Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time to call a spade a spade in Volunteer Management

Because volunteering is nice and lovely and “free” Volunteer Management has issues in gaining a foothold on professions that are taken seriously.
We are not getting anywhere because of our current thinking in volunteer management. Here are the 5 main reasons and behaviors that I believe keep us down.

1.Flat Earthers.

Old flat earth ways of thinking – not ready to embrace change. I’m talking here in terms of definitions of volunteering and how we manage volunteer programs.

2.Low expectations

“I work in a not for profit – therefore I half expect poor. Poor resources poor pay poor future etc.” Most volunteering operates in a not for profit sector. Note how I say “most” . NFP should not equate with NPE – Not Paying Enough. Savy NFPs pay top dollar for expertise whether it be CEOs, Fundraising directors, Marketing specialists etc. Savy NFPs incorporate savvy corporate thought and models to drive their business to improve their own bottom line which is providing a better service for their clientele. I ask you this. Why should the people who rely of service expect anything less?

3.Comfort of the old ways.

The same old protects itself. If there is a radical shift in thinking then there should be change. Change in how we see ourselves. Change in who we look to and follow as leaders. Change in how we do our jobs. Change in how we talk. Change in how we articulate our needs and desires. Change in our belief systems and definitions. Change in the type of training we desire and need. Change in how that is delivered. I believe there are too many too comfortable in our sector to embrace change. After all if we have existed doing what we do quite comfortably for the last 20 years why should we change? We can not underestimate the threat change poses to some.

4.Is it real Management?

“If I wasn’t managing this – then I simply would not be managing anything else”. Let’s face some reality. If Volunteer Managers decided to get out of their roles and do something else..How much management opportunities would lie open for us in different fields? I would like to think many but in reality would we be employed?.Do organisations place an importance factor on the role that matches other senior management roles?? Its easy to say "They should" But do they? Are we producing the people that sit right up there with other management and leadership roles?

5.The tall poppy Syndrome.

Do we get suspicions when we see others get successful? Successful in terms of their ability to establish themselves as a voice in the field, securing for themselves fairly paid and resourced volunteer programs and not being afraid to talk out to a wider audience then our own little echo chambers. I’ve seen too many good people exit our sector. Success, of course, need not be about having a voice in the field. There are sucessful volunteer managers in organisations doing great stuff. I see too many people who could say a lot and contribute a lot but who think it’s not worth the hassle of being labeled this or that.Which is a shame. We must embrace success. We must hear the leadership and managament tales of those who are sucessful.

The other problem is that we are still such a small sector. Its too easy to have a monopoly on leadership. It’s a little harder to take a look at our current leadership and challenge the status quo. But……

I am happy to continue questioning


I believe we can be a lot more

And I will continue making noise until we are.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with your above comments DJ.

    We are victims of our own circumstance when we take comfort in our old ways. Are we so afraid of change and shifting from the staus quo that we are not brave enough to challenge current thinking lest we, the so called tall poppies, are cut down?

    Please continue questioning everything DJ. Continue to challenge the volunteer management sector and continue to lead by example. What our sector needs is strong leaders who are not afraid to speak out and challenge the flat earth thinking.


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