Thursday, August 19, 2010

Formal Recognition of Volunteer Management?

Its only 78 days left until International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD). I mention this because I recently sent out and invitation to other volunteer managers in our state of Queensland to attend an International Volunteer Managers lunch being organised by a network of Volunteer coordinators and Managers. We’ve been doing this for a number of years now, taking the initiative to at least get together to mark the event.

About 4 years ago I wrote the following as President of the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators (AAVA).

“In some quarters I have come across a reluctance to support recent initiatives such as the Volunteer Administrators award of Excellence being run by the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators (AAVA) and the International Volunteer Managers DAY (IVMD) which is held on November 5th.

The reasons for the reluctance in support for these initiatives vary but include

We don’t like patting each other on the back
Most volunteer managers are volunteers themselves
Many volunteer managers do their role as only a secondary position or as just an add on to their full time role
We’re not fans of awards
We’re too busy
It’s the volunteers who deserve awards not those that manage them
Other sectors don’t have awards and recognition

That’s what I’m hearing. It is only fair to mention that these views are not universal in that some key organisations and individuals within our sector have been only happy to support what is after all an opportunity to promote our profession.

Now I could address each dot point above individually but I don’t want to turn this post into a mini novel!

However I would like to point out that both the AAVA award and IVMD do acknowledge that volunteer management is made up of volunteer and paid components.

The above leads me to ask several questions. I hope that you might have a think about them.

Why do Volunteer management Professionals not think that volunteers deserve to be managed by professionals who are able to confidently advocate on their behalf and ensure they have the best possible working conditions?

Do volunteers have a right to be utilised as efficiently as possible and is this possible without professional/highly skilled volunteer managers?

Do you consider the promotion of Volunteer Management Skills as important when new people join the industry?

Why as a sector do we seem to be reluctant to pat each other on the back? Why do we see obstacles where there are opportunities? Do we feel inherently insecure in our own roles? Do we even believe that we are a profession?

Are we at least willing to support those who have a vision for a professional sector that is understood, respected, consulted with and a sector that has to play an important role in the future of volunteerism in our nation?

To roughly coin a phrase, if it’s not done now – then when? And if it’s not you – then who?

Do you think it’s too na├»ve to have a wish that someday some of our children might grow up aspiring to be Volunteer Managers? “

So what has changed in the last 4 years? I decided to check in on 2 key figures in Australia and ask their viewpoint

Andy Fryar is the Chairperson of the IVMD Committee. He trains and consults on volunteer management internationally and is the founder and Director of OzVPM - the Australasian region's largest volunteer management network.

I asked Andy how IVMD had been embraced by the Volunteer Management Sector itself?

“Well to be honest it has been an evolution. I think that early on, many VPM's almost needed permission to feel good and proud about what they did, but as IVMDay has been celebrated for more than a decade - and has undergone several changes over that time, I think it is becoming more embraced as time has gone on. We are part of a peculiar sector. Quick to applaud (and rightly so) our volunteers, but not so quick to always recognise that the work we undertake to create really fantastic volunteering opportunities and outcomes.”

As to Andy’s thoughts about the rest of the Volunteerism community –, organisations involving volunteers, peak bodies for volunteering, government departments with responsibility for volunteering?

“Two years ago the committee overseeing the day underwent some significant changes. Our committee is deliberately small and we don't ever seek to have any 'ownership' over the day. Rather we see ourselves as being custodians and our vision was that the sector itself should embrace the day in the hope that it would eventually become a self perpetuating celebration. To achieve this, we created out International Supporters Group (ISG) a few years ago. Through our ISG, key volunteer supporting agencies from around the world can sign up and show their support of the day, and by association, their support for the important work undertaken by Volunteer Managers. More recently, we have also created an 'affiliate' level of support, so that individual volunteer programs can also throw their support behind the day.

All in all this has been a really positive initiative, and we now have key ISG members such as IAVE, Volunteering England, Volunteer Canada and Volunteering New Zealand on board, as well as professional Volunteer Associations right around the world.

I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to be added to our International Supporters Group”

Leticia Vargas is President of the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators and I asked her if she felt that the Volunteer Management sector and other stakeholders in volunteerism embraced these awards?

“Unfortunately it’s taking a while for these awards to take off in the industry. Its really an award for general managers to nominate their VM and I guess that’s its unfortunate that we do not receive many nominations- what is sad about it is that it indicated the mentality of the greater community in not appreciating the role of the VM in its entirety. This year we have seen a change in some of the major stakeholders so hopefully that will start to infiltrate down”

I also asked Leticia what future she foresaw for these awards.

“I foresee that the awards will gain momentum as volunteering increases and volunteer management is highlighted. I am hoping that the corporate world will realise the importance to support volunteer managers and come on board as sponsors and investing in the profession”

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