Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another perspective to challenge Volunteer Management

Sean Cobley is Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers in the UK. Hopefully a visitor to this site on occasion! :-) Hi Sean if you are there! I sense that Sean in his role would be checking out pretty much any social media that is mentioning Volunteer Management. In the UK there is a wonderful online forum on volunteer management called UKVPM. UKVPMs is a lively, friendly and participative networking and communication resource for all Volunteer Programme Managers working in the United Kingdom. UKVPMs mission is to increase the scope, scale and quality of both voluntary activity and the management of volunteers.UKVPMs seeks to achieve this by bringing Volunteer Programme Managers together in a virtual community to develop their skills and knowledge for the purpose of taking action towards our common goals

In Australia we have a similar forum called Ozvpm and in the US there is a similar one called Cybervpm. I’ve blogged about them before and on how I believe every volunteer manager internationally should be subscribers. Currently there is a bit of a debate on the UKVPM site about RockCorps. The debate goes to the heart about volunteering and incentives for same. I won’t go into the details of the debate here. However I came across a recent post by Sean Cobley that I feel merits a wider audience.

I contacted Sean and he granted me permission to repost his opinion here. Although UK centric I do believe Seans musings post some timely challenges for our sector. And yet again I state that no matter where we are our volunteer management topics, issues, trends and debates resonate globally. Enough from me – here is Sean’s post.Thanks Sean!

On many levels it seems to me that our fledgling profession is in such a
mess. More is being asked and expected of us from pretty much all sides
(including our own) and yet it seems we do not have the support we need
to meet these expectations. The only people who are going find that
support is us: Volunteer Managers.

Volunteer Managers have been around for quite a while now but as a
profession we are in our infancy. To resolve the problems that not just
volunteer managers but all those involved in volunteering (volunteers,
VIOs etc) face will require a cultural shift in the sectors that involve
volunteers. The only way I believe that that cultural shift will come
about is if volunteer managers take the lead on developing our
profession. At the moment, collectively I don't believe we are.

It took CIPD around 15 years to get to the level it is now. HR has
developed from a profession which simply ensured that companies stayed
on the right side of employment law to a profession where the main aim
is to develop the potential of staff. Our vision at AVM is to create
such a profession for volunteer managers. We can't however do it alone.
I'm not just talking about people joining us and paying a membership fee
(though it would be very helpful!), registering on our website, reading
a blog entry or silently following a debate. We need your voice and we
need your support. As Rob mentioned we need you to lobby us but we also
need you to actively help us develop our profession and campaign on the
issues that affect us.

I say that our profession is in a mess, but I question, do we actually
have a profession at the moment? What is the career path of a volunteer
manager? What's the difference between an Assistant, a Co-ordinator, a
Manager or a Head of Volunteering? What sort of experience do you need
and where should they sit in an organisation? Is volunteer management
different in a small local organisation to that of a large national one?
What qualifications do you need and what is the impact of qualifications
on our profession? There are NVQs, CIPDs, Nation Occupational Standard
and other courses out there, but are they fit for purpose?

I also question whether we actually understand volunteering anymore.
(Maybe we never did!) By we, I include volunteer managers VIOs,
volunteers and politicians! In the 12 years I've been involved in
volunteer management, volunteering has changed so much. I've found it
always to be a balancing act between (primarily) the needs of the
organisation and (secondary) the needs of the volunteer. Where there is
a third party with ulterior motives (e.g. DWP 'using' volunteering to
help people back into work) it's hard still.

I'm personally not a great fan of financially incentivised volunteering,
but that doesn't make it wrong (legal issues aside) and it doesn't take
away my respect for what RockCorps are doing. I'm a 40 something grumpy
old man, not an 18 year old and if I'm honest and I was 18 I'd probably
volunteer for a concert ticket! As Rob (I think) mentioned at some level
volunteering is incentivised, and is this necessarily a bad thing? Some
people don't consider student work experience or internships as
volunteering. I'm a romantic at heart and volunteering for me is where
the motivation comes from the heart. A student who wants to do their 2
week work placement or internship with a cancer charity because their
mum had cancer is much a volunteer to me. I've involved volunteers in
the 'traditional' way of involving volunteers whose primary motive is to
gain practical experience in finance to get a job and don't really care
about the aims and mission of the charity. Was that wrong of me?

We exist in a multi-dimensional universe. In many ways I think
volunteer management is more complex than paid staff management but also
I think there's simplicity about it too. It's down to us to bring an
order to our world and my hope is that AVM can play a big role in doing
that. Please come, join and support us and help us develop our

1 comment:

  1. Sean says it all very well and I totally agree with what he is saying.

    "As Rob mentioned we need you to lobby us but we also need you to actively help us develop our profession and campaign on the issues that affect us."

    Again I agree with the above statement but I feel that we need to think outside the box to develop a creative solution to get the message to people not just within our sector but outside the sector - the politicians, businesses, schools, universities, and the general community.

    The traditional methods of writing letters to the paper don't seem to be working perhaps we should look at Youtube, facebook, twitter etc. but the message that we put out there must be creative and attention grabbing and target the audience we want to reach.


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...