Thursday, April 29, 2010

Change Management (Guest Post)

Change management is a process that has been around for some time however, I have only recently become aware that there are consultants who actually specialize in this process and assist businesses in the management of changes within their organizations.

Change is everywhere. When you consider that during my mother’s life for example, she has lived through a depression and a world war and has seen the development of technology which has brought about the advancement of computers from large mainframe computers, which filled an entire office floor, using punched cards as input, to accessing the internet from a mobile phone that fits into the palm of your hand.

Some people embrace change. There are a lot of computer savvy octogenarians out there who have discovered that they can access a wealth of information and stay in touch with friends all over the world with the advent of this new technology and all from the comfort of their own home. For these people the internet has become a mechanism for keeping in touch with people at a time perhaps when their mobility has become limited due to ill health or other issues which would otherwise prevent them from going out and socializing.

The way we do our grocery shopping has evolved too. Picking up the essentials daily from the corner store gave us an opportunity to meet with our neighbours and catch up on the local gossip. The corner store was the hub of the local community.

Nowadays shopping usually consists of a car trip to a supermarket with a plethora of grocery and other items to choose from. While we have a far greater choice due to the bulk buying capacity of supermarket conglomerates, it is to the detriment of the local community feel and the personal approach.

These changes had to come to keep pace with the changing demands of consumer’s lifestyles, but at what cost? Have we lost our sense of community? Have we become more insular?

These are two perspectives of change which are in my mind both just as valid. It is all about people’s perception. As volunteer managers and coordinators we deal with change all of the time, within our own organizations we introduce new programs, recruit new volunteers or deal with other organizational changes which impact on the volunteer service delivery.

We deal with changes outside our organizations in the volunteer management sector trying to establish where we fit into the professional world. Perhaps as volunteer managers and coordinators we could learn more about change management strategies to promote our sector to a world that perhaps hasn’t kept up with the changes in volunteering and is perhaps unaware of the existence of the volunteer management sector.

Wendy Moore is a Volunteer Coordinator from Brisbane Australia, a member of AAVA and a graduate of the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Job title to be banned?

Don J Volau

The Irish Gazette

"Irish parliamentarians will debate a motion on whether to ban the title “Volunteer Manager” for those who manage volunteer programs and are salaried. In a motion sponsored by the Liberty Party it will be argued that the title ‘Volunteer Manager” is misleading unless its “owner” is unpaid and is “truly a volunteer”.

Trevor Fryar, Liberty Party spokesman for the third sector told the Gazette that he felt that he had been hoodwinked for years and that change was needed. “I’ve met several people at conferences and even social gatherings over the years who have informed me that they were Volunteer Managers. I’ve always told them that I thought they were so noble and were a credit to their communities” the senator said.

However, an event four months ago came as a huge shock to the senator and led to his course of action in parliament. “ I was at a function recognising volunteers where this chap introduced himself as a Volunteer Manager. As is my want I congratulated him on his nobleness and asked how long he’d been volunteering for. When he informed me that he was paid I burst out laughing thinking he was joking but the serious expression on his face didn’t change.” The senator says he did some research and discovered that there were other so called “volunteer managers” out there who were paid.

The Liberty party says that it wants to introduce legislation to state that anyone using the title “volunteer manager” must in fact be a volunteer. A government spokesperson refused to comment and no volunteer manager could be found to comment."

The above story is complete fiction! I made this up and sent it to some colleagues on April fool’s day this year on April 1st. 90% of them believed the story. Which is a little bit of a reflection on the issues we face in volunteer management perhaps.

So my mischievous prank taught me a lot. It taught me that we truly believe that our titles may have some negative connotations. It taught me that we are not really surprised when such ridiculous controversial moments arise!

Some of my colleagues have warned me to be aware next year! Revenge is a dish best served cold.

One month gone and getting loud...

This blog has now been up for just over a month. It’s been great fun and thanks to those of you who pop in for a read and to those who take the time to post. I have had just fewer than 350 unique visitors (meaning individual) and that to me has been a real thrill.

And it so exciting to see people blog in from all over the globe, from Christchurch to Rio de Janeiro, from Limerick to New York and from London to Hobart Of course in terms of blogs I have no idea what that means in terms of popularity? Nevertheless I thank colleagues and friends for spreading the word on this blog.

Because my main aim is to get people into a dialogue on volunteerism and volunteer management in particular. I am a huge fan of Susan J Ellis and I am sure those of you who visit this site know who Susan is (if not - Google!) Susan has said that Dialogue moves our sector forward and she has nailed my viewpoint with that statement!

I hope to make this blog more popular and I think the key to its success will be constant updates and blogging. By that I mean fresh stories or opinions throughout the week. I think I am doing ok there so far…in just over a month I have posted 28 pieces! The real test now is to keep that momentum going. How much can one blog about volunteerism?

Plenty! Keep reading. Let your friends and colleagues know. And if you want to post yourself email me at

Let’s get loud!

DJ Cronin

Friday, April 23, 2010

What is your definition of a do gooder?

If you volunteer and someone calls you a do gooder how would that make you feel? Is it a compliment? Disparaging?

Let’s take a look at some online definitions

Informal, usually disparaging a well-intentioned person, esp a naive or impractical one
do-goodery n
do-gooding n & adj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Or this one
do-good•er (
A naive idealist who supports philanthropic or humanitarian causes or reforms.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

From urban

See bleeding heart liberal. Someone who thinks they are helping society by championing oppressed minority groups, when in fact they are ruining society and crippling free speech.


INFORMAL a person who seeks to correct social ills in an idealistic, but usually impractical or superficial, way


Then there is Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, which defines a do-gooder as ``an earnest usually impractical and often naive and ineffectual humanitarian or reformer.''

So where am I going with this? Well an article in Third Sector magazine this April in Australia got me thinking about the definition.
The article titled “Maintaining the good work of millions - successful volunteer management” and written by Emily Hollosy opens thus:

“With nearly one quarter of the population involved in volunteering, Third Sector spoke to six diverse not-for-profits to find out how they successfully manage their volunteers and keep the good will and work of thousands of do-gooders continuing.”

see more at

Yikes again. Why did I cringe when I read that today? As a volunteer myself I just simply felt uncomfortable with the label of Do gooder! And I guess the reason for that is because ive always felt that my definition of that word matched the definitions above.

But as is my want I decided to do some research, look up definitions and try to find another view point. So to be fair and balanced I point to another viewpoint. It may be from the year 2000 ( Crikey! Is that 10 years ago already) but it is an interesting article. It is written from an American viewpoint but as our Australian article demonstrates we are using similar terminology here!

Published on Sunday, February 20, 2000 in the Miami Herald

Why Do Americans Shun The Label `Do-Gooder'?
by William Coplin

In writing the book How You Can Help: An Easy Guide to Doing Good Deeds in Your Everyday Life, I found myself in constant battle over the term ``do good,'' and especially the noun ``do-gooder.''
A smart-aleck former student of mine asked if I was writing a book of fiction.

A New York Upper-Eastsider, who spends much of her time and money trying to help the unfortunate, said she liked the idea of the book, but not my proposed title: ``A Guide for the Genuine Do-Gooder.''
``No one wants to be called a do-gooder,'' she said.

Perhaps she had looked up the term in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, which defines a do-gooder as ``an earnest usually impractical and often naive and ineffectual humanitarian or reformer.''
My publisher refused to allow the term in the main title but grudgingly accepted do-gooder in the subtitle; that is, until a book buyer from a major chain said ``get it off the cover completely, or I will bury it in sociology if I do decide to buy it.''

Why America's distaste for the label ``do-gooder''?
Is it because we are humble and do not want to appear as braggarts? Is it because we will be viewed as a source of easy gifts and do not want to be overwhelmed by requests? Is it because we are believers in individual responsibility and do not want to abrogate the right of each and every one of us to make or break ourselves? Is it because we are materialistic free-market advocates and don't want to mess with a system that has brought us cell phones? Could it be that we feel guilty about our self-indulgence and want to discredit the idea of doing good to ease our conscience? Is it because we reject mushiness and want to appear tough and pragmatic?
The answer to all of these questions is Yes.
Americans don't want to be called do-gooders for many reasons. Nevertheless, our ambivalent attitude toward money, even as we seem to be worshiping it more than ever, is the most powerful source of the hostility. Making money as an end in itself forces us to be suspicious of those who seem to be motivated by other drives.
At the same time, most Americans harbor deep-seated guilt about their obsession with the material even though it is clearly Madison Avenue that is to blame.

The net effect is to create a predisposition to assign too small a space in our daily lives for helping to improve society.

Giving, for instance, has not kept up with increased income and wealth in this very strong economy: According to a 1999 report by the Independent Sector, donations per U.S. household were less in 1998 than they were in 1995. And while the numbers of volunteers nationwide have increased and the total hours are at an all-time high, the average number of hours each volunteer contributes per week has gone down from four hours to 3.5 hours, a decrease of 12.5 percent.

Volunteer fire and ambulance departments are in big trouble all over the country. It is very difficult to get citizens to run for local political office or even show up at a town-hall meeting unless their immediate interests are threatened. And perhaps most important of all, the best and the brightest do not seek careers in government, teaching and the not-for-profit sector.

We need to rescue the term do-gooder from the ridicule it receives in our culture. The idea of spending some time and money on making the world better does not threaten our individualism, pragmatism or even our materialism.

Do-gooders do not have to be pure in motive and totally dedicated, like Mother Teresa, to making the world better. They can mix business and pleasure with doing good. Allowing space for at least 5 percent of their time and money in order to work for the dream embodied in the Declaration of Independence would leave plenty of time for their individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Having respect for and giving support to those who devote most of their energies to that dream would not be un-American. It would produce better teachers, better police, better bankers and, dare we be so naive as to say it, better politicians and lawyers.

We will be less timid in our volunteering and our donations as we see others willing to take action and become known as do-gooders. We will take seriously those politicians who show in demonstrable ways their concern for the welfare of all of society. We will vote differently and spend our money differently as we find out that doing good can be something to be proud of, not something to hide from our peers for fear of looking like chumps.

Let there be such a groundswell of people doing good for one another that our dictionaries will be forced to redefine do-gooder from the pejorative to what such a person really is: an individual who donates effort and resources to make at least one little piece of the world better.

William D. Coplin is professor of public affairs in Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Assumed Constraint

I am reading a little book at the moment that a wonderful colleague has lent me. So far I’ve probably read a quarter of Ken Blanchard’s “Self leadership and the one minute manager” and I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it here until I came across, in the book, the concept of “Assumed Constraint”. And when I read about it I wondered to myself if leadership in volunteerism suffers a little or a lot perhaps from assumed constraint.

Firstly let me explain what I believe is leadership in volunteerism. I would hope ( note I say hope not say) that volunteerism leadership would encompass volunteer management, peak bodies for volunteering, professional associations for volunteer management, academia with a special interest in volunteerism, and consultants and trainers in the field of volunteerism. All of which of course can be paid or unpaid. I do not draw a distinction but know I could be attacked by some for not including volunteers (Mmmm…perhaps my own assumed constraint!)

I digress. Anyway, according to the book an assumed constraint is a belief you have based on past experience that limits your current and future experiences. Have we limited ourselves based on past experiences? Do we just use the words “emerging trends” to satisfy ourselves that we (the volunteering sector) are cool and up to date? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve come across terms such as “emerging trends in volunteering” or “the new wave in volunteering” I would be a rich man indeed. It’s all so hip and we have some great catchphrases for conferences, academic research, journals and papers.

But what’s happening on the ground folks? At the coalface. Are we really challenging our assumed constraints?

So what may be some of our sectors assumed constraints? Let me propose some here now based on what I have been experiencing of late from the field

1.Volunteering in a private setting – recent debates are showing this to be anathema to some. Volunteering only occurs in a not for profit setting according to Volunteering Australia. As I’ve posted here already – check out the April Ozvpm debate. Do you spot any assumed constraints?

2.Episodic volunteering – another cool term bandied around but I am seeing anecdotal evidence that it isn’t been embraced or understood and that there is a traditional resistance to it from some in volunteer management. Case in point – I had a talk to a Volunteer Manager recently who informed me that if a volunteer is gone from the agency for 3 months they must reapply. Yep – they must go through all the recruitment processes again and must undergo another criminal check. I asked if this affected episodic volunteers and got the strangest of looks and was told that it was policy. It was policy – so it must be right. Crikey! – what about school students who volunteer every four months? What about the generation of retired folk who love volunteering but disappear for four months while they caravan around the country. What about the prospective volunteer who rolls up and wants to give some time once or twice during the year? Further anecdotal evidence for me is the amount of prospective volunteers I have come across who have tried other agencies but been rejected because of their desire for episodic volunteering! They have come up against assumed constraints.

3.Embracing social networking and virtual volunteering – I have seen nothing but resistance to these concepts. From “our volunteers can’t use computers because they are too old” to “what the heck is E-learning”? I see a lot of fear of embracing new technology when it comes to managing or engaging volunteers. I believe that our assumed constrains here are due to lack of education! For example I believe that our senior community is most active with internet and social media technology. I learnt this quickly when I worked for an agency that provided information and referrals to seniors over 12 years ago!

And there are more………..

So I guess another discussion someday will be – how does leadership in volunteerism challenge assumed constraints and let them go?

One more quote that I love from the book that I believe can apply to us

“The problem is no longer how to get managers to “let go” – they have no choice anymore. The problem is how to get people to grab hold and run with the ball that is being handed to them”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


There is a fascinating debate going on at the moment on the OZVPM listserv community. Passions have been stoked and the way different people communicate has intrigued me. I have of course participated in the debate which centre’s around volunteering in a private setting. I strongly recommend that you have a look at the debate to date. As Dave from the UK posted “I believe that it could well be the most active debate within volunteering that I have seen in a long time”

The OzVPM newsgroup was founded in June 2002 by Andy Fryar, and is today the largest internet based newsgroup dedicated solely to volunteer program management in the Australasian region.

The newsgroup provides visitors with a forum for discussing all aspects of volunteer program management. Ranging from debating the most current and topical issues in volunteerism through to seeking solutions and sharing ideas about the most basic questions regarding our profession, the OzVPM newsgroup offers a mechanism for all sorts of relevant information exchange.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Ok.... Maybe I am getting a bit picky and precious here but…. I just checked out the registration form for the NATIONAL conference on volunteering in Australia (online) When you come to the “Position” field it gives you these choices
Senior manager
Coordinator/Project officer
NFP Board member
Research Student

Ok – so if I was going I guess I enter “Senior Manager”? What’s the hang-up about having “Volunteer Manager” listed here I ask you? Or “Manager of Volunteer Service”?”

I did share these thoughts with some colleagues and one of them informed me that they contacted Volunteering Australia about this and they in turn were informed that another company were responsible for this i.e a company they had engaged to manage the registrations.

But still

ya would think they might check these details????

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Threat Within

In my opinion there is an emerging voice within our sector that is using the “pure volunteering” tag as a weapon to push ahead with their own archaic views. This body of people believe that volunteering is a natural instinct embedded in all of us to serve and support others. It is anathema to them to suggest that people may not volunteer for altruistic reasons. The reality of change scares them. They perpetuate the “woe is me” culture in the third sector. They fail to grasp innovation because it may mean change and they are more comfortable being snug in their old cocoons. They do not believe that “Volunteer Management” is a profession. They believe that “pure” volunteering doesn’t require leadership or management.

In calling a spade a spade I believe this group are the biggest threat to the volunteering sector because their ilk pervades the volunteering community, our national conference on volunteering and our peak bodies. They are responsible for not having Volunteer Management on our national conference agenda. They give succour to the anti volunteer movement who may reject the notion of volunteering due to white Christian religious connotations and servitude. This won’t bother them as they would not even be aware of an anti volunteer movement for their vision is so narrow. They sit on high thrones casting aspersions on those of us who believe that volunteering is more dynamic, more diverse and more all encompassing than ever before. Their traditional model is threatened. People are volunteering for all sorts of reasons and not just to do good to make themselves feel better or to secure a ticket to celestial bliss! Dare I suggest that there may be some people who don’t use the title of volunteering to describe their voluntary activity due to some negative connotations and perceptions associated with the word itself - perceptions formed due partially to these “purists” within the sector who are blind to the damage that they may be causing.

And they are a threat. Because if they remain unchallenged then our sector will continue to haemorrhage and bleed the visionaries that can lead volunteering to a more dynamic future; a future where volunteering is more effective, a future where more people volunteer and a future where volunteering attains the “wow” factor and loses the “goody two shoes” factor.

Doesn’t the volunteering sector deserve to attract the best talent and the best minds? Why, because its volunteering does it have to be lesser somewhat? Why, because it’s volunteering, does it have to be poorer? Why, because it’s volunteering, does it have to have less value?

In my eyes, volunteerism is a dynamic cutting edge force that comes in many shapes and forms. It is not owned by anyone. It exists outside of the tradition paradigm and as I suggested, perhaps under different names because of the negative perceptions perpetrated by those who claim to know and own volunteering!

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