The VAN Conference and the Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Will the Seattle Mariners ever have another winning season? Maybe the VAN conference didn’t answer these age old questions, but I did learn some important things about my job and even about myself. I’ve been asked to share a few of my conference “a-ha moments” with you, so here they are:

1)      Listening to keynote speaker, Nancy Macduff, during her talk about “Supplement, Supplant, Support” and realizing that giving a volunteer a task (or part of a task) that an employee used to do might not be the same as supplanting that employee. For more information on this topic, check out Glenis Chapin’s article in the Sept. 2011 issue of VolunteerToday.

2)      Sitting in the session about United Way’s Volunteer Impact Program (VIP) and realizing that there are lots of great resources out there if you know where to look and who to ask.  A great way to find these resources is to connect with other volunteer management professionals at conferences like this! You can find more information about VIP here.


3)      Attending Marjorie Trachtman’s inspiring workshop on Authentic Leadership where I learned that there is a difference between managing and leading, and that I can intentionally develop my leadership skills. Marjorie gave us a great handout on developing your personal mission statement that she got from Franklin Covey at  I might even go through the process with my teenagers this summer.

4)      Going through my conference notes with a volunteer that I asked to attend with me and realizing that there are so many benefits to attending a conference like this with a volunteer! We were able to split up and attend twice as many sessions and she now has a better understanding of my job and how she can help me; she was thrilled with the invitation and it was a great way to recognize all her hard work; the list could go on. During the conference, I turned to my volunteer and said, only half joking, “I shouldn’t have brought you because now you’ll know everything I’m doing wrong!” In reality, inviting her was a stroke of genius on my part (if I do say so myself).

This list is getting very long and I haven’t even touched on things like networking with other professionals, preparing my own workshop for the conference, serving on the planning committee… so I’ll stop now. Suffice it to say that the VAN conference was a great use of my limited money and even more limited time.

Please comment on this post with some of your own “a-ha moments” and I hope to see you at next year’s conference. Maybe we’ll have a speaker who can explain the meaning of life!

Jennifer Teeler
Volunteer Coordinator
Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

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