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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. . .

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. . .

Editor's Note: Starting with the next issue, a variety of people will author Points of View. Different members of the editorial team will take turns writing the essay, and we also welcome well-articulated perspectives from you, our readers.  If you have an opinion you would like to explore in an essay, please submit your idea to  Any volunteer-related topic is fair game.

e-Volunteerism is now 12 years old, and their joint amazement about that fact caused Steve McCurley and Susan J. Ellis to look back and review what they’ve done. They write this Points of View in a somewhat anecdotal and disorderly fashion, since there are a lot of different lines of thought to ponder these days. Namely, why is Steve’s name changing on the online masthead?  Why does Susan call Steve “an uneducated, promiscuous male?” And why does Steve quote the best football player ever on the University of Georgia team? In this issue, Points of View attempts to explain it all. 

Steve Starts…

e-Volunteerism is now 12 years old, and our joint amazement about that fact has caused us to look back and review what we’ve done. We’ll do this in a somewhat anecdotal and disorderly fashion since there are a lot of different lines of thought we’ve been pondering.

  • We can start with the admission that we had no idea what we were getting into. Steve originally sent an e-mail to Susan suggesting some form of online magazine, although his original notion was for something quite modest. In her usual fashion, Susan took that idea and expanded it mightily and most of what you see today comes from her imagination. Neither of us had any thought that we’d end up with something that has produced more pages of articles than any other volunteer management publication in history. There’s a reason we refer to each issue of e-Volunteerism as a “volume.”
  • We also had no idea whether you could even do an online journal. You have to remember that this was back at the dawn of the Internet age. Most people used dial-up modems, screeching along at an awesome rate of 33.6 kps. Most Websites didn’t have pictures, much less video. Most volunteer managers didn’t have e-mail. What were we thinking?
  • We vaguely knew we wanted e-Volunteerism to be interactive but we weren’t sure how you made that happen. The online publications in existence were modeled strictly on print publications – they were static and one-directional. You might as well have been reading a magazine, except that the magazine would be in color and you could turn the pages faster.

The truth is we’re still trying to make e-Volunteerism interactive. And despite the fact that technology is no longer a barrier, we’d probably say that our greatest failure has been not being able to turn e-Volunteerism into a place where more discussion takes place, with input from the readers being at least equal to the opinions of the authors. We fully intend to blame that on you, the readers, and if you take umbrage feel free to express your opinion by hitting the “Comments” button below. In fact, feel free to express your opinion on anything that strikes your fancy while you’re there.

  • We wanted to make e-Volunteerism accessible, but we also knew we couldn’t afford to finance it ourselves. Actually, we did put in the start-up money, and after that we worked as volunteers. Subscription money basically goes to financing the infrastructure of running a Website. We think we’ve still made it a bargain. And now, of course, if you join you get the rather amazing benefit of being able to access everything we’ve ever published, which means you’re paying considerably less than a penny-per-page. That’s not bad for a time when the average newspaper will cost you a dollar. We’re glad we approached it this way since it’s just one more bit of proof that it’s amazing what you can accomplish when money isn’t your primary objective.
  • The year 2000 was also the beginning of internationalization in volunteering.  Most trainers had done some international work before that time, but beginning in 2000 a lot of us were flying all over the place. Steve once calculated that he spent over three years in the UK between 2000 and 2010; Susan’s passport looks like she either works for CNN’s international desk or a drug cartel. For the first time you had people from the US, the UK, Hong Kong, Australia and lots of other places interacting and exchanging ideas. We knew we wanted e-Volunteerism to reflect and help grow this trend, which is why from the very start we looked for articles and authors from beyond our home base in the US.

This might be our greatest success. e-Volunteerism really has turned into an international forum with authors from over 22 countries and editors from as many as six different countries at any given time.

Of course, it might also be one of our more amusing failures. So embarrassing, in fact, that we devoted an entire Points of View to admitting where language difficulties had tripped us up (see

  • No magazine is any better than its authors and we have been very fortunate in this regard. We started out using a technique we learned early in working with volunteers – pick on your friends. Some wrote individual articles, others became responsible for entire sections. We then branched out, using targeted recruitment on everyone we ran into. One of the nice things about doing volunteer management training for literally tens of thousands of participants is that it’s a great way to scout for people with ideas and potential. A lot of them got invited to contribute and much of the really useful stuff in e-Volunteerism was done by practitioners who had an opportunity to discipline themselves to describe what they were doing, what they learned from it, and how others might benefit from it. 

We’re still scouting, by the way, so if you have anything you’d like to submit, send it in; it’s a great way to share what you know with a larger community.

  • Of course, we also enjoy esoteric things like theory and research. We probably like them more than most people, to be honest, but what’s the use of being the Founding Editors if you can’t produce a magazine that you’d really enjoy reading yourself? Along the Web has given Steve the opportunity to justify the incredible amount of time he spends cruising the Internet. Voices from the Past lets Susan enrich her historical perspective on volunteerism and share the stories of some its seminal characters. And Points of View has let us be as opinionated as we wish on many different topics in the field.

Susan Continues

If Steve’s reflective walk down memory lane here strikes you as a farewell, you’re very perceptive! This issue of e-Volunteerism is his swan song as an active contributor. As of June, Steve is retiring from consulting, training and writing. I have convinced him to remain on the editorial team in “emeritus” status, since it’s inconceivable to me to simply hit the “delete” button on his name as co-founding editor.

We discussed what we should do in this last co-authored Points of View – unbelievably, our 47th! – and thought back to our original idea for this quarterly article. Being the same age, we spent the 1970s watching the “Point/Counterpoint” skit on Saturday Night Live, in which Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain began a serious debate on a news item of the day and deteriorated into nastiness (see a clip), highlighted by Dan proclaiming, “Jane, you ignorant slut.” So we liked the idea of taking opposing points (plural) of view on a volunteering subject and considering different angles. 

The problem was that we could rarely find anything on which we truly disagreed! The proof can be found in a review of our past essays.  In Volume I, Issues 1 and 2, we indeed found some opposing views:

But by Issue 3, Where Are the Men? (April 2001), we engaged in a “dialogue on gender” together and by Issue 4 we had dropped the pretense altogether. In the next 11 years, we only “debated” three more times:

In two others, we divvied up the topic to deal with different aspects of the subject, but not differing views. This track record amazes even us.

In case you were wondering, all the essays were truly co-authored. First, we e-mailed or phoned each other to toss around possible subjects. Then one of us volunteered to start it off and the other would respond, adding thoughts throughout.  We went back and forth until we felt it was done and then it went into the editing/publishing process. The person who started it off got his or her name listed first in the author sequence. If you have ever tried to write collaboratively with someone, you know this is not something you can do with any Tom, Dick or Harry. I was enormously lucky to find a Steve as my counterpart. 

I let Steve pick whatever he wanted to write about this last time. And so he did. Once again, no drama or conflict. Except that I could debate him endlessly on the concept of “retirement,” which I totally cannot fathom and resent deeply in his case, since it means I lose a great partner and our field loses a compelling voice. So, “Steve, you uneducated, promiscuous male,” you BETTER have lots of fun and relaxation in your re-direction, since you are leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

[Steve’s last interjection:  “Oh, Susan, you ignorant slut, I’m not disappearing. I’ve always been a fan of Jake Scott, probably the best football player the University of Georgia ever produced.  When he was inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame he didn’t show up for the ceremony.  Afterwards a friend asked him, “What were you doing, hiding out?”  Scotts response:  “I haven’t been hiding out. I’ve just been somewhere else.”]

Steve’s proposed closing line for this essay (and I will allow him the last word) was:  As for the future, e-Volunteerism will just keep truckin’ on. 

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