Monday, September 6, 2010

The race between Volunteer Management, The Volunteerism sector and volunteering!

In October, there is a National conference on Volunteering. This year I am not attending. I have attended a few. To be brutally honest, as I am apt to be, the conference this year appeals little to me as a Volunteer Manager.

Now this blog entry is not a criticism of the national conference because there will be some good dialogue on volunteering as indicated by the the program.

But Volunteer management is not on any main stream there. I know Volunteering Australia will argue otherwise and point to the odd workshop by a few volunteer managers and also point out that the winner of the AAVA award for volunteer management will be announced.

An award and concept by the way that I devised myself when I was president of AAVA a few years back.

It’s good to see VA come in behind it. Although apart from announcing the winner at the conference I am unsure what else they are doing to support this. But I will be very keen to ascertain from delegates I know who are attending what mention is given to volunteer management.

At the moment I am far more interested in the national conference on volunteering to be held in New Zealand next year. I am considering going to that. The jury is still out though.

I said to a volunteer manager colleague recently that I was excited about how volunteer management was being advocated for in New Zealand and how some great progress was being made but they quickly brought me back to earth when they asked from what point they were emerging from. Which in their view was a pretty low one to begin with. This I may add came from someone I seriously consider to have some advanced thinking on volunteer management.

Nevertheless the main agendas of both conferences on volunteering are worth considering

Lets start with the Australian Conference

“Challenges such as the impacts of an ageing population and the global financial crisis, opportunities for exploring greater partnerships with the corporate and government sectors, and cementing the pivotal role that volunteering has within the broader social inclusion context, continue to be areas of discussion within the sector.

The 13th National Conference on Volunteering aims to provide a national forum to:

Initiate discussion, debate and analyse issues affecting volunteering
Discover new technologies that can affect or support volunteering
Examine initiatives that will grow volunteering and promote best practice in volunteering”

All well and good for a National conference on volunteering. It would be good however to see Volunteer Management get a look in.

Lets look at the New Zealand Conference

“There will be two main themes in the programme. Both aim to Raise the Bar.
•Episodic and Events Volunteering: The diversity, opportunities and challenges

•Developing the Leaders: The next steps to advance the Management of Volunteers

The Episodic and Events Volunteering stream aims to

•Celebrate the diversity of episodic volunteering
•Share experiences of grasping the opportunities and challenges
•Raise the bar to maximize the impacts and legacies of episodic and event volunteering

The Developing the Leaders stream aims to draw on the experience of people from all professions relative to volunteer leadership from within and outside New Zealand to:

•affirm the leadership and ability already existing in the New Zealand
•find the best pathways to advance the profession of managers of volunteers “

Spot the difference.

But of course I can’t win. Don’t think for a moment that Volunteering New Zealand will be happy with what I am saying as they rightly so will remain diplomatic. I remember once praising them for something on Ozvpm list during a debate but had their CEO post something saying they were not comparing themselves to VA etc.

Ah well I say these things as a true independent advocate for volunteer management and soem people within both organisationsprobably see me as a provocateur and both organisations are right!

I have to do this because in Oz/NZ it is not happening. That is the true independent voice for volunteer management.

I do this as an independent blogger and volunteer manager. It has nothing to do with:

•Where I work
•Money I can earn from the profession
•Status in the profession
•Developing political positioning

Enough of politics within volunteerism. I am sick of it! Volunteerism deserves better. Volunteer Management doesn’t need it.

The quiet visitors to this blog are also sending a message. Something is resonating here.

For Volunteer Managers we need and deserve a National conference on Volunteer Management.

I suggested this years ago. There were a few people eager. A typical response in Volunteer Management sector circles is “great idea!” another typical response is “well I am not doing it – I don’t have the time” and then we have the typical scenarios the four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done!

So, some ideas that I have seen floated within the volunteer management sector and that have not made it include

•National conferences on volunteer management (there has been one in the UK but what has been the impact?)

•An international dialogue between presidents of various national associations or leaders internationally in volunteer management

•IVMD – love it but sorry is not gaining graft!

• A symposium on volunteer management on international volunteer manager day. Getting together for a lunch on IVMD doesn’t really cut it does it. Nevertheless it is better than what most volunteer managers do on the day and that is nothing.

In Australia Volunteering Queensland in association with the office of volunteering have a symposium on international volunteers day.

Because of my views you won’t see me on the agenda of many conferences!
Guess what – it doesn’t bother me. My views are not dependent on the amount of people who attend my training or are members of my group, or the books I sell or who suit me politically.

Please click on to my newest link which you can find at the end of this page

Volunteerism sector and volunteering has a race

This is where I believe we are at.The ostrich is those within the volunteerism Sector and Volunteer Management sector who are stuck. The Penquin represents the reality of what volunteering is!

We are so behind the reality of volunteering!

Our national conferences are simply echo chambers!

I am independent!! I would love a comment from either VA or VNZ. I would welcome that. Let’s see eh? Can they hear what exists outside the echo chambers?? Have they the courage?


  1. Are you able to offer your own leadership and vision to the structure of the conference? Seems like you could be part of your own solution!

  2. I understand your frustration DJ though I do not want to sound like an echo chamber. I do not think that the volunteer management sector will change until the following happens.

    • More volunteer managers start believing in themselves and in their abilities.
    • More organisations start recognising the value of professional volunteer management and pay them accordingly.
    • More peak bodies start recognising and acknowledging the value of professional volunteer management.
    • More volunteer managers allow themselves time for professional development by participating in forums, blogs and websites and attend leadership conferences on Volunteer Management.
    • More volunteer managers need to educate those in the community who are unaware of the role of volunteer managers or who think that they are in “nice” jobs.
    • Volunteer managers need to network outside the sector with other managers and start considering themselves as Managers!!!

    How can this all be achieved? It can be achieved in time through discussion on a macro level, networking within and outside the sector and a belief in a vision for the future of volunteer management as a professional cohesive movement. Now over to you DJ to take the lead and to make it so.

  3. Thank you Oh the joys for taking the time to comment.

    I have presented at the conference in the past and I take your point “Oh the joys” about being part of the solution. I think a main point I was hitting at was having Volunteer management recognised as a key cog in the wheel of volunteerism and demonstrating this by “bringing volunteer management to the plenary”. I wrote a piece under this title too some time back. There are no main speakers addressing Volunteer Management solely. To argue that this is not the place for that goes to my point on the perception that volunteer management is undervalued.


    Thanks Wendy for an excellent and thought provoking response. I feel that points one and two in your response are beginning to happen. As for “More peak bodies start recognising and acknowledging the value of professional volunteer management” I believe there is inconsistencies here internationally. I think Volunteering England is taking great strides forward. Just witness their “Valuing Volunteer management” campaign or their strong support for IVMD. Volunteering New Zealand is taking positive action too. Who is the peak body for volunteering and/or volunteer management in the United States? Anyone?

    As for your other two points I think the view still pervades that this is not in our job description. That this bigger picture stuff should be left to the few or to professional associations for volunteer management.

    So what are some solutions Wendy?

    Greater cooperation between peak bodies for volunteering, government and volunteer management. Regular meetings of representatives from both and transparency and communication to improve. The purpose of these meetings to ensure volunteer management is consulted and asked for input on any policies pertaining to volunteering. A real sense of “working together” for volunteering.

    Now let me put an add on here – someone may come back and say that this is already happening. Well I and many others cannot see this happening so if it is it is not being communicated, it is not visual and thus not transparent.

    More “Valuing Volunteer Management” campaigns internationally. If it’s a great idea why not borrow it!

    Education campaigns on volunteering that include volunteer management. Education packs that go to every volunteer involving organisations. Again, no need to reinvent the wheel. Utilise Betty Stallings “12 key actions of Volunteer Program Champions – CEOs who lead the way”. This brilliant resource kept me in this sector and I still say it is one of the best tools around for educating people, especially CEOs on Volunteer Management.

    So a solution for Volunteer Managers using the steps I used many years ago

    •Get hold of this document


    •Deliver to your CEO, Manager or supervisor

    •Give them a few weeks to read it and then set a meeting with them. Explain this process to them

    •At the meeting sit down together and address each point one by one

    •Ascertain where your CEO is in relation to the points discuss

    •Set an action plan that addresses any points that need to be worked on

    •Set a follow up meeting to review progress.


    I have tried to give several solutions and this is reflected in various pieces I have written. I have tried to act too. Because there is the danger of falling head first into the “all talk and no action” hole. I acknowledge that. We can get lost in our beliefs and grand visions.

    Networking alone does not necessarily provide solutions. So in terms of direct action I have

    •Devised the concept of the Volunteer managers Award of excellence which AAVA runs in Australia

    •Individually lobbied Volunteering Australia (VA) for more recognition for Volunteer management and in particular International Volunteer Managers day. Subsequently VA put info on IVMD on their website and released a statement about their support for Managers of volunteers

    •Led a campaign to properly recognise and resource a Volunteer Management role in a large city council in Australia

    •Have volunteered my time repeatedly in presenting on “volunteering in Australia” to community groups

    •Have volunteered my time in presenting to organisations on improving relationships between staff and volunteers and improving that culture

    •Have volunteered my time to write newsletters on volunteer management

    •Have presented on volunteer management at various conferences

    •Have been a volunteer twice in instigating debate and critical thinking at the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management

    •Have shared my views for international and overseas publications advocating for Volunteer Management and indeed for how we look at and define volunteering

    •Creating this blog with the hope of instigating debate, encouraging critical thought, shining the torch on areas of previous discomfort and challenging some norms and comfort zones! All the time giving others in volunteer management another opportunity and forum to contribute.

    •And most importantly, assisting and mentoring other volunteer managers or coordinators who are either new to the profession or are struggling with some aspect of their role or are setting up new volunteer programs.

    So Wendy, I give you there some actions, some micro, some macro that we can all collectively get involved with too in our own ways. One doesn’t need to write for a publication. One doesn’t need to be contributing to the forums,. One doesn’t need to be advocating for the sector. It is not a prerequisite entering volunteer management to be involved in growing the sector. “I manage volunteer programs and manage them well and that is good enough for me” can be a justifiable view.

    My own view though is that we ourselves can do more for our sector through some small actions if we want to build the sector.

    Is Volunteer management a great profession?

    WE can make it so!

  6. I take your point DJ. Volunteer Managers don’t have to write publications, contribute to forums or even advocate for the sector. My comments come from the inspiration that I gained from attending the advanced retreat for volunteer management and from having a mentor who had belief in my abilities long before I had belief in my own abilities. The combination of these factors gave me the impetus to contribute to forums and write posts on websites and enthusiastically advocate for the sector.

  7. Hey DJ - you gotta come to the NZ conference in May 2011 to learn first hand what is happening here. Small acorns perhaps, but you know what they can lead to. You have outlined the ideas for action, and noted the inertia of Everybody and Nobody and Anybody. Take heart - our small group is pretty determined to create something better for managers of volunteers.

  8. Hi Shindig

    Certainly considering the NZ trip. I thank you for the post!

  9. Hi DJ

    Well, your blog is certainly having the desired effect, as it's inspired this novice blog-commenter to take to the keyboard! When I read your entry, I had two strong responses, which I want to share...

    The first was irritation, to be honest. As you'll probably know, I'm one of the people involved in NZ's efforts to value Managers of Volunteers. Maybe this is my pride speaking, but it grated on me quite significantly when you mentioned that someone you rated had reflected that there's not much going on here, given the 'point we started from'. Cool. Undoubtedly whoever that person is, they are shooting for the same target as myself and my (thoroughly committed, I might add) colleagues here in NZ. So when I read/hear things like that, it doesn't exactly fill me with the support I need from my global community to keep pushing forward! How on earth do we expect any of us to keep going if we're going to open blogs and be met with a 'well, they're doing something I guess, but it's pretty lo-fi...' response? I am not for an instant suggesting that there is not a high need for constructive criticism and accountability in this line of work - far from it. What I am suggesting is that there may just be a tipping point where we cross over from being each other's support and inspiration to the 'straw that breaks the camel's back', as it were. My view is that we a) need to appreciate small changes, and b) need to encourage those who are paddling the same canoe as us. We also need to acknowledge that we don't know everything that's going on behind the scenes. A wise person I know once said that there are people out there running so the rest of us can walk - to the outside world, it might look like NZ (or any other country, for that matter) is walking, but many people would have no idea just how fast and hard others are running to get the movement walking.

    The second response I had was more of a challenge. In your initial blog post, you talk of several suggested ways we could crank our actions up several notches - a specific conference on Management of Volunteers, organised global communication, etc. I actually think a lot of these things are, as you say in a response to a comment, already happening to some degree. Let's acknoweldge that, and look at how we build on it with a positive and look-for-the-opportunities outlook. And let's not just TALK about this. I am fairly new on this scene, but I have already established myself a pretty exciting semi-global network of contacts, supports and co-conspirators (when I say semi-global, it's a mix of NZ, Australia and England). However, I would love to be part of a more solid global network that drives our movement forward. You think we should have one, I think we should have one, and surely we're not alone here - my challenge back to you is, let's do it. As we say in NZ, more do-y and less hui. I look forward to hearing back from you with some next steps...

    Claire Teal

  10. Hi Claire I was delighted to see a novice blog commentator like you take to the keyboard.

    I couldn’t agree with you more on many of your point s and especially on the need for more support and acknowledging the steps that are been taken to aid professional development of our sector.

    I’ve said that there is great stuff happening in New Zealand but I often reflect what others are saying or feeling on this blog. I do wish that more people like you would come forward expressing a view. Because I am glad that you did. Because that person who shared a reflection that grated on you will I am quite sure read your post. And gain a clearer understanding where you are at.

    One may well say that this information was on VNZ website and posted to other forums but sharing your successes to as many different avenues of communication is vital.

    Claire I so want to encourage those who row the same canoe as us and I often have. I am in the same canoe as you! I want to encourage others to join us in that canoe. I want to let them know that together we can overcome the rapids. But there are others in the canoe who are not doing any of the rowing but still want to be in the canoe. I want to encourage them to pick up the oars.

    I don’t think that NZ is walking. I think you have all started an exciting jog. I have never heard of more do-y and less hui. I love it! I love a challenge Claire.

    With your pretty exciting semi-global network of contacts, supports and co-conspirators and my semi-global network of contacts, supports and co-conspirators we can make a start here. Here’s a first step. My email is
    If anyone else reading this wants to join us to develop a truly professional global think and action tank on the management of volunteers and advancement of our sector then let’s bounce ideas off each other.

    “a more solid global network that drives our movement forward” Yes yes yes!

    Thanks Claire – you have me inspired!


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