I don’t see much about this topic when it comes to volunteer management. Perhaps there is research there that I have yet to find. I am no academic. Academia may have pages on the topic somewhere.
But in my short 14 years of volunteer management I have come across so much “stuff” to learn, to talk about, to decipher, to debate about the field of volunteer management. Heck – we still debate whether we are a field or not!
But I won’t get into that again. Not now anyway!
I’ve attended many conferences on volunteerism and many retreats on “advanced volunteer management” all learning experiences. In fact I am one who believes that the learning process is never ending. A simple philosophy maybe but one that is very close to my heart. I have learnt never to call myself an “expert” in anything and have become wary of those who will take that title. Oh but that is for another blog!. Simply put I have a feeling that volunteerism and volunteer management is ever evolving and that quite frankly it is a rare area where “experts” and academia” will have trouble keeping up.
Nevertheless I am extremely grateful to be involved in this field. I still love my job. Yes, I have my off days but I do love what I do and I don’t wake up thinking “oh no – not another day” and I am not the type who proclaims “thank God its Friday” at the end of the week.
Where am I going with this? Setting the scene. I’ve been to many “advanced’ retreats for volunteer management here in Australia. And I cannot fault them. They have certainly “advanced” my thinking and my career.
Recently though I had an email from another volunteer manager. They told me that their idea of advanced was some type of concept or learning that they had never heard of before. They wanted, in essence, to see something completely new presented to them.
I kinda get what they are saying and kinda not. In short I think that just because its new, doesn’t mean its advanced..But I get the jist of what they were trying to say too.
New ideas…new thought etc
So here’s my theory…
Is it worth looking at what shapes us? By that I mean to say, is it is worth examining what forces have driven us into volunteer management.
I am no psychologist or anthropologist but wonder if we can have this discussion? Indeed, I wonder if we ever have had this discussion.
Why are you a volunteer manager?
We, so often, so care about finding out about the motivation behind why our volunteers volunteer? Can we not ask why we volunteer manage?
To say “I just fell into volunteer management” won’t suffice here. Some research states that this may be a significant portion of us. I know that I “fell” into this career! But that is not the reason I’ve been in this career for 14 years!
If there isn’t a study – there should be. Why? Well, if like me you care about the future of this profession then it makes sense to have an idea about the history of the profession. Now I know there are some who have a passion for that aspect. Many of the editors of e-volunteering have not only captured some historical aspects of volunteerism but by the very nature of their exploratory articles on volunteer management have captured in a sense an historical essence of volunteering management! The very editors may well disagree but that at least has been my personal perspective.
So, I believe that our profession will come of age when
1. We understand what we do
2. Why we do it
3. Where we have come from
4. And where we are going
As a profession I think we are getting, slowly but surely, a handle on Number 1
I think we are generally ignoring points 2 and 3
I think we try to believe we have a handle on number 4 (what with our retreats for advanced management and the formation of our so called “professional associations”)
I propose we are not advancing as a profession because we have not given enough attention to points 2 and 3
Why am I a volunteer manager?
And where have I come from that led me into this career?
They are very similar.
But they differentiate
For example I can answer `point 2 thus
I am a volunteer manager because this job gives me immense satisfaction. Not only do I love working with volunteers to make significant change in society I am in a career that I have seen firsthand enables change and makes a difference to the lives of the people who are stakeholders in volunteerism. That is the community, society, the recipient of volunteering services directly, the agency that utilizes volunteers, the country where the volunteering occurs, the volunteer themselves and the person who manages the volunteering effort! Wow! What’s not to love here?
And then I would answer point 3 thus:
I grew up in a rural setting in 1970s Ireland. I lived in a community. I witnessed community growing up. Neighbors looked out for each other. I joined a group called the Social Action Group at 13. I cut peat for fuel to keep the elderly warm in winter. I helped raise thousands of pounds for communities in Africa where such money meant the difference between life and death. I and my family volunteered to host children from strife torn areas of Northern Ireland in the height of the troubles. Our families, through this Social Action group provided basically a sanctuary for troubled kids from Belfast and Derry whose daily existence was made up of bomb scares, bombings, shootings and sectarian strife. I still recall vividly being an innocent 13 yr old myself watching my 13 yr old guest jump with fright from his seat in my home when the doorbell rang. In Derry, at the time when the doorbell rang, people were frightened. (There were many doorstep shootings at the time).
So this experience shaped me.
Another experience that shaped me was the fact that I ended up homeless in London when I was 20 years of age! A story for another day. But the fact that anonymous people helped me out was a great motivator for me to get into a job that involved community service
The other experience that shaped me was the fact that I came from a family of 8 kids where everyone of those kids went into a career of community service. Every one! All eight! Counselors, psychologists, police, volunteer managers, nurses, teachers, carers, diplomats!
That’s bound to shape you!
I think that a combination of experiences have made me who I am today. I believe that some life experiences have made me the Volunteer Manager that I am today?
Is this true of any of you?
I think we need to know where we come from
I think our profession needs to know too
Just my opinion
Thank you for sticking with and reading this very personal blog entry!
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