Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More surveys on Volunteer Management? More Action?

Here’s another survey result just published in the UK on Volunteer management. Any big surprises here?

From www.thirdsector.co.uk

Volunteer managers 'lack training'

By By Kate Youde, Third Sector, 31 August 2010

Report by Skills - Third Sector says 42 per cent have had no training at all

More than four out of 10 people who manage volunteers have not received any training, according to a report released today.

Despite identifying much good practice in volunteer management, the study by the Institute for Volunteering Research, called Valuing Volunteer Management, concluded it is undervalued and underfunded in many charities.
The report draws on responses from more than 1,000 volunteer managers at third sector organisations in England.

It said 42 per cent of people managing volunteers have not received any training that would help them to carry out that work. In organisations with more than 50 staff the figure was 20 per cent.

The report found 86 per cent of respondents would welcome extra training or skills development. However, volunteer managers were often unaware of how to access the training, advice and support available.

The report calls for greater policy focus on how people managing volunteers in small groups might be better supported, and further research to explore the trend of using volunteers to manage other unpaid staff.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Anti Echo Chamber Series for Volunteer Management

One of my favorite terms I have come across recently is the term ‘Echo Chamber”

Without going into too much detail because you can Google everything these days, here are my 2 favorite definitions of “Echo Chamber” both coming from urbandictionary.com

1. echo chamber

A person who totally, obsequiously agrees with everything another person says.

“During the meeting my boss Jeremy calls on Jason, who’s a well-known management echo chamber to ask if Jason thinks the Company’s new and much stricter internet policy is a fair one. The rest of us spend the remainder of the meeting retching at the resultant tsunami of blatant ass-smooching.”

2. echo chamber

An insular communication space where everyone agrees with the information and no outside input is allowed. The broadcast is just another echo chamber for self serving interests.

There are too many echo chambers in volunteerism. There are so many echo chambers in volunteer management!

I love the term especially because I hope to exist outside the echo chamber. I understand now why some may say I am a trouble maker or am being outrageous! As if I am…for goodness sake...all I am doing is challenging the industry to grow and respect itself…and for those who purport to be interested in volunteerism to actually demonstrate that fact!

Once we can step outside of our echo chambers then volunteerism and volunteer management can have the confidence to speak about change and future and innovation and growth and regeneration. All for the greater good of community.

In our echo chambers we talk about the past, the purity of volunteering, the management of volunteers in old fashioned terms, the every volunteer is a saint paradigm, the volunteer manager swimming in the muck and mire of community service, the old definitions of volunteering, the woe is me culture of servitude!

There is an exciting world outside of the Volunteerism Echo Chambers.

Volunteering is a living breathing thing that defies definition!

Breaking free from our Volunteer Management echo chambers!

Ok now here is a story I will reprint in full

To give us another look at people’s views on volunteering.

This will form part of my anti echo chamber series. Reproducing such articles does not mean I agree with them. However I do recognise the value of thought outside the echo chambers! It doesn’t mean its right…but we need to discuss various views even those outside our comfort zone I think.

here is the article from Alison Schrager (Allison Schrager is an economist based in New York.)


When a friend suggests they help clean up a park, Allison Schrager politely declines. "Why would I spend three hours of my time picking up trash?" As a professional, it makes more sense to donate what her time is worth ...

A friend once invited me to spend a cold winter's day picking up trash in a park. It was a community-service event organised by a charitable organisation she was involved with. I immediately told her I was not interested.

"It just makes no sense," I explained. "Why would I spend three hours of my time picking up trash?" I argued that if the goal was neighbourhood beautification, then I would rather donate three-hours' worth of my labour income. The organisation could then hire several people in need of a job. The trash gets picked up, we provide jobs, and I do not have to spend three hours in the cold. "Where can I make a donation?"

My friend sighed, mumbled something about it seeming like a good way to meet men, and then shuffled off to ask someone else.

When we feel inspired to do good, many of us choose to give time instead of money. Given how precious our time is--cramped by demands of work, family and friends--setting some of it aside to clean parks or deliver meals seems like a valuable donation. But is this the most efficient way to give?

The economist in me is inclined to say no. As I explained to my friend, what my time is worth may be far more valuable to most charities than my actual labour. The money could go towards hiring people with limited employment opportunities, or to help cover more pressing needs facing the charity, such as rent or staff salaries. My hours of labour, on the other hand, serve the charity in only one way, and can only be provided by me.
Volunteer labour becomes more valuable if it involves a special skill. For example, if a talented doctor donates a few hours of his time to a free clinic, this may serve the charity better than a $1,000 donation. Unfortunately, I can think of few local charities that would benefit from the unique skills of an economist.

I recently explained this to a professional who regularly donates his time to a local soup kitchen. But he argued that "just throwing money at a cause" is potentially irresponsible and enables detachment. Donating time may be a greater personal sacrifice, but it also gives him a stronger connection with the cause. He has forged a bond not only with the other volunteers, but also with the people he feeds, and the result is an enriching sense of community. He also believes, as a member of the same minority group of many of the people he serves, that he provides them with a positive role model. He recognises value in the social interaction volunteering provides.

Of course charities benefit from both kinds of donations. They need some people to just hand over cash, but they also thrive by being an integral part of the community. Whether it is better to give money or time depends on your goals as a donor. If the objective is simply to provide food for the hungry or to clean a park, then money is more valuable. However, if you hope to also engage with your community--not only with your peers, but also with less fortunate people whom you might not otherwise encounter--no amount of money can compensate for your time spent.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Volunteering and Volunteer Management Ends Hung Parliament

I remember a talk I did once on International volunteer day. It was about 5 years ago and it was in front of about 500 volunteers. There were also about 8 politicians in the crowd. My speech was about volunteering. I joked about starting the “volunteering party”. That got a few giggles. Yet when I talked about how volunteers should be supported by government through subsidized public transport I seemed to get attention from the pollies. After describing it as both good for Volunteerism and the environment I noted most of the politicians reaching for notebooks and pens and scribbling notes. At the time I thought “wow, they are really taking note of that suggestion”. Yea. Right. I may have been suggesting that all volunteers receive free haircuts for the year. Actually there’s a thought….anyway I digress.

Nothing of course came of that speech. This was a case of politicians looking interested in front of half a thousand volunteers. I only started thinking about that tonight as I watched the news here in Australia. We still have a hung parliament. We are still unclear about future Government. How different might it have been if one party had been brave enough to come up with some policy on volunteering? Yes there was some policy on encouraging students to volunteer but as far as I could see nothing concrete on the infrastructure of volunteering. Or the support of volunteering or anything on reducing barriers to volunteering. And if you think Volunteer Management got a look in then I am sure you are having an interesting time in la la land with the munchkins!
Given that the price of petrol and travel costs can impact on volunteering it would have been good to see some political leadership there.

Today in Australia we have a hung parliament.

According to the latest Australian census we have 5.4 million volunteers.
Did both parties miss an opportunity to clench a deal?
Think about it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Volunteer Management Sector Tipping Point

According to Malcolm Gladwell the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses an invisible threshold and spreads like wildfire.

How do we as a Volunteer Management Sector get our new ideas and changes to be contagious and tip?

Gladwell also talks about the 20-60-20 change principle. In explaining this I will apply it to our sector.

The 20-60-20 principle states that generally the following occurs with people in organisations who are going through the change process.

will take the new idea on board and be willing to try change

60% will sit on the fence at the beginning of the change process

20% will be cynical about change and will only come on board with the new initiative when the critical mass (I.e. the above 80%) has moved forward.

I believe we have similar figures when it comes to new ideas and thought for Volunteer Management and the Volunteerism sector as a whole. I’ve met the change champions and the supporters, have seen the “wait and see” crowd and the fence sitters and have had reactions from the negative resistant saboteurs!

All of course when applied to certain ideas or suggested changes for our sector including

To educate up – no! To really educate up!

To really educate people of influence about our roles – Our managers, Our Boards, Our CEOs, Our MPs, Senators, Our Peak bodies on Volunteering, Other Management and leadership sectors. To really do this. To stop just talking this.

To get rid of our big buts

Our bad habit of not progressing by telling ourselves big Big But stories – “But the boss never listens – But I am just a volunteer coordinator – But Ive tried this before – But I don’t think we are a sector – But it’s the volunteers that matter not us – But ….but…but….but….

To Demand fair pay for Managers of Volunteer Services, Department and Programs

To Demand Adequate Resources for same

To recognise that volunteering comes in many forms and is shifting from some old paradigms

To have the ability to adapt to real change in volunteering trends and to not bury our heads in the sand about such change

To recognise the trends ourselves and to recognise that experienced Volunteer managers can be the experts in trending!

For Volunteerism to truly embrace our Volunteer Management Sector

To move out of our echo chambers and embrace concepts of leadership from outside our sector

To seek wisdom from other sectors and to likewise share ours

To Make International Volunteer Managers Day an United Nations Recognised Day

Some of the changes our sector need. Some we are working towards.

20% will take the new ideas on board and be willing to try change

60% will sit on the fence at the beginning of the change process

20% will be cynical about change and will only come on board with the new initiative when the critical mass (I.e. the above 80%) has moved forward.

Where are you now?

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer. ~Shunryu Suzuki

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine. ~Robert C. Gallagher

The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions. ~Ellen Glasgow

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. ~William Blake

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown

Volunteering is changing – we’ve known this for awhile. If Volunteer Management and the volunteerism sector stays still, as I suspect they are doing, we will be so far behind wondering what that spot in the distance is…not realizing that it is, in fact, moving away from us. That spot is volunteering. It’s time to change…if only to keep up! – DJ Cronin

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From "a note from the universe"

It's one trick, to manifest exactly what you want. It's another to bring about something even better. Leave the door open. How? Expect miracles. Don't attach to unimportant details. Don't insist "how" your dreams will come true. Prepare to be amazed. Feel the joy when you daydream. Take baby steps in the dark. Every single day physically do something about your dreams. And most important, saunter.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Election Thoughts (3) Volunteer Management and Politics

One of the few policies in regards with anything to do with volunteering came from one of the political parties in the last week of campaigning.

From an article by Probono Australia

“Volunteering Australia says any plan to set up a volunteer scheme to allow university students to offset some of their HECS debt needs much more work.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced that the coalition would initiate a pilot scheme if elected to Government, in response to a question during the Forum at the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane held last night.
Abbott told the audience that students who volunteered would receive $10 per hour, which would come off their tertiary study HECS debt.

The Labor Government also flagged a similar scheme in January 2010 based on an idea from the 2020 Summit.

Today the Liberal Party released more details about the scheme saying it will encourage the development of Australia’s next generation of community volunteers with a $7 million pilot volunteering program to be known as AUSCORPS.

Under the pilot program, up to 1,000 university students per year will be eligible to receive a $10 credit against their HECS debt for each hour of volunteer work they undertake, up to a maximum 200 hours or $2,000 per year.

Volunteering Australia CEO Cary Pedicini says he has concerns about the implementation of such a scheme and whether it addresses the ethical issues that challenged the traditional definition of volunteering…….and……” it is the view of Volunteering Australia that the initiative as it has been articulated does not fit with the accepted definition of volunteering and as such Volunteering Australia does not recommend that a proposed scheme be considered as volunteering.

However it said Volunteering Australia believes that the initiative could be reframed as a “community investment” scheme”

Comments on the pro bono website have varied

“But there are many University students already volunteering their time without financial compensation, for these people, this plan would be beneficial, as they are volunteering for the right reasons”

“My husband and I are both mature age university students and we both spend significant amount of time volunteering for various local organisations. We do this because we want to help, not for any personal gain. We don't have money to give so we give our time to help others who need it more than ourselves. This scheme would be an excellent way to assist us and would be an appreciated thanks for our work”

“Why can’t this be just one of many benefits of volunteering? I don’t understand Volunteering Australia’s resistance to this and their arguments don’t stack up. They talk about definitions of volunteering. Whose? Theirs?...... Their own policies are inconsistent. For example: VA has a problem with this yet embraces corporate volunteering?”

“Please, let's call it what it is, perhaps 'Student Community Work' and leave the term 'volunteer' unsullied.”

“Perhaps it is time we re-defined what volunteering actually is in the 21st century rather than holding on to 1980's volunteering romantic stereotypes?”

The DJ View?

Interesting stuff. I didn’t see much reaction from the Volunteer Management community. Mind you the policy was announced late in the campaign. Still, the volunteer management community should have responded. Why?

Maybe some Volunteer Managers disagree with such an initiative. That is fine. But guess what? If implemented and if implemented under a title of “student community work” guess who will be managing the Student Community workers in organisations? HR Managers? Fundraising Managers? Corporate Service managers? Or will organisations find the funds to create student Community Work Coordinators? What do you think Volunteering Australia?

Where’s the synergy between some key stakeholders in volunteerism here?…all peak bodies have a say in this including peak bodies for VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT as well as Volunteering.

Election Thoughts (2)

I didn’t see much policy from any side to do with volunteerism during this election campaign here in Australia. I watched closely the UK election and felt that volunteerism was a bigger agenda item and that the volunteerism sector was more engaged in the political process.

Election Thoughts (1)

Australians have just voted in their general election and it looks like we will have a hung parliament and that whoever forms Government will rely on a few independents.

Voting in Australia is compulsory. Just out of interest I wonder what Volunteer Managers or those with an interest in volunteerism think of this.

Should voting be voluntary? In every nation? Take our poll

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Check this out!

"So many people -- media and corporate people in particular -- like to talk about volunteers in the most flowery language possible: volunteers as selfless and hard-working and nice and sweet and huggable. Gosh golly, don't you love them?!?

I'm not fond of using fuzzy language to talk about volunteers, because I find it degrading and disrespectful. It devalues volunteers and their role in organizations."

Not my words but Jayne Cravens. Please see the link on my page to Jaynes site.

3 words come to my mind when I read Jaynes stuff!


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 naïve 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”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Nonexistent Volunteer Management Party releases policy!



Today the NEVM party leader Noah Rekonition launched his party’s campaign in waga waga. Here is an edited extract from his speech

“My fellow stralians, mums and dads, aussie battlers and hard working folk, the Nonexistent Volunteer Management Party is the party for you to vote for in this election. 5.4 million stralians volunteer. We dont know how many people are employed in the volunteer management field. We will say a half a million for the fun of it because no one is listening to this announcement anyway. And no press will take up this story for we are just the NEVM. We are such an unique party that you won’t even find us on the ballot paper. Just think of us though and you register a vote for us.
Moving forward we are fair dinkum. We are LIBERAL in our management, we manage voluntary LABOR! Our movement is NATIONAL! When we look at the resources, respect and recognition we see given to other management sectors we are GREEN with envy. The Volunteer management community is a family. We want to put our FAMILY FIRST!

LETS STAND UP FOR Volunteer management

LETS MOVE FORWARD WITH volunteer management


Who don’t understand volunteer management

Fair dinkum!”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: "I did not have time." Franklin Field

Quotes that can apply to Volunteer Management!

"Every one of us, unconsciously, works out a personal philosophy of life, by which we are guided, inspired, and corrected, as time goes on. It is this philosophy by which we measure out our days, and by which we advertise to all about us the man, or woman, that we are. . . . It takes but a brief time to scent the life philosophy of anyone. It is defined in the conversation, in the look of the eye, and in the general mien of the person. It has no hiding place. It's like the perfume of the flower, unseen, but known almost instantly. It is the possession of the successful, and the happy. And it can be greatly embellished by the absorption of ideas and experiences of the useful of this earth." George Matthew Adams

So why do I love Volunteer Management?

Is it the association with people who don’t walk into the office on Monday morning with a Monday morning face? Or the Friday volunteers who refreshingly don’t answer “I’m great it’s Friday!” when you ask them how they are at the end of the week.

For me it’s about the people. The different faces and characters you see each day. If you are not a “people person” you are not in volunteer management.

Is it, while walking the floor and seeing volunteers in action who don’t notice you watching?

I don’t know about you but they still inspire me. They touch that place deep inside that only a magnificent sunset or ridiculously high snow capped mountain can. You know the feeling. The wow factor. What is it about people who make an effort to change people’s lives or make a difference who are not motivated purely by money?

Is it the camaraderie and humour? Maybe it’s just in the places I have worked but volunteers I encounter have a wicked sense of humour. Or maybe they are reflecting mine! They get my silly sense of humour. Like when I opened up a major recognition event with the line – “Volunteers! All work and no pay!” Or when they ask me for a pay rise and I tell them I will double what they are currently on. Or when they walk into the office in the morning and say to me “another day another MMmmmmm”

Is it their honesty? Their ability to tell it like it is without worrying about their position as much as a paid person. Their ability and courage to spot injustice? I’ve worked in a couple of hospitals managing volunteers. Every few years hospitals go through the process of accreditation. In my experience every department of the hospital has come under the microscope including volunteer services. Rightly so. But the reason I mention this is the memory of one year when one of the auditors in a speech to all managers in the hospital at a summary of the review stated – “ it is important to properly recognise your volunteers – they are after all the eyes and ears of the hospital! It was a proud moment for me and for the team.

Is it the realization that volunteering is so much more dynamic than the traditional paradigm normally portrayed?

We are on the ground as Volunteer managers. We are at the clichéd Coal Face! But we see the skills volunteer bring. We see that the motivation is not always just altruistic. We see potential in new ways of volunteering. we embrace new ways and various settings where volunteering exists. We, the volunteer managers or coordinators or practitioners or administrators are spotting the emerging trends as they emerge and we sit back and smile with bemusement and amusement when we listen to the experts and academics postulate on such matters at conferences like they’ve made groundbreaking discoveries!

Is it because we have a POSITIVE story to tell?

There are so many. On the ground we see them. And there are so many layers to our positive and inspiring stories. We need to find a better way of capturing them.

So there I present a few reasons why I love the job I am in. The main reasons for me are volunteers themselves and the successes we share! Wendy Moore wrote recently on I-volunteer about how we should list our successes. I agree, for in Volunteer Management they abound!

"A most important key to successful leadership is your ability to direct and challenge the very best that is in those whom you lead." Anonymous

Friday, August 13, 2010



Interview with Samaku President

By Don J Volau

3 months ago Volunteerism Gazette reported on a famous election victory (see blog archive – May)

“Samaku is an island west of North Arabia. Pop” 4 million, Samaku has gone unnoticed in world history generally due to its people’s penchant for peace. Samaku however should get some recognition from the volunteerism world as it has just elected a president whose full time job is volunteer manager.

According to its last census Samaku has 2 million volunteers. A figure large enough to inspire a volunteer manager to form his own political party 2 years ago. That risk yesterday paid off when Andy Cowling was inaugurated Samaku’s 4th President since the island state gained independence from Oldthink.”

3 months later our reporter Don J Volau secured this interview with President Cowling

Don J Volau (DV): Mr. President thank you for taking the time to do this interview

President Cowling (PC): Don, it is my pleasure

DV: How has your presidency been in the last 3 months?

PC: I feel it has been an exhilarating and very POSITIVE last few months Don. Some of our key successes have been the free public transport for volunteers via the setting up of a volunteer registration site, tax concessions for volunteers to offset petrol costs, the setting up of the National University of Volunteer Management and funding for SAVL - The Samaku Association for Volunteer Leadership

DV: How satisfying has this been for you given that you fought for these gains for volunteer management for many years?

PC: Well Don the only personal satisfaction I get is to see Volunteer Managers happy in their roles, feeling recognised and resourced.

DV: You’ve copped a bit of criticism over the years though and still do – how do you deal with that?

PC: I think I deal with this Don by trying to understand where people may be coming from.

DV: During your election campaign though you were criticized as being negative for pointing out, consistently, the issues facing volunteer managers and this criticism came from some volunteer managers themselves.

PC: yeah, at first I found this a strange one – I felt I was under the critical eye for advocating for the profession. But it was a great learning curve. And I came to understand where people were coming from.

DV: you say a learning curve – what do you mean by that?

PC: I think Don that traditionally volunteering has been seen as “nice” and “cuddly” and “warm”. Of course that has changed. Volunteering is now seen in terms of dynamic, value adding, innovative, community building and an important ingredient in both social inclusion and social capitol. How volunteering looks has also been changed by the diversity of the people who volunteer today and by the means by which they can volunteer. Volunteering is changing.

Volunteering is adapting to the changing world – the impermanent world. Volunteer management is trying to keep up with the pace and to a degree is lagging behind. Nevertheless I am positive that there are enough volunteer managers who can keep the pace. Our party campaigned on recognizing the true worth of volunteers. But we equally placed importance on effective volunteer management. And I think we resonated with voters who wanted to keep up as it were with volunteering!

DV: There are those of course who still resist change?

PC: and naturally so…it’s the case with anything. I think a lot of resistance has to do with fear. People are very comfortable in their familiar zones of being – hence the term comfort zone. And we have echo chambers where these people exist and think all is alright because they mix with similar people who share their viewpoint and rarely so they dabble with an opposing or alternate one and if they do its to criticize.

DV: Can you give an example?

PC: well during my election campaign I began highlighting some inequalities in the recognition and resourcing of volunteer managers. I did this after meeting several volunteer coordinators and managers who told me that they were struggling due to this. All I was doing was highlighting these issues and calling for action rather than words to address these issues.

DV: But you were accused of being too negative

PC: Too right and an agent of doom and gloom.

DV: how did that make you feel?

PC: Well at first I was flabbergasted – I was like’ hang on here – aren’t we on the same side here???” But after some serious and mature contemplation I understood

DV: an enlightened moment?

PV: Not quite Don. I just came to some of my own conclusions. It goes like this. They are the type of people who love to gripe, love to complain. And they get the listening ear, and the nods of empathy and the sympathy vote. But they won’t put it down on paper like the people who have genuine concerns. They will only share their stories verbally. Let’s call them the VMVs. They wont take action. They wont make change. They wont listen to advice. They have an underlying ease with their lot!

Now what happens when people come along who want to change Volunteer Management? Who want to make it a respected and recognised sector? The VMVs will have a go at them and accuse them of being trouble makers and doom and gloom merchants! But for them, the day when volunteer management is recognised and resourced is the day that their “story” ends!

When organisations have to properly resource and recognise their volunteers and volunteer management they will expect high standards in volunteer management! And rightly so. This threatens some people.

DV: So what next for you?

PC: I am just going to keep on doing what I keep on doing.

DV: Despite the negativity and the doom and gloom?

PC: Hey Don – I am actually mister Positive! I believe that Thoughts become things…so I choose the good ones! Always!

© Volunteerism Gazette August 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Response to this blogger from National Australia Bank!

A little while ago I wrote an open letter to National Australia Bank and posted it on this site. In it I commended nab and their commitment to volunteerism. Please see my earlier blog on the matter. I am delighted that nab have responded to my blog. I will follow up on their response with some suggestions on how they can support volunteer management and I will keep you informed.

Again, I have to commend nab for their commitment to volunteering and their willingness to also have a look at volunteer management!

Here is their response to my initial blog – would love your views from a volunteer managers perspective!

Dear Mr Cronin,

Firstly thanks for your feedback - following our recent survey done during National Volunteer Week we thought it was a good time to raise awareness of the need for volunteers, especially given numbers of people volunteering are on the decline. We are particularly championing the corporates' role in helping supply a pipeline of engaged, well briefed, suitable volunteers to those in the community who need them.

Thank you for including us on your blog - this is wonderful and we appreciate you helping us get our message out to as many people as possible about the important role volunteerism plays towards contributing to the economy.

We are well aware of the importance of the role of facilitating genuine and meaningful volunteering - see the results to the survey on question 4.1.12 (please refer the survey findings below) as this is being highlighted as one of the main reasons the NFP section don't engage/fully utilise volunteers as they should.

We are currently taking steps to support Volunteer Management through our partnership with Volunteering Australia and our support of the National Volunteer Conference in Melbourne in October this year. There is a dedicated session being run on Volunteer Management titled 'Eurkea! Volunteer Management essentials' - you should see if you can tap into this somehow.

We usually celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day by sending an email of thanks to all volunteer managers we deal with as part of our program recognising that without them we could not support their organisations with volunteers. We are going to have a look at the AAVA website and investigate what we can further do to celebrate this important day, thanks to bringing it to our attention.

We are currently working on developing our plan for next year on furthering our support to the great cause of volunteering.

Thanks for making contact and your interest in our program - we look forward to keeping you up to speed on our developments and would be keen to keep up to speed on yours via your blogging.


Its “only” Volunteer Management and you are “just” a Volunteer Manager or Coordinator!

Haven’t been blogging for awhile. I’ve been really busy to tell you the truth. Most of, if not all, of my blogging is done in the evening. After work. After the kids have been played with and put to bed! After the quality family time.

It’s been a particularly busy time for my own volunteer management role in the last few weeks. Believe me when I say it’s always busy but the last few weeks particularly so. I’m not complaining. I have wonderful staff in terms of coordination and a wonderful team in terms of volunteers. And sometimes when you come home from a busy day in volunteer management the last thing you want to do is write a wee blog on a volunteer management issue!

After over 4 months I’ve been reflecting on the blog. It’s Raison d'être. I track the number of visits to the site not with the intention of popularity but with the deep interest within me on what topics interest volunteer managers.

To be brutally honest (and I have a tendency towards that here!) I sometimes think “what’s the point”. Some self doubt creeps in. “what difference does any of this postulation make to the volunteer management community!” after all I am “just a volunteer manager” in Brisbane. I am no “expert”. I don’t earn money training volunteer managers. I am no academic.

Ah…the trappings of self doubt that is an uncomfortable part of our volunteer management nature. We love to inform volunteers that there is no such thing as “Just a volunteer or only a volunteer” Yet do we suffer the same malaise? Nodding your head? At times perhaps.

What keeps me blogging are a couple of facts.

Firstly there is a subtle power in blogging. Volunteer management in my opinion is bereft of authority and power. If we gather in a network and complain about something then my experience shows that, sorry, at the end of the day our protestations matter for naught. Blogging gives you a more public forum. Statements are more out there in our internet savvy world.

My scribing, postulations and viewpoints can be found today in various forums. While I am not “just a volunteer manager” some people are discussing what I talk about. Even if people are accusing me of ranting – they are at least engaging in a discourse on volunteer management!
Secondly people tend to respond to blog sites. Because it is a public forum. 1,600 individuals have visited this blog site since the end of March 2010. Are they all volunteer coordinators? I don’t know. Yet surely they are people with an interest in volunteerism, or the management or coordination of this.

And finally, it’s been the real experiences of the last few weeks that have encouraged me to keep this blog going.
I like to keep in touch with colleagues that I have met at conferences or retreats or networks. In the past few weeks I have engaged with people who
• Are leaving the profession because they don’t feel supported
• Who are struggling in their roles because they don’t feel recognised and\or resourced
• Who feel very overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have
• Who feel pretty disillusioned by the volunteer management sector itself

Real people in real situations. Here in the Australasian region. I have no doubt that their experiences are replicated in the places where you live.
So yeah folks – some more honesty here. Yep, I can get despondent at times. Sometimes I wonder why I bother when people say that I am just “stirring” or I am being “outrageous”
And yep - a lot of my stuff here is repetitive.

But I make no apology while I continue to hear the stories that I have heard over the last 3 weeks.

People may say “then what’s your solution DJ?”

My answer to that is the recognition of the issues by all the players in Volunteerism. Good grief, what I am hearing and seeing anecdotally cannot all be imaginary. Why would I make this stuff up? Especially as volunteer manager who is happy in his own role and feels recognised, respected and resourced by his own agency.

What can my agenda be?
Yep – its repetitive.
But I am passionate about YOU getting the recognition that YOU deserve

And I am not giving in or up



Write on this blog

Send me your story on acim4me@live.com

You wanna vent?

Do so

Share your story anonymously

I will share here and with the people in volunteerism who NEED TO KNOW!

Above all - never think you are alone

Volunteer management or coordination or administration or whatever you call it Matters.

You matter!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Volunteer Management Jokes

In an earlier post I argued “When there are legitimate jokes about Volunteer Management we know we have entered the mainstream” We need some sector comedy relief at times. Here are a few jokes that I have made up or adapted to make you laugh or groan. Send your volunteer management jokes to this site.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
A Volunteer manager
A Volunteer Manager who?

Reaching the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked the Volunteer Management applicant “And what starting salary are you looking for?"

The Volunteer Management applicant said, "In the neighborhood of $95,000 a year”

The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to equal pay in comparison to all of our managers, a package of five weeks' vacation, genuine recognition of your role, a company policy that values volunteering, financial support for your membership of your Volunteer Management Association, and a party for all staff on International Volunteer Managers Day?

The Volunteer Manager applicant sat up straight and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"

And the interviewer replied, "Yeah, but you started it."

have just taken an old joke and changed it slightly to apply to Volunteer Managers. Enjoy!

A new volunteer manager spends a week at her new organisation with the volunteer manager she is replacing. On the last day the departing volunteer manager tells her, "I have left three numbered envelopes in the desk drawer. Open an envelope if you encounter a crisis you can't solve."

Three months down the track there is a major drama, everything goes wrong - the volunteers are complaining about lots of things - and the volunteer manager feels very threatened by it all.

She remembers the parting words of her predecessor and opens the first envelope. The message inside says "Blame your predecessor!" She does this and gets off the hook.

About half a year later, the organization is experiencing a huge dip in volunteer recruitment numbers, combined with a lot of volunteers resigning. The manager quickly opens the second envelope. The message reads, "Reorganize, Recognise and Rebuild!" This she does, and the volunteering numbers quickly rebound and improve.

Three months later, at her next crisis, she opens the third envelope.

The message inside says....

"Prepare three envelopes".

Volunteer Manager would kill for a Nobel peace prize!

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...