Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does the end justify the means?

Does the end justify the means?

In his monthly OzVPM Newsletter ( Andy Fryar posed the above question to the scenario below.

“Earlier this year in the United States, the Hands on Network (who are the
volunteer focused arm of the Points of Light Institute), partnered with the
Disney Corporation to promote their new “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day”
promotion. The premise is simple. Volunteer a day of time and get a one day free pass to a Disney park. Within weeks some 600,000 people had signed up.
But is this type of incentive ‘true volunteering’ I hear you ask?
It’s a similar question that gets bandied around when government’s insist on
the long term unemployed undertaking volunteer work in order to continue
receiving benefits, or others needing to participate in voluntary pursuits in
order to ‘return to work’ after an injury. This is an age old debate, and for the purpose of this brief commentary I simply wanted to pose the question — can 600,000 Americans be wrong? Does the fact that some (many) of these people are experiencing volunteering, maybe for the first time outweigh arguments over the ‘purity’ of the motivation? I’ll leave you with that thought!"

What do I think?. I say kudos to Disney. While it was a smart business move on their part I say that anything that has a positive flow on effect for volunteering has got to be good.

If people have issues with Disney’s scheme then I imagine they would also have issues with the following scheme

The New York Times

March 10, 2010,
Credit Card Rewards for Volunteers
"If you hold an American Express card, volunteering can do more for you than make you feel good about yourself. It can give you credit card reward points.
American Express announced this week that cardholders participating in the company’s membership rewards program could now earn 500 reward points for every hour of volunteer work they logged at a qualifying charity, up to 10,000 points, or 20 hours of volunteer work, a year."

Again I say good on American Express.
There are some US media outlets reporting increases in volunteering due to the Disney scheme. USA Today gives examples of some positive outcomes:
“What types of projects have been completed so far? Here's a short list to give you an idea:
Boston: Volunteers served meals to people in need, knitted and crocheted scarves and mittens for children afflicted with life-threatening illnesses and helped as caregivers at an animal adoption center.
California: San Francisco Bay-area volunteers helped with basic English lessons, painted park benches and planted flowers.
Jacksonville, Fla.: Volunteers painted murals and spruced up rooms at a home for women and children, while in Pittsburgh they took on construction tasks – tiling, sanding, staining and painting – to help create affordable housing.
Puerto Rico: 500 volunteers cleaned the beaches of Vaciatalega and La Perla located in the vicinity of Old San Juan. “
And goes on to report that the program was launched on Jan. 1 in partnership with the HandsOn Network

"The innovative nature of this program has exponentially increased our capacity to both invite and excite people about volunteerism," said Michelle Nunn, co-founder of HandsOn Network and CEO of Points of Lights Institute, in a news release. "The overwhelming participation of families – and youth especially – is a testament to a growing trend. Many of these volunteers are serving for the first time, and some will develop into service leaders who help change the face of our nation."

Andy in his newsletter piece goes on to talk about “ when government’s insist on
the long term unemployed undertaking volunteer work in order to continue receiving benefits”. Now I do have an issue with this – if government states that you will lose your benefit unless you volunteer – then this is coercion. Any such scheme is not truly volunteering. Call it mutual obligation community service or whatever but its not volunteering. Now I am not knocking mutual obligation but we get dangerously close to the other side of the spectrum when we talk of people suffering some kind of financial loss if they don’t volunteer! Now that would be scary!

Another interesting point to note is that there appears to be very little public debate about some of these “volunteering for reward” initiatives. Maybe there is no controversy here except to a few people within Volunteer Management!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A comment on : Are We Asleep at the Wheel?

Cutting to the chase I just wanted to say that I was pleasantly surprised and a wee disappointed by the reaction to this article. In fact I expected a little backlash. This backlash did not arise. Although I am a little unsure if one respondent was outraged at my view or was outraged at the state of volunteer management. They said they would write again once they had composed their thoughts – I hope they do. Some of the editors of this publication have informed me that this article drew more commentary than any in its 10 year history! And indeed I have to tell you that apart from the direct responses to the article on this site I have received several comments and emails from Volunteer Managers across the globe! But on closer inspection and on a deeper reflection I have reason to further my belief that our profession is still asleep at the wheel!

Ok. 11 people responded. To an article that was so critical of our sector. That this is deemed a success reflects where we are as an articulate sector! 185 responses would have been pleasing given the subject matter!
I converted the jist of this article into a workshop that I presented at the retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management in Adelaide in Australia. I was accused of “beating the drum for volunteer managers” ( and your point is?) and of being too political by some!

At least there was debate. I would have liked to see some debate on my article. Debate is healthy for our sector I believe.
I wanted to utilize critical thinking.

Because I love to research and explore I have discovered gems of articles written over the last 10 years or so on volunteer management. At the end of the day however may I dare to say, in my humble opinion a least, that we are saying the same things, asking the same questions, making the same mistakes and holding back true advancement in our sector of volunteer management.

Will someone find my article in 10 years time and publish something somewhere under the title - “still asleep - what has changed?’

I hope not though I fear so

What do we need to do to change? Really change! I don’t have the solutions now. I am just hoping that by waking up and realizing things are pretty dire in the grand scheme of things (yes I acknowledge localized heroes and their success stories!!) that we may activate some real change.

And the next champion award goes to

Volunteering England for having the vision to see the need to have a National Conference for Volunteer Managers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Should volunteers and paid staff be managed the same?

John Ramsey has a great blog on the AVM website this month.

My own thoughts on this subject?

I would say not exactly the same but certain skill sets, procedures and ways of doing things can be transferred to and from both HR and VM management. I think that over the years we have adapted some practices from HR such as how we do interviews, references, position descriptions, policies, risk management etc.

I do think that we have moved closer to HR in how we manage and rightly so. And we have done so mainly because of risk management and setting standards on how volunteers should be engaged.

There have been benefits to adopting HR practices. Probationary periods for volunteers. Program evaluations. Policy and procedure formulation. Task description design. Better orientation and training. Exit surveys.

All of the above I believe have helped us in giving our programmes more structure and managing risk for our agencies and organisations.

I am sure that there are those out there who will disagree wholeheartedly with that.

The other side may say that we have made volunteering too bureaucratic and that volunteering has lost its organic flavour. It may be argued that volunteering is a natural phenomenon that never has and never will need to be structured and shaped, that it is a spontaneous movement. That volunteers never asked to have position descriptions that they just want to get in there and get the job done because they want to help.

I believe that after borrowing some necessary methods of HR management we have moulded (or are moulding) volunteer management into a wonderful thing. We have combined some of their methodology with our understanding of volunteer motivations and our excellent knowledge of recognition and retention tools.

I think we might go full circle some day when HR managers come to us asking if paid staff should be managed similarly to volunteers because they believe we have got the right mix of HR and VM embedded into our leadership style.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I realise that there are many volunteer coordinators, managers, directors, project officers across the globe. Those who lead and manage volunteers have many titles. I am a member of 3 newsgroups or listservs and they are




The top 2 are based in Australia and the UK and the latter in the US. (I am wondering if any visitor can tell us why it didn’t become USvpm?)

For those of you who may not know what these groups layman’s terms they are an email network of volunteer managers ( or whatever title suits the day) who share experiences, ideas and concerns. I am a member of all 3 because they give me a global insight into the issues pertaining to volunteer management.

Sometimes however I see a challenge posted in the US and answered by a practitioner in the US and I think "wow - that would be so relevant and helpful to the volunteer coordinator in Australia".

And the same thought emerges from postings in the UK and Australia.

It makes me think that the issues and challenges we face are very much shared in global terms. We are still at a stage where we as a a sector globally are very quiet. Lets face it, Volunteer Management is not taken seriously anywhere in the globe. I welcome comments to prove otherwise. Ok, I accept that there is progress in some places but in my humble opinion, the UK seems to be more visual, Australia seems to be sleeping, the US appears to be disjointed and divided.

I think we are still small enough now to become a global movement. And when we mature we will not need such global movements! It’s time for something as simple as a Globalvpm newsgroup in my opinion! I’ve suggested something similar before but was told that some professional associations were going to start a network of their presidents to form a group. Well, as far as i am aware It hasn’t happened yet and I for one am tired of waiting for such a thing to happen.

As a sector I believe we have a major weakness in the fact that we are all talk and no action!

A positive action now would be for the various newsgroups to combine to create a global network! Yes..keep your individual networks as they have their place but go global on volunteer management if you are serious about seeing a real sector emerge!

a vibrant global network may grow and give validation and power to our profession!

We are small enough now to combine to become big enough to disengage from that combination!

I only mention the US, Oz and the UK. That’s because they have the VPM newsgroups! But by their very titles they exclude New Zealand, Canada, Ireland - 3 nations rich in volunteerism!

And what about the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.....

Its time for Globalvpm. Who will take up the challenge and the opportunity?????

Volunteering is global.

So is Volunteer Management! I suspect though it exists under many titles!

Let’s get loud!

Reluctance to talk

I would love to explore where our reluctance to talk comes from. Stats so far from this blog indicate 40 vistors a day. Still very small I know but it would be wonderful if even 25% made a comment! Yea.. I am being optimistic. Ive seen the stats on who engages, who post occasionally and who lurk. The lurkers being the majority at close to 90% if memory serves me right.

Nevertheless, I say, as a new blogger, 40 a day!!!!! Wow!

Just need more people commenting! Why? so we are not seen as the same old voices!!!! Thats why!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And the 1st VM Champion Award goes to.........

Volunteering Tasmania for their scholarships allowing people to attend the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer management in Adelaide recently! Well done VT for your vision and dedication to the growth of the VM sector!

Volunteer Management Champion Award

A common feature of this blog will be DJs Volunteer Management Champion Award! This award will be awarded to any person or group that champions the sector of Volunteer Management. Award winners will have demonstrated their interest in the betterment and growth of the Volunteer Management Sector wherever this may occur in the globe. Please post your nominations here!!!

First Holy Moley Moment!

Is it just me or does anyone find the fee for attendance at the Ntional Conference on Volunteering a tad expensive?? $950? Just add flights and accommodation to that!!

I still would like to attend but......Any scholarships going this year for Volunteer Management? If so let me know.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dear Kevin and Tony..........

How do we want Volunteer Management supported by Government in Australia. Please see my post on how it is being supported in the UK. This year is Election year in Australia. It is time to stop the moaning in the sector and time to articulate our views and express our wants and aspirations. Time to act up! I am doing this as an individual volunteer manager. Too often we bemoan the lack of recognition for our sector. By writing a letter to our PM and to our opposition leader we can at least make a start by drawing attention to our sector.

I intend doing so by drawing their attention to what is happening in the UK and asking them how they plan to support Volunteer Management in our country. Please help me with the letter by posting some suggestions.

One Million Dollars for Volunteer Managers!!!!!

Ah yes - but only in the UK!!

Great news for the Volunteer Management Sector in the UK. Thanks to Community Newswire for the story. What will it take for VM to get Government support in Australia??? Its election year people. Time for a Dear Kevin and Dear Tony Letter! I will compose one as an individual! Wont you help? Its Time!

By Lorraine Connolly, Community Newswire

VOLUNTEER Bursary, 19 Mar 2010 - 12:12
Volunteer managers across the country can benefit from increased cash to improve their skills from Monday.

Individuals who support, co-ordinate, manage or have strategic responsibility for volunteers will be able to apply for one of 600-800 bursaries, of up to £1,950, to pay for skills development under Capacitybuilders' Volunteer Management Programme.

Each bursary will fully fund an approved skills development package, delivered regionally by experienced, respected training providers and aligned to the national occupational standards in volunteer management.

Training will be available at three levels, tailored to suit individual volunteer managers' experience and role, each with the option of national accreditation and including online and distance learning opportunities.

Two skills development products will be available, one targeted at those with operational responsibilities and another focused on those with a strategic role in volunteer management, including those in leadership positions.

Sean Cobley, chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), said: "We are pleased to have been involved in the selection process for skills development providers under Strand C of the volunteer management programme. This was just one way in which we have supported Capacitybuilders in its desire to listen to and involve volunteer managers in developing this final aspect of the programme. Given AVM's leading role in developing our profession, we will be encouraging our members and others to make an early application."

Dave Conroy, national programme manager for Capacitybuilders, said: "These bursaries will support people who manage volunteers in a more intensive way than may often be possible, due to financial and other constraints.

"With all skills development packages aligned to the National Occupational Standard in Volunteer Management we are confident that those participating will benefit considerably at a time when more people are wishing to volunteer."

The Volunteer Management Programme opens for applications on March 22. Go to for more information.

Capacitybuilders is a non-departmental public body established in 2006 to lead the Government's investment in third sector support services. Capacitybuilders and its programmes are funded by the Office of the Third Sector. For more information go to

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Article gets reaction

A recent article of mine has drawn a lot of interest according to the editors of e-volunteerism. They have informed me that it is the most commented on article in its 10 year history!

Heres a preview but to read the whole article one must be a subscriber to the journal. I am a big fan and highly recommennd it! It has so much to offer and has archived all the articles over the last decade!

Preview to:

Opinion from the Field:
Are We Asleep at the Wheel? A Frustrated Volunteer Manager Speaks Out
by D.J. Cronin

Volunteer manager D.J. Cronin has a passion for volunteerism and the sector of volunteer management. He believes that volunteerism is an agent for real and tangible change around the globe and a key to harnessing volunteer effort. And he believes that in today’s busy and challenging world, the role of an effective volunteer manager in Australia and elsewhere has become more critical to the sustainability and growth of the volunteerism movement – challenging volunteer managers not only to lead their teams but to embrace their roles in demonstrating the value of volunteering to government, policy makers and society in general.

But are volunteer managers asleep at the wheel? In this e-Volunteerism article, Cronin explains why he thinks they are, and why it’s time for them to wake up. Cronin first reviews how the volunteer management sector bemoans a perceived lack of understanding of their roles in society – complaining about everything from the paucity of sector resources to being underpaid and undervalued. Then Cronin argues that it’s time to cease the blame game and take a good, cold look at how volunteer managers are performing. In the process, Cronin challenges volunteer managers to stop ignoring data on volunteer management, to recognize that professional bodies are not “packing a punch,” and to understand why nearly half of all volunteer managers today do not intend to continue in the field by 2013.

HR in the same boat as VM???

With thanks to Stephen Moreton on his blog at AVM:

Heres an interesting piece

(From People Management - 11 March 2010). The article stated:

'To date, HR has been locked in a destructive psychological battle about its relevance and raison d'ĂȘtre. As Martin Tiplady (Director of HR Metropolitan Police Service) says: "It's a confidence thing. In HR, we make a full-time job out of worrying about our position." He continues: "HR can be too precious about status. To survive, let alone develop, we must get out of this constant cathartic self-analysis. It is indulgent and destructive. It serves no purpose. Not for us or the next generation."

Sounds like a familiar story, although I not sure whether I am encouraged or discouraged by this?! The article continues:

'....For David Smith (former People Director of Asda), the mark of a good HR leader is "to be as un-HR-like as possible".'

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time to Get Smart?

Are we a volunteer sector really?

To which a volunteer manager wrote recently...."No because we are paid!" This line of thinking frustrates me!

Article of mine on

Out of the cocoon and educate!

For some years now I have been advocating to the Volunteer Management sector that we are responsible for educating others about what we do and why we exist! By others I mean, the community at large, other sectors and Government. We sometimes bemoan the fact that some people don’t understand our roles and I’ve argued that we need to actively get out there and inform them and not wait for them to come to us with the question “so what exactly is Volunteer Management?”.
This is why I am a strong supporter of International Volunteer Managers’ Day. Though some of my colleagues are less inclined to support what they misperceive as “ volunteer manager pat on the back and self praise is no praise day” I see the day as a great instrument that can be used to educate people about the awesome field I find myself in!
But recently I’ve encountered a phenomenon that slightly worries me and makes me wonder if I have been channeling too much energy into advocating for the recognition of volunteer management. I wonder too, to use an old clichĂ©, that if in some ways we are putting the cart before the horse.
Does the community at large understand volunteering? Do we as a volunteer management sector assume that they do?
We spend a lot of our time debating the definitions of volunteering. We get very excited talking about all types of volunteering be it episodic, strategic, virtual, micro, traditional, emerging trends etc. All well and good. As a sector we are fairly informed and as coordinators and managers we are rather up to speed and adaptable as well as flexible to change. After all, we have the world of knowledge at our fingertips. Resources are a plenty and there is no shortage of information on volunteer management out there.But are we too warm and comfortable within our cocoon?
What if Volunteering isn’t really understood by society at large? I am not saying that this is the case and I have no hard and conclusive evidence to back up such a claim but some recent events have stirred my curiosity and have at least prompted the question in my own mind.
There is a heap of literature out there about volunteering. Or is there? Google volunteering and you will get over 14 million hits. But a lot of this information is the “how to” and “where to” and “join us” of volunteering. Of course people have written papers on the subject of volunteering, academics have explored and investigated volunteering, peak bodies and national bodies encourage volunteering and some provide education on volunteering. We as volunteer managers or coordinators read up on trends in volunteering. Actually we are at the coalface and are the first to discover these trends emerging in many instances!
And yes – millions of people in hundreds of nations do some volunteering. But many millions more don’t! And we have to acknowledge that even a percentage of society does not support volunteering at all and in fact think its wrong!! I once spent an entire evening arguing with someone the case for volunteering! This person absolutely was anti volunteering in all its forms and was able to articulate his case quite intelligently; a fact I must acknowledge even though I disagreed with him wholly!
This leads me to the recent experiences that got me thinking about volunteering. Every month I or the volunteer coordinator at my workplace does a presentation on volunteering for new staff at their orientation day. We not only talk about what volunteers do at our agency but we talk a little about volunteering in general quoting some facts and figures along the way. We also do a little quiz. A few points to note:
The majority of people are amazed by the number of people who volunteer in our society.
Most people are shocked when they are informed about the age groups who do the most volunteering
When asked to close their eyes and picture a volunteer and recount to us their perception most will say “a retired lady, in her seventies”
Most are astounded to discover that a large proportion of our volunteering team is under 25.
Since we have been doing this style of presentation where we involve the staff we have been getting the same answers and the same looks of shock month after month for a year.
I have had the pleasure of volunteering my time over the last year to visit various community groups and organisations and present on volunteering. The reactions have been the same. Young people volunteering in such numbers? Never! Virtual volunteering? What the dickens is that? For the purpose of this post I will ignore another statement I hear often – “volunteer manager? Do you get paid for that?”. That comes back to education on volunteer management.
Now I expect volunteer centre’s and peak bodies to argue that they work hard to educate the community on volunteering and I certainly won’t disagree with them on that.
But I am wondering if we have a role to play on educating society about volunteering. As a volunteer management sector can it be argued that in order for us to be more rounded do we need to incorporate playing the roll of educating on volunteering when and where we can. Can we find the time to volunteer to do such a role and cannot such a role have the potential to strengthen our own sector as it makes us more visual and sees us taking a lead role in the promotion of volunteerism! A win-win situation?

Another Retreat

Just finished presenting at the Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management in Adelaide. Another exciting event but this one was tiring!!! On reflection some mixed feelings this time. I have a sense of " are we still asking the same questions 5 years on?"

Blogging at last!

Greetings world! Years late but finally I enter the blogsphere....and I have a lot to say!

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