Ghosts of Volunteers Past

Each year, I eagerly await the new additions to the Oxford English Dictionary. (Ed. note: Kerry is a word nerd). Whether it’s the rather dispiriting “unfriend” or kick-butt acronyms such as FLOTUS, the new OED words are a sign of the times. And in the Viral Era, these neologisms are a dime a dozen. Or should I say a bitcoin a megapixel?

One new term that hasn’t made it into the OED yet — but give it time — is “ghosting.” Ghosting became a thing a few months back when one movie star famously ended her engagement to another movie star by simply disappearing from his life. Unanswered calls, texts, and emails led to a grim conclusion. And heartbreak. COLD, right?

Well, yes, it is cold. And, unfortunately, the ghosting phenomenon is not limited to the rich, famous and lovelorn. In fact, it happens all too often in the world of volunteer management. If you have ever coordinated volunteers, you probably have a ghost story or two about the volunteer who didn’t show up at a clutch time, never to be seen again.

And how about this scenario: You learn about an inspiring organization with which you would like to volunteer, you sign up for more information, maybe complete a volunteer application, and. . . nothing. It’s hard to interpret silence, and even harder to not take such silences personally.

At Volunteer Maryland, we know that most organizations do not want to ghost anyone. Volunteers mean the world to nonprofits, and the last thing they want to do is turn talented, service-oriented community members away. These organizations want to answer each and every volunteer inquiry, but often simply lack the capacity and structure to do so.

This is where Volunteer Maryland comes in. We work with organizations to develop a plan for volunteer engagement, and then recruit, train and place a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator who fills in the gaps that lead to ghosting. Want to learn more? Feel free to contact me at or visit

Together, we can harness the energy of your volunteers without bringing ectoplasm into the equation.



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