Why such a difference? Possibly it is because of a mental image (concept, picture, thought, emotion or idea) as to what a "volunteer" is; or as to what a "ham" is; or as to what "amateur radio" is about.
But, you counter, "there's no reason they shouldn't have a positive mental image of those terms! After all I do."
Let's digress for a moment. Think of the ideas you have about anything. Where did it come from, or how did you acquire that idea? Anything: Baseball, hockey, swimming, woman, man, dog, cat, frog, snake, spider, government, freedom, ham, hot dog, donut, coffee, ice cream, watermelon.
What happened when you thought of each of those words? Your mind reached into its 'filing cabinet' and plucked out what you had previously filed away as an emotion, response or idea connected to EACH of those words. Did you taste the ice cream or the watermelon? Smell the coffee and donut? See a picture of a man/woman? Feel the splash of a swimming hole or pool?
A way to view this is to compare the mind to the post office with the rental boxes, where each box holds within a different "idea/concept/emotion/response". To access that information (mail in the post office box) the mind (you) reaches into the mail box (accesses the information on file) and presents it to your awake consciousness and you "understand" what the word "means".
But, do you? Do you know what "volunteer" means to the other person? No, not really. You only know what it means to you and you (generally and unconsciously) assume the other person has the same "understanding" -- meaning same information filed in their "mental post office box".
So, what happens when their mental idea/concept/emotion/response concept is diametrically opposite to yours? Zowie, clash!!!
Their "mental post office box" has an experience with one or more volunteers that you cannot comprehend; it has never happened to you and there is no reason for you to consider it is conceivable. You see "volunteer" as "positive, good and beneficial". He/she sees "volunteer" as "amateurish, lacking in understanding, no knowledge of protocol or subtle nuances, unprofessional."
In discussing "volunteers" with government officials, it is apparent that some have very different ideas about volunteers. Obviously it's based on some experience I cannot access, but can acknowledge that it exists. For instance, an item typically of concern is appearance. While that may seem trite (or inflammatory to some), it is a fact. Most officials are too tactful to say it, but this is what they mean: "If you don't look like us, if you don't talk like us, if you don't act like us, and if you don't perform like us, then you are not one of us."
An example: a group wanted to work with the local sheriff and provide him with "radio communications". The sheriff said "fine, you have to purchase and wear a shirt with my logo on it". The group answered "no way" because they did not grasp the meaning of his response, and lost an opportunity.
So, how does that relate? Can't you make the connection? Here's an experience that may help. Early in my career I had a client needing a tax-deferred real estate exchange. I interviewed 45 brokers with owners with property of possible interest. When the word "exchange" entered the conversaton, 44 immediately closed their minds and stopped all discussion. What was unfortunate was that before shutting off the idea 5 brokers had already provided facts from which it was apparent that their property owner could have been interested in a property exchange, but they could not accept the idea themselves (probably because they couldn't figure out how they would get their commission; or "exchange" conjured up the ancient "horsetrade" where an old horse was pawned off on an unsuspecting buyer.
Had I said it differently (as I later learned to do) it could have been different. Instead of "exchange" I discovered it was effective to speak in different words: "If you and the owner can close escrow and receive the following (XX and YYY) will you agree to, or consider, a transaction?"
Mental concepts control our response more than most realize.
Here's an example from my 10 years ('91-'01) as unpaid staff to the Office of Emergency Services. Between 1991-1994 while in OES 3 or 4 days each week, I witnessed the reaction of visitors from the state, U.S. and foreign countries touring the State Warning Center and our Radio Room. Over scores of such visits it became obvious that for many, their concept of the "ham", "amateur" and "RACES" came from "unsatisfactory" experiences.
So,I chose to avoid using the word "RACES" and determined to ask those leading the tours to do likewise. It took from 1994-1998 before we all made the mental switch from RACES. If the person leading the tour said RACES I'd find them later, and with a smile, say "you know about that word RACES and they'd tap their forehead and say "oops, I slipped again, didn't I?" And I'd grin and say something nice to alleviate the feeling, but reinforce the need to change. Our signs became CommCenter instead of RACES Radio Room. We stopped using the word "Ham" as much as possible and down played the term "Amateur Radio" until we knew more about the visitor and of their concepts of those words. We spoke in terms of "unpaid staff" and "communications specialists".
Why the effort? If we were to be as beneficial as possible to the agency we had to be sure that staff, and visitors, caught the right "idea" of the Auxiliary Communications Service - the name chosen to describe our services. It was self explanatory, quickly grasped, and had no preconceived images.
If some readers think our down playing of "RACES, "Amateur" and "ham" is offensive, please pause before sounding off. It takes time to change mental habits. We are NOT saying these terms are bad or that they should not be used. We realize there are many locations where these very terms have high meaning and the people to whom they apply have wide acceptance and recognition. That is as it should be. What we want to convey is that while you enjoy high meaning and wide acceptance, there are people in important positions of influence in government who do NOT share that enthusiasm and acceptance. IF we are to gain wider acceptance of an EMCOMM service in jurisdictions where such officials exist, then we must accept the obligation to work around such mental barriers, if, and where, they DO exist.
You think it's easy to change a mental habit? Try this: take the waste basket in your office, or home, and move it to a new location and see how long it takes before you get used to it! If that's too easy, change the name of a person you talk to daily: switch first name instead of middle, or vice versa.