Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shock horror - I can’t believe you said that!

What makes a good Volunteer Manager?

What are the top ten traits of a good volunteer manager? How do you measure good volunteer management?

Are we in a profession where we can “get away with it” if we are not really up to it?

Shock horror DJ - I can’t believe you said that!

We’ve always known that many agencies simply don’t take volunteering seriously. I am talking mainly about agencies that employ a large amount of staff and a lot of volunteers and where paid staff may well be in the majority.

I believe we have lots of agencies where volunteers are contributing greatly but some paid staff may perceive them as “nice but not necessary”. There are those people in certain agencies that may believe “at the end of the day we don’t need volunteers”.

I hate to think there are organisations that engage volunteer simply because it “feels nice” or looks good”

Sadly I think they exist. And even more sadly I think some may engage volunteer managers who set our profession back 50 years.

Shock horror DJ.

Don’t worry – because of my inquisitive nature on volunteer management I believe I have alienated a few people already. I know I’ve been accused of being “too smart” or of being a “trouble maker”

Yes I say – I will continue to be a trouble maker until I think that ALL stakeholders take volunteer management seriously.

But you know what? I think you know the volunteer manager I am talking about. Because chances are – the VM I am talking about will not be visiting this site! Or any other VM site unless they know I have them figured out and are waiting to see what I am saying about them. If you are here – you know who you are.

And of course this sort of conversation does not sit well at all with certain types. “How can you be so confrontational? How can you be mean spirited in an area that is so lovely? And Nice?”

And I will be ignored…and I will be shot down.

Because I say – until we have an accreditation program or a nationally recognised qualification in place for volunteer management we will have those people who will sneak in under the radar in volunteer management.

And they will be “nice and lovely” and they will appeal to our “nice and lovely” peak bodies for volunteering simply because they do not threaten the status quo. And they may well even join our “nice and lovely” association for volunteer managers. Harmless fun eh?

Who the heck do I think I am to say such things?

I put it out there in public. I will take the knocks as well as the accolades I go on my Volunteer management record. I, as part of my volunteer service evaluation at my work place ensure that my position of volunteer management is evaluated. Every time – anonymous – clear and transparent.

But because society in general, in my view thinks that volunteering is nice and wooly – then nice and woolly volunteer managers or coordinators or whatever we call ourselves to suit the day, will reign.

And those of us who have the bigger picture of VM at heart, will, naturally come under attack.

It needs to be said

By someone


“My volunteers” don’t exist because I don’t own them

And I don’t perpetuate the “nice but not necessary” feelings on volunteering by my management style.

And most importantly.

I won’t work in an agency that doesn’t value volunteering effort!
Can we all agree on what that might look like

And if agreed - agree to that simple principal!


  1. Well said DJ. Replace the word 'volunteer' with 'paid employee' and imagine whether an unqualified person would be employed to manage a large team! I think NOT! Makes you wonder why leading a group that is unpaid is any different.
    Still like to think that "nice & lovely" is a good characteristic though :)

  2. I don't know rox - plenty of people manage large teams without qualifications in managing paid staff...

    More often than not though, the HR professional will be qualified, and they may manage non-one. Rather, their role may be to ensure team leaders know how to recruit, select, train and support their paid dtaff team.

  3. Right on Stephen! Managing volunteers is one whole heap more than being a well-intentioned and regulation-circumscribed desk wallah. (I'm wearing my crash-helmet in case of irate responses.)

    And DJ - please mind your language! You've got a bit of the picture when you acknowledge you do not 'own' volunteers. But you are not a 'volunteer' manager. You manage services provided by volunteers, and there is quite a bit of 'leadership' involved here, something the management gurus write about at length, but not much ackknowledged by the HR sector. Much better to think about 'managing a service' and 'leading' volunteers. I can supply a full dissertation if you can't get the picture.

  4. PS: I would really like to know the 10 top traits of a good 'manager of volunteers'. Please give us a feature on this...

  5. Thanks Shindig - I do think I know what I am and do though I am learning all the time and welcome wise counsel anytime :-)

    as for top 10 traits - well no - not a planned feature for now at least. I dont claim to know anyway. 'Expert" is not a title i would give to myself. Rather I started thsi blog to share my thoughts on matters. tio stimulate some discussion. to get people thinking.

    I am a volunteer manager. I have, no longer issues with calling myself that. Neither am I hung up on semantics.

    I agree that "Managing volunteers is one whole heap more than being a well-intentioned and regulation-circumscribed desk wallah." Lovely turn of phrase.

    I once read a great book. it was full of wisdom and lessons about life and philosophy. then I came to the last chapter. It had one page and it had one line that said something like " Everything I have written may be wrong"

    I love the book even more :-)

  6. What do you think of the CCVA?


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