When a volunteer walks through a manager’s door, each volunteer brings along a whole system of expectations, wishes and demands associated with the volunteer experience. Volunteer managers often recognize one category of expectations as the “fantasy world” of the volunteer. These expectations are frequently hidden from the volunteer manager and often only exist subconsciously for the volunteer. While the volunteer’s altruistic motives are most important in the first stages of recruiting and integrating the volunteer, the volunteer’s fantasies are most likely to surface during the actual volunteer experience. During this stage, if these additional hidden needs of the volunteer are not fulfilled, the altruistic motives that the volunteer previously declared will gradually erode, often causing the volunteer to drop out early on.
In this e-Volunteerism feature story, we review how these fantasy concepts challenge volunteer managers and discuss why it’s important to understand the nature of volunteer fantasies. Ultimately, volunteer managers who learn to manage these conditions help influence the management practices of the entire organization – for the better.