Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where will Volunteer Management sit in the future?

“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind - computer programmers who could crank code, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers"

From Daniel H. Pink, the author of the bestselling A Whole New Mind.

He goes on to say:

These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”

Does this future resonate with Volunteer Managers? Are we not creators and meaning makers and can we argue that we at least facilitate these movements?

Dan pink in another book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” says that “The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

To me, leaders in business are catching on to what we in Volunteer Management have known for years!

We’ve seen it in corporate volunteering. We’ve seen it in the motivations for people volunteering. The Volunteer Manager who is astute and sees the emerging trends is right on top of this stuff and is harnessing it to the benefit of their programs and organisations.

We’ve been talking about what motivates volunteers for quite some time.

But amongst ourselves.

We need to share ourselves more with other sectors and community and society at large. We also need to, as a profession, keep up with what other leaders in other fields are talking about.

We can no longer stay out of the loop. We can no longer afford to stay so specialized as to miss the boat in studies on human movement and motivation.

We are involved in people management of a dynamic and unique kind. We must acknowledge that to move forward.

Otherwise we don’t take part in the leadership dialogue. Otherwise we are just seen to be “looking after” a certain section of society – The Volunteers.

Volunteerism will thrive in the future. It may look different. The purists who disagree will be left behind. As will the current volunteer management sector if they fail to grasp new and innovative concepts, and adapt their language and thinking to the way volunteering looks in the future.

Which is what?

• Corporate volunteering widespread
• Episodic volunteering a given
• Virtual volunteering common place
• Volunteering existing outside traditional paradigms
• Proliferation of Time banks
• Altruistic volunteering remaining but now amongst a myriad of reasons for volunteering
• Political investment in the facilitation of the volunteer movement
• Volunteer management expertise in demand
• Cross cultural volunteering to promote tolerance and peace
• The beginning of the shift from the carrot and stick model of achieving betterment in society
• The extinguishing of motivation for societal transformation for monetary gain only
• The Star Trek Society. Everyone’s a Volunteer!

Well I quite got carried away there and could almost taste Utopia!
Nevertheless dreams must be given birth to somewhere!

Can we at least keep an eye on what kind of thinking is developing in other people management sectors and abandon our fears of being associated with “people management” or leadership” or dare I say it “Management”?

Do we need to change our thinking on Volunteer Management? What are the consequences of not changing?

“Most crawling reptilians, the most earthbound of all creatures, have remained unchanged for millions of years. Some however, grew feathers and wings and turned into birds, thus defying the force of gravity that had held them for so long. They didn’t become better at crawling or walking, but transcended crawling and walking entirely!” – Eckhart Tolle

In my links section please check out “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” It’s just over 10 minutes long. So when you have the time, check it out (on the right hand side of the page). Let us know what you think.

Let me encorage too the futurist in you. What do you think Volunteerism and Volunteer Management will look like in 2030?


  1. "Volunteerism will thrive in the future. It may look different. The purists who disagree will be left behind. As will the current volunteer management sector if they fail to grasp new and innovative concepts, and adapt their language and thinking to the way volunteering looks in the future."

    Spot on DJ, spot on.

  2. Well I think you are right on too DJ. You gotta go with the flow, except..... Except I have to worry about a political takeover: the Big Society policy development in the UK, Australia planning a top down Volunteer Strategy, and in Kiwiland the government thinks it is important to have a Relationship Agreement with the sector. Maybe there is a positive spin somewhere, but I worry for the ESSENCE of volunteering (and I am not referring exclusively to 'altruism') and fear its takeover by bureaucracy. Yes, the times they are a-changing, but do we want them to change so much that the spirit of belonging and contributing to my community is dictated by government policy? I could invoke the spectres of Orwell's 1984, or Huxley's Brave New World, and out of that would come the slogan "Volunteer Managers of the World Unite!"

  3. Thank you Rob and Sue for the comments.
    Sue, I do so take your points. Philosophically I do so get where you are coming from. I dearly wish to catch up with you again someday for a coffee, tea or a good New Zealand wine to discuss such matters. Because I don’t have such fears about volunteering. I really don’t think Government are a threat to volunteering in the sense of them driving the way volunteering should be. However if I am wrong, or if such a scenarios develops please grab me for the guerilla warfare to change such things!!!

    I think volunteering is a very fluid thing and I think it is a very changing and changeable entity. I personally do not like to hold on to any stringent beliefs (believe it or not). I may argue a point this year and change my mind next year. If I do so it won’t be for the purpose of trying to be on the “right side” I tend to subscribe to what the Buddhists say about life in that everything is impermanent! I don’t discuss religion here and don’t reveal my own (and I am not Buddhist! Not that there is anything wrong with that as Seinfeld might say!)
    But everything changes.


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