including potential donors, that the organization is not afraid of public scrutiny and involvement and endeavors to make the most efficient use of monetary assets.

The effective stewardship of resources, both monetary and human, demonstrates a true commitment to community improvement. Through program evaluations, VRMs demonstrate the value of volunteerism in all sectors of the community.

4. Well-led volunteers become an advocacy and public relations force for an agency or program — a force no amount of money could buy.

VRMs understand that every volunteer spreads their organizational message deeper and farther than they could do alone so they continually educate and create a sense of camaraderie with purpose. Without these efforts, most nonprofit organizations would not be able to spread their message as effectively or broadly.

So join me in saying, “Thank you!” to the VRMs. The skills and dedication of VRMs are an invaluable gift to the world.

For more information, please visit the IVMA Day web site.

Events are planned in many countries and include activities such as celebratory breakfasts, high teas, award programs and special events.

The International Supporters Group includes member organizations from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Mali, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, and the United States. They have come together to show their support for this important day.

About the Contributor: Celeste Sauls-Marks

Celeste Sauls-Marks, CVA, serves as the Agency Relations Director for Dallas County, Disaster Response and ServiceWorks! at the Volunteer Center of North Texas (VCNT). As the ServiceWorks! Director, she developed an innovative volunteer program for the City of Dallas. She served as the Volunteer Coordinator on the City of Dallas’Hurricane Operations Taskforce for the sheltering responses to the Katrina and Rita hurricanes in support of three megashelters that housed 26,000 people for six weeks. During that period, 9,200 volunteers were referred to aid evacuees.

She is a frequent speaker to many groups including the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, US Dressage Federation, and Tejas Girl Scout Council, to name a few. She is a past president of the Dallas Association of Diretors of volunteers and serves on the Participant Advisory Board of the Great American Bake Sale, a program of Share Our Strength. She chaired the Volunteer Committee for the American Association of Museums Annual Conference (2002). She actively involved as a continuing committee chair and speaker for the Volunteer Management Conference held each year in North Texas. Her passions for volunteerism and community involvement have been the driving force of her career in the nonprofit sector.

In June 2006, Ms. Sauls-Marks was elected by the Leadership Team to serve as its Team Leader of the VRM Roundtable, a grassroots project to develop the Association of Volunteer Resources Management (AVRM). a new independent professional association for US volunteer resources managers.

Ms Sauls-Marks lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband Michael and their four-legged children: Spencer, Leda, Ming and Percy.

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