Thursday, May 3, 2018

Let’s not kill Volunteering

I draw you in dear reader with a provocative headline. In reality the title refers to the word “Volunteering”
Rob Jackson put it so well in a recent comment of his that there is no problem with the word volunteering. Rather there is an issue with the perception of volunteering.
There are issues with the perception of a volunteer and therefore by extension the Volunteer Manager.
But it’s the word Volunteering I am looking at here.
There has been some dialogue and movement of late to disassociate from the word Volunteer. I have seen some debate about the need to capture new audiences utilising a different framework to describe how people give time, freely for the benefit of others.
I am with Rob Jackson. It’s the perception of volunteering in our communities that we need to work with and not the semantics.
Volunteering is amazing. It is life changing. It is inspiring. Volunteers are making an enormous impact on our society and communities but we are utilising a dated viewpoint on such activity.
As National Volunteer Week approaches here in Australia watch out for the speeches that include the lines “Volunteers are the backbone of our society” and “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation” etc. etc. Ad Nauseam.
This has become Lazyspeak because volunteering is much more than that and we are tired of hearing the same platitudes rolled out once a year especially when volunteering is undervalued and under resourced at an organisational and sector level.   
And if I have just ruined your volunteer recognition speech check out my Thank you speech to Volunteers I wrote 8 years ago and which I still believe should be the type of language we should use around volunteering.
‘As a volunteer you bring much to this organisation. Skills, advice, experience, friendship, vision, leadership, inspiration etc.

When you hear the word Volunteer what image do you conjure up in your mind? What unconscious bias may be there?
Getting rid of the word itself won’t help. Educating our organisations and our society and our Government on the massive impact of volunteering will!
And those of us who understand volunteering have a massive job to do. Let’s do it, change perceptions and encourage millions more to take voluntary action!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

So why does Volunteer Management need a voice?

This is a blog I am writing today for LinkedIn. I will share it on other platforms but will publish it first to LinkedIn.( and now on my blog!)
Why is that?
This is the Wikipedia definition of Linkedin “LinkedIn (/lɪŋkt.ɪn/) is a business- and employment-oriented service that operates via websites and mobile apps. Founded on December 28, 2002,[5] and launched on May 5, 2003,[6] it is mainly used for professional networking, including employers posting jobs and job seekers posting their CVs.”
I want to zone in on the professionals utilising this site to network. But how many people on this site consider Volunteer Management a profession? What constitutes a profession is really a blog for another day.
But for now, I can safely say that there are many Volunteer Managers on LinkedIn. They come under many titles. Manager, Coordinator, Administrator, engagement officer etc.
But guess what? There are many people managing volunteers as an addition to their regular role. For example there are Secretaries, Case workers, Counsellors, Community development workers, Youth workers and Admin officers etc. who have also been tasked with the role of “Looking after the volunteers” (a cringe worthy expression if I ever heard one but in reality exists!)
And I am confident that many of them do a great job managing volunteer’s day in and day out.
However my concern is around the support they receive because very often the fact that they manage this large resource is not factored in to the support they receive from their organisations whether that be professional development opportunity, resources and budgets. My evidence of this is largely anecdotal though some organisations such as Volunteer Pro  and AAMOV  are working hard to gauge the conditions and feelings of the Volunteer Management Profession.
We have some certificates and diplomas in Volunteer Management around the globe so some progress is being made. But the role of Volunteer Manager still seems to me to be undervalued, under resourced, under the radar and not treated as a profession.
I say this not as someone who necessarily is suffering the above but as someone who has worked in the industry for over 20 years and who is still hearing these stories from our sector.
There has been some talk lately about this being the Volunteer Management sectors own fault. We complain too much and don’t offer solutions. We are our own worst enemy. We don’t know what we want etc.
I want to call a halt to that Bull Poop.
For years and years we have been the people who facilitate the movement of people taking action in our communities. We have been the people managing, coordinating, rostering, helping, counselling and encouraging millions of people in our societies.
We love our roles and we know how volunteers act and think. We are on top of trends before they become trends. We are on the ground. We get volunteering!
And we silently standby when we see people come into our organisations with their multiple degrees who think they “know” volunteering, And we watch in amazement as policy on volunteering whether it be at an organisational, peak body or Government level is laid out without any consultation from the Volunteer Management Sector.
And this is why we need a voice. And this is why we need to speak up. The average volunteer manager or coordinator would be terrified today to speak up about these matters. It could cost them their job!
This is why we need strong Volunteer Management Associations.
In Australia we have AAMOV. I am proud to be a board member and a past president. But I can state that we are not strong. Why? We don’t have enough members. Yet!
People who work with volunteers need to see and understand what we stand for. Then they will invest because it means that they are investing in their own careers.
But here is a call out to other professions! We need you to support us too. And we want to collaborate with you. You may not have even realised that we existed. But we do. Share your knowledge with us on advancing and supporting a profession.
Who will be the voice when
·        Organisations under resource volunteer management
·        Underpay Volunteer Managers
·        Organisations decline Professional Development opportunities for Volunteer Managers
·        Volunteering Peak bodies don’t have Volunteer Managers on their boards or don’t support the VM Sector
And here is the crux of effective Volunteer Management. Effective Volunteer Management should be about professional Volunteer Managers who never stand for the exploitation or mistreatment of volunteers! We are not HR. We are VRM and its time we were supported!

Monday, January 15, 2018

My top ten gripes about volunteer management and volunteerism

Had a Twitter exchange today that gave me the idea for this blog.

What I tweeted is at number 10 but these are not in order of preference just a top ten gripe list. Feel free to add yours.  In fact I might turn each one into a tweet.

I like to read job ads for leaders of volunteers. Usually I read the responsibilities which are major. Then I read the pay band which is minor. Usually part time too. What's with #crapwages in #volmgt #lovols #value #respect

I got a good reply on Twitter to the above. I will honour it with a place on my top ten list

Even more frustrating when a job post doesn't mention pay, which usually means it's embarrassingly low. I never share job posts without pay listed. – Liza Dyer

My reply to that gets number 8

Or when they won't list the role as Manager for fear of having to pay management wages! 

When there is an ad for a volunteer leadership position but leading or working with volunteers only makes it to “desirable” in the selection criteria or does not make it at all! And people find themselves in senior roles concerning volunteering but haven’t a clue about volunteerism!

A volunteer management role that states – “Must have HR degree or experience”


People who are given the responsibility of managing volunteers as an add on to their core role. I.E. our receptionist is nice so he will be good “looking after the vollies” or “Our Social worker will have plenty of time to manage the 100 volunteers we have too”

The word “Vollies”. I am not sure why but it makes me cringe.

“Just A” As in “I’m just a volunteer” or “I am just a volunteer coordinator” We are all guilty of this one. It needs to be dead and buried!

“The lifeblood of the organisation” This old chestnut usually is brought out during an event like volunteers week. Usually used by a politician, CEO or journalist. WE are tired of the lip service. Find more profound language my friends!

The following conversation

‘What do you do?”

“I manage volunteers”


“That’s nice”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 – The year of the Volunteer Activist

2017 – What a year. The year of war, terror, fear, fear mongering, Trump, North Korea, anger and volunteering. I added volunteering because you just got to take something good from the year right? But wait up, how many people volunteered for the Trump campaign? Is this volunteering for good? There is a blog and a debate for the future. Even so, the words “low level volunteer” still echo in my mind.

I’ve been hanging around on this planet for almost 48 years now. I don’t think I’ve seen so much anger and divisiveness in my life. Everyone seems to be fighting. Black white. Rich poor. Arab Jew. Woman man. Religious atheist. Social media perpetuated this anger. You can’t read a news story on Facebook without reading the brawling in the comments section. Keyboard warriors have masses of courage.

You don’t see much compassion, love, forgiveness and tolerance on social media. You certainly don’t see much of this coming from our Governments. It’s enough to despair but I sense something is not quite right here.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? While we are all fighting are we simply distracted by what is really going on? Imagine if we paused the arguments put down our phones and devices and just had a look around us for a day.  Imagine if we just had a conversation about the growing divide between rich and poor and the disappearance of the middle class. Imagine if we saw refugees with our hearts instead of our minds and ignored the fear mongering driven by a government agenda supported by the press.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? While we are all fighting do we not notice that there is little difference between political parties? Kids will starve to death by the time we usually reach lunch time but we have our reality shows and dinner delivered on our apps to look forward to in the evening.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? Because above the noise of our arguments no one hears the cash registers ringing at the billions many of our governments spend on defence. And we won’t worry about that as long as we get a great New Year’s Eve fireworks display in major cities that costs millions upon millions. But that’s ok because the homeless get a free show too right?

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? Because we get more time to go to the beaches due to the beautiful hot weather and those scientists are full of fake news.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? The answer is those who benefit from us all being distracted. And who are they? The status quo brigade. The elite. The powerful. The people who own you. Or like to think they do. Their biggest fear is the old adage “the people united will never be defeated”

Because united we find our humanity. United we see that we all breathe the same air and bleed the same colour. United there are no borders. United we seek equality and justice for all. United we know we produce enough resources on this earth to serve all. United we know there is cheaper cleaner energy.

And there is hope. In 2017 I’ve watched brave people around the globe take action for good. People volunteer to make a difference but are being choosier about where they volunteer. Activism is growing. I was once at a national conference where someone argued that activism and volunteerism were inherently different. I disagree. I believe the world will change for the good because of volunteer activists!

This year for the first time since the Iraq war I protested. Alerted by social media to the case of people who were being treated inhumanly, without compassion and with cruelty I decided to be on the right side of history and picked up my placard and sang my protest song. Because no more. Not in my name.

Here’s to the volunteer activist in 2018. But first, try and see all the distractions for what they really are.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Time for a Quality Mark in Volunteering because it matters!

The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement in Australia provide a sound framework for supporting the volunteer sector. The Standards are easy to follow and are adaptable to different organisation types and different forms of volunteering which reflect the diversity of this growing sector.

Direct benefits to organisations:

·         They provide good practice guidance and benchmarks to help organisations attract, manage and retain volunteers, and

·         Help manage risk and safety in their work with volunteers.

Direct benefits to volunteers:

·         They help improve the volunteer experience.

The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement (2015) are the intellectual property of Volunteering Australia. They are recognised within Australia as the best practice framework for volunteer involvement.

Additionally, Volunteering Australia will be developing a flexible, tiered voluntary certification, or ‘Quality Mark’ system to enable organisations to check how they are tracking in implementing the Standards.

This is great news for the volunteering sector and for the volunteer management profession. So many of our charity organisations rely on volunteers across the nation. But it is vital that they are being seen to do the right thing by volunteers and those who manage them.

People who may wish to volunteer should have guidance on how organisations value volunteers. In truth organisations that don’t value volunteering effort eventually run into strife anyway as volunteers vote with their feet if they are not treated well or “used” inappropriately.

Organisations that have the ability to resource Human resources and a plethora of other paid positions are doing volunteering a disservice if they engage volunteers but do not resource volunteer management. Volunteers do not come for free. I repeat volunteers do not come for free! Effective volunteer programs are adequately resourced with staff, training, development and recognition budgets.

A quality mark or best practice mark on volunteering standards will not be compulsory for organisations yet but it will push to the forefront those organisations that see the value of volunteering and effective volunteer management.

The Volunteer Management sector must get behind the National Standards as it advances our profession. Volunteers will get behind the National Standards as it goes to their rights and protection and all organisations with volunteers have a duty to implement these well researched industry standards!

Failure to do so may not have consequences as of yet. But if a quality mark is developed and an effective accreditation system put in place organisations that do not get on board will be left behind or volunteers and staff who are passionate about the mission they work for will demand to their leadership that their organisations have standards for volunteer involvement! Bring it on!

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