Sunday, June 20, 2010

Volunteer Management : Can the struggle within be keeping us without?

In a recent post on I wrote “Can they (Volunteer Managers) not aspire to take those extra steps in leadership? Are they not allowed? Is career advancement a dirty concept for volunteer management?” I was responding to another post critical about my ideas for leadership in our sector.

And then something’s struck me today. Nah, too mild. Certain thoughts slammed into me today and left me reeling.

“Volunteer management can’t be allowed to advance too much because this will cost money. And though we like to argue that volunteering doesn’t come for free the intrinsic core belief associated with volunteers are that they are unpaid and as such the very idea of having a profession engaging them is anathema to a certain philosophy itself.

I get it now. And it’s an important lesson for those in volunteer management who consider their profession a sector and it is an even more important lesson for those in National associations for volunteer management.

The crew is not with you by any measure or fashion!

It’s all about volunteering and its association of no cost. Those of us who have been pushing the barrel for years that volunteering does not come for free are winning minor battles but losing the war.

For it’s a civil war as such.

A response to an article I had on i-volunteer sums it up

“Leadership breakfasts? Innovative concepts in management? Look, it's all very well having volunteer managers high up in the organisational hierarchy keeping themselves busy going to networking lunches and issuing buzzword-laden policies and strategies to demonstrate how innovative they're being. But the reality is that in any Third Sector organisation it's the staff actually on the ground doing the actual real work of fundraising/service provision who are the ones who are truly managing volunteers on a day-to-day basis.”

I can disagree with the author of the above but I have to praise the same author for articulating precisely the opposition I have encountered within the sector to growing volunteer management, to getting volunteer management recognised as a sector and to having parity of pay in terms of management positions etc.

Such a pattern is emerging that I can no longer discount this feeling I get. And it is this: the biggest barriers we face in the advancement of our sector are being put up by ourselves. Not just that but there may be a significant amount of people who feel that they are not barriers to begin with but merely checkpoints and stop signs along the way.

STOP! There is no such thing as a profession of volunteer management!

This risks professionalizing volunteering – the greatest of juxtapositions!

HALT! WHO GOES THERE? If you have been fighting over your titles for many years now no one can take you seriously and nor should they. Volunteer Manager: Manager of volunteers. Coordinator. Director. And our favorite – administrator of volunteers! LOL

STOP! International Volunteer Management Day? Are you serious?

Volunteers are the ones who deserve recognition and praise. The whole concept of this day gives us an “icky” feeling”. We were able to make you get rid of International Volunteer Manager Recognition Day. Your other title will fade way soon too. After all you take away from International Volunteer Day. You will confuse the media re both days re lessen the impact of the message on volunteerism.

HALT! WHO GOES THERE? Consultants who present on volunteer management or write on the topic and who might make a buck doing so?
How dare they make money on the backs of volunteering? We are seeing through you. We will ignore you at our major conferences and we won’t consult with you while the evil dollar sign is brandished on your forehead!

STOP! An award for excellence in volunteer management?

How dare you? Awards are for the "vollies" not you! It is a privilege to work with the volunteers – it makes us cringe that you self promote your own position!

HALT! WHO GOES THERE? Who are you to challenge definitions of volunteering enshrined in our id!

All this from within and all the above real life experiences.

I was encouraged a few years ago by a conference on volunteering with a theme along the lines of “ride the new wave of volunteering”

Yea right. Many have fallen off the surfboard since. The same old waves keep ebbing away and no ones ridin' 'em in my view!

You won’t hear this kinda talk in many circles of volunteerism because too many people are minding their Ps and Qs for all sorts of political reasons.

Awhile back I wrote an article titled “Asleep at the wheel” for e-volunteerism

My thought process has since been re routed. It’s not about who is asleep at the wheel anymore in our sector – it’s all about who is at the wheel.

And right now it’s not me and my ilk. Nevertheless I am there in the backseat talking away. If they manage to lock me in the boot you will still here me tapping away.

For we will never give up!

Why this blog. Why do I rant as I do?

My reasons are simple:

I once worked as a volunteer coordinator where I was unrecognized and our volunteer service was unresourced.

I worked hard. I love volunteer management. Anyone though that says it is easy is not in volunteer management!

I came to the conclusion that volunteers provided a very important service

I came to the conclusion that the organisations could and should value the team more

Could value me more

And I fought to get that recognition

And I succeeded.

But I met others

In the same boat.

Who have met me over the years.

Who have rang me.

Who have spoken to me privately.



Under resourced.

Under pressure.

What gives?

Because it is volunteerism it is ok?

Because it is within community services it is acceptable?

“If I were in it for the money I wouldn’t be in it at all – I only do this for the love of the job” “If they stopped paying me tomorrow I would still do it”

That’s the other side to contend with.

Real people doing real jobs leading real movement facilitating real change.

The Volunteer Manager

Judge how an organisation sees its volunteers by how it sees its volunteer manager!

That’s my simple “value equation” and I am sticking by it!


1 comment:

  1. I too had one of those moments today as I was working on a submission to the National Volunteering Strategy in Australia. I was not going to submit a strategy as I thought that I wasn't good enough, experienced enough, nor was I eloquent enough in my writing to possibly submit a strategy.

    It wasn’t until one of those leaders that you speak about DJ, told me that of course I could do it, that I then decided to submit a strategy. Before doing so by way of my own humble example, I decided to encourage others to submit strategies suggesting that I wasn’t an eloquent writer but to not submit anything would indeed be a tragedy as this was an opportunity to have a voice and to say what we as volunteer managers wanted from our governments, community and corporate organizations.

    There were a few mixed responses to my email. Some were encouraged and inspired to write something and others acknowledged me for my efforts and for going from “knowing my place” which got me thinking. What is our place? Should we be put in our place? Kept in our place? Perhaps this is the whole issue. So often we have been told or pushed into a place and perhaps that place no longer fits. I for one have never been able to fit into a pigeon hole. I just don’t fit into a category – never have and never will and I prefer it that way.

    I believe that for whatever reason we as volunteer managers have been put in a pigeon hole in the category of “how nice – volunteers and volunteer managers” Nice to have but let’s just keep them in their place!!!


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...