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.


  1. In my opinion we need to start believing in ourselves as managers because "if we don't believe, we can't achieve". We need to make our dreams become our realities through our vision and our self belief.

    Perhaps we need to stop being so insular and start associating with other managers - their issues and ours may not be so different. I would suggest that we seek out opportunities to network with other managers such as joining organisations like the Australian Institute of Management. As far as I am aware there is no qualifier in this organisation as to what type of manager you are.

    Perhaps this is the entire point. Are we so busy looking at why we are different that we are missing the similarities between ourselves and other managers.

    Do we attend "Management Conferences"? Ok, so they may not talk about volunteers but what if there was one speaker at such a conference who spoke on issues specific to managing volunteers? Could not other managers benefit from information about managing people and apply this to their own workplace? Is this not an opportunity to spread the word about Volunteer Management?

    Don't get me wrong, I am all for following the UK's lead in having our own Volunteer Managers Conference in Australia. Why can't we do both? There is definitely a need to support and encourage each other within the VM sector but again are we preaching to the converted?

    Perhaps it's time to use our critical thinking to broaden our perspective and think outside the VM sector box.

  2. Well hey - has any VM sat up and looked at the forces that work against us? Like governments and national volunteering agencies that put so much store into the virtues of volunteering without a glance at how the volunteers get there or what is involved. There's the wake-up call, and that means I need to inject the personal and the professional with the political.

  3. Good points wamoore!
    Earlier this year I (and my CEO) met with the Institute of Management here in the UK. They were very keen to explore the adding of optional volunteer management modules to generic management courses, so that volunteer involving organisations can find sensible professional development options, that have currency in their sector. For example:
    Private sector - for staff responsible for managing employee volunteering programmes
    Public sector - for staff that may have volunteer management as an aspect of their role.
    Voluntary sector - at last, senior managers (who are not volunteer managers) can explore how to engage with the concept of volunteer involvement, thus enouraging them to recognise the skills of their volunteer managers, and give them a healthy pay-rise! huzzah! ;-)


Featured Post

The simple act of kindness.

How we learn from our children! This post was inspired by an act of my daughter. When her mum arrived at work today she found this...