The New Volunteerism Project

The Archival Collection of
Ivan Henry Scheier

Section XII

Empowerment of the Professional

June 1999

The page #'s refer to the pages of the "New Volunteerism  Project: The Ivan Scheier Archival Collection."
Five bound volumes placed in the Reference collection of the
Dayton Memorial Library at Regis University
Table of Contents Page #
Introductory Notes
"Moving Along: Case Studies of Career Paths for Volunteer Coordinators" 1
"The Part-Time Profession: 2

Percent and Nature of Time Investment In the Volunteer Leadership Career"

Empowerment Series in The Journal of Volunteer Administration 3

* "What’s in Our Name"


* "Seeing Ourselves As More Than Subsidiary"


* "Leverage Points and Process" 

"On a Personal Note – Professional, Too" 24-25
"Creating Careers for Volunteer Coordinators" 26-32
"X-Rated Organizations, Expendable Professionals, and a Modest Proposal" 33
Notes  * An asterisk indicates only a summary is available at this time.

@ -- permission for use-with-acknowledgment
-- Appropriate permission must be secured from the publisher for re-publication


 Introductory Notes on Empowerment of the Professional
Ivan Scheier
June 1999

The professional referred to here is primarily the Director or Coordinator of Volunteers, but can also include more generally, leaders of volunteers and activists in a community. The Director/Coordinator of Volunteers especially, is, in my opinion among the most, talented, over-worked and undervalued individual in any career. I have been fixated on fixing this situation throughout my career; most of my work bears on the empowerment of this professional in one way or another, directly or indirectly; for example, in the following other packets comprising this collection:

The following items are newly enclosed for the present section:

A -- Some indication of the problem area ("solutions" too?)

B -- Empowerment Series in The Journal of Volunteer Administration

Key terms

The Profession of volunteer administration is understood broadly to include any volunteer or paid career significantly involving leadership of volunteers. By Empowerment is meant enhanced statues and respect for the careerists and the volunteers they serve. We also mean more generous resource allocation in support of the volunteer programs and groups served by volunteer administrators.

This article looked at labels for what people generally classed as volunteer administrators actually do. We found frequent justification for broader, more inclusive and hence more impressive titles such as "Community resource development specialist," Community resource manager," "Community relations coordinator," and the like. We also found that a significant number of people who used to call themselves "volunteer administrators" or a similar title, were beginning to change their names to the broader, and we believe more powerful titles. While"… it is all too easy for an uneducated (on volunteers) executive to downplay a person labeled as ‘only responsible for volunteers…." That same executive might "...think twice, or even thrice before trivializing the work of a person who, as part of a seamless package, was bringing in, not only volunteers, but also materials, equipment, money, information, and community support."

The first article dealt with a narrow-broad polarity in professional self-concept. This article deals with a subsidiary-autonomous one. The point is that "…insofar as volunteer administration continues to see itself as derivative, passive and dependent, others naturally tend to see us in the same way. Beginning to define ourselves as powerful, active and autonomous is the first step in becoming so." Tactics discussed here included: 1) concentrate more on settings, such as the entirely volunteer group and the freelance volunteer in which volunteers are more independent and self-directed. 2) Invest more in identifying and highlighting what is special in volunteerism, hence where we are experts and teachers and hence more powerful (e.g. intangible rewards are at least as important as money in producing a high quality worklife. Finally, 3) take statements of the type "how does the economy affect volunteerism?" and convert from passive to active by considering instead: "how does volunteerism impact the economy?"

The question here is: how can our relatively limited resources be leveraged to produce maximum empowerment for the profession? The article argues this can best be done by 1) targeting a more widespread responsibility for positive change, in the volunteer-program sponsoring organization rather than expecting the individual volunteer administrator to carry so much weight as change agent, 2) paying more attention to how we motivate organizations and individuals to comply with ideal standards, once we have articulated them. Organization incentives discussed include that the guidelines and standards themselves be credible and valid, clear, concise, appropriately flexible, do-able, learnable (with definite help from us) and precise in distinguishing who is responsible for what. Standards development should be participative; observance solemnized in writing; and encouragement for compliance by organizational recognition, and, where possible, making supplies of both volunteers and money, contingent on observance of the standards.

C --  The above three articles lay out my general position on empowerment of the professional, as of 10-12 years ago. The following article is a more current version:

D --  Defining and Opening Up More Career Paths

The Afterward as Heartbreak

Some five years after the end of my active involvement in the field of Volunteer Administration, I had occasion to talk shop with some ten professionals in the field. bright, caring, skillful, committed Bthe quantity of the people had not changed nor, sadly, had the quantity of the frustration. The same old dis-empowerment blockages were discussed with the same old remedies (though some there thought they were fresh insights, and that only added to my personal frustration). Once again, I experience a desperate reminder that B sorryBtinkering with the old system, however skillfully, is not the solution. There have to be some systemic changes in the role itself and its social/instructional setting and context, and alas, having made some suggestions to that end, I don't see that happening. Another thirty years, perhaps, or never....

An asterisk indicates only a summary is available at this time

ivanbar.gif (136 bytes)

Post Your Response

Read Other Responses

ivanbar.gif (136 bytes)


Return to the Main Table of Contents

Ivan Scheier
607 Marr
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 87901
Tel (505) 894-1340

For comments and editing suggestions please contact Mary Lou McNatt