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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Does it pay to manage volunteers?


I had an email from someone a few weeks ago saying that they felt they were not being paid enough. To help their cause they wanted to benchmark the industry on pay rates.

My thoughts are that this in fact could be counterproductive.

The fact is that no one knows what people leading volunteer teams should be paid.

We’ve had many debates over the years on this and related items for example “should a person managing 100 volunteers be paid differently to someone managing 15” that’s just one. However I’ve also noticed that we are most uncomfortable talking about such matters.

Let me straight out, from the start, inform you that I am talking about Paid Volunteer Managers. I have to say this because there are “volunteer” volunteer managers out there. I run into them at talks I give on Volunteer management.

I have to always emphasize that just because they are unpaid doesn’t mean they have the skills to do the job. People miss my point.
However we are unique as a sector that such people exist. We won’t hear too much about Volunteer HR managers for example. I won’t see too much of volunteer marketing or finance managers within organisations. And yes I do know that people provide services pro bono.

But over the last few years I have noticed a discomfort with pay and volunteerism. I think it even affects thought within the volunteerism industry.

This is a little elephant in the room and I will come back to it later.
“I am not in it for the money”

This is something I hear from quite a few in our sector. And that’s all well and good for those who perhaps have no desire for advancement of a professional sector.

This is where our huge conundrum lies – striking a balance between advocating for better and fairer remuneration in an area that engages people who do not get paid.

And therein lays our biggest failure of thought in my opinion when it comes to volunteerism and introduces our elephant: If we equate volunteering to saving money or economic value then we take from volunteering itself.

Please read Jayne Cravens blog on these matters.

Volunteering is NOT ABOUT MONEY! Volunteering is not UNPAID WORK! Volunteering is many dynamic things but not these.

I’ve had to say to audiences I’ve spoken to - “is it wrong to have a volunteer management role that helps pay my mortgage?” Good grief – we would not hear this in other sectors!

If a volunteer Manager states that they do what they do to be financially secure is this so bad?

Some of the best consultants on volunteering and volunteer management and not for profit governance I believe are ignored by certain high profile sections in volunteering because they try to make a living out of what they do.

As though that’s a sin.

Again, there is little discussion by volunteer management associations on this topic. I again and again wonder what exactly their brief is. I mean, is this not a bread and butter issue? Some will say that it is not. Some will think I am barking up the wrong tree again and say “what are you on about DJ?”

But there are those reading this blog who know exactly what I am talking about.

How terrible is it to find yourself with a huge responsibility for managing volunteers within your organisations and not to be fairly compensated for the huge role you undertake.

You know who you are. Take heart. There are a few of us trying to do something about this.

Because we believe you do an amazing job.

You need to believe it yourself too! And be fairly paid for what you do!

Monday, April 25, 2011

An inspiring and validating sound in Volunteer Management




In my most recent blog post “The sound of silence in Volunteer Management” I bemoaned the fact that our sector is so reticent to engage social media and develop a voice – a voice that should and must be included in the volunteerism narrative.

The quality of responses merits a blog post of its own.
I believe Jayne Cravens has the best blog on volunteerism and related matters in the globe. Jayne emailed me this response:

"Volunteer managers will say so much in a workshop, but online, the silence is deafening.

I think a lot of the silence comes from a culture volunteer managers have created for themselves, a culture that requires us to be nice, to be team players, to be safe, to be non-confrontational and to never, ever rock the boat. I've met volunteer managers who are so terrified of saying the "wrong" thing in writing that they won't write emails to volunteers, let alone respond to a blog post!

I'd love to blame others for this culture. I'd love to say its senior managements fault. Or donor pressure. Those groups have played a role, but the reality is that volunteer managers have done it to themselves. They self-censor. They hold back. They say, internally, or to me in the bar at a volunteer management conference hotel, "I don't want to sound stupid. I don't want to get into trouble. I don't want to make a public misstep. If one person disagrees with me, I'll be crushed."

I take heart in this: in the early days of OzVPM and UKVPMS, debates were rare. Rob and Andy were practically begging for people to post something, ANYTHING. Now, conversations and debates *do* happen. As more volunteer managers are connected to these groups (I still think they are woefully under-publicized), more will be connected to blogs - and I hope the evolution will continue and volunteer managers will DARE TO COMMENT.”

Dave had some great responses to my blog:

“So, DJ, perhaps the lack of response to the high profile volunteering gurus such as Martin Susan, Jayne and yourself is not really the sound of silence. If you listen closely, you'll hear the echoes in the sounds of volunteering and volunteer support takes place at a local level.”

In another post he went on to say “Every time I talk to or read something by a volunteer manager, I learn or re-learn something. This is as true for my conversation with a volunteer in a village-based organisation here in South Derbyshire as it is when I read a blog by someone who have become nationally and internationally known through their willingness to share their experience and ideas about volunteering.

I hope that I never stop learning, and I promise never to stop expressing my views.”

Now that is inspiring!

Wendy joined the conversation and had this to say “I also took a great leap of faith to start participating in online forums, hot topics and start commenting on blogs. In fact my first venture in commenting on a post on I-Volunteer was inspired not by a volunteer management guru per se, but by a person who I related to, a “newbie” to blog posting. I was inspired by her openness and honesty and willingness to give it a go. I just had to respond to congratulate her on her post and for her frankness. This was the start for me. I had taken the first big step.”

You sure did Wendy and now people reading this can be inspired by you.

Well done!

Another respondent, Carey, had a powerful message for us all:

“Truth is a powerful thing that can often liberate silence- as you have so affectively done with your post here. You have many comments because being validated can do wonders to empowering people to speak their truth. I believe that volunteer administrators are not too busy to speak up, they are in reality fearful of what will happen if they speak up. Just look at the comments on my first article. One person used a fake email and name. The other is out of her old position, like me, and now has liberty to be honest.

People yearn to feel free, and have the catharsis to speak up- but do not always have that privilege.

SO THANK YOU for writing this and empowering people to comment. Thank you for helping to validate this profession and the experience of our community"

Thank you Carey for expressing this so beautifully. Your words are powerful and will resonate with many !

Martin J Cowling practiced what he preaches and responded whilst also pointing to his own informative blog:

“So, I read the blog post which was excellent and I am posting as reply....now I have a blog...I am convicted to practice what I preach...one sentence is enough (I am going to have multiple sentences!)

While I am here, let me point to my blog post on the Volunteering Queensland submission re the flood volunteers in Queensland. See The Cowling Report: Friday Facts- No Follow through. The Post has been up for a week and already is the second most read blog post @The Cowling Report! (and only has your comment DJ!)
http://cowlingreport.blogspot.com/2011/04/friday-facts-no-follow-through.html”

I received another email with an inspirational message from a Volunteer Coordinator today which links in beautifully with this post:

“In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a Roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if Anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by And simply walked around it.. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did Anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of Vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed
a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.”

When we find our voice we find we have a lot to say. Because we are the difference makers. We are at the forefront of a movement that changes lives.

We need to get rid of our fear of validation.

Because……

You are great.

Now if you haven’t done so already click on the heading of this post. The short movie “Validation” is only 16 minutes long. But it will be the best 16 minutes of your day today!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The sound of silence in Volunteer Management


***“And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence”

Martin J Cowling in his blog “The Cowling Report” asks “How do I get comments on my blog posts? I know people are reading them but I would love some comments here!” The irony here is there is no response to this blog so far. At the end of my post at least there will be one.

Sue Hine writes a great blog and is linked here.

A snippet from her blog:

“The worst indictment I have ever seen is the case of the Manager of Volunteers who ‘owns’ the volunteers. They are never ‘my’ volunteers, as I wrote in this blog months ago. Management of Volunteers is about running a service or programme for your organisation. What you do with volunteers in all the training and support and communication and relationship stuff is Leadership (another story, another time).
If you don’t get this, then you get the kind of stand-off between staff and volunteers that can lead to a (metaphoric) pistols-at-dawn shoot-out.”

I commented on this blog. But there has been nothing else.

Andy Fryar is the Founder and Director of OzVPM - a resource, consultancy and training company specializing in volunteerism - particularly as it relates to the Australasian region.

Andy is a past President of Volunteering Australia (2002 - 2004). He is also a past Board member of Volunteering South Australia (1996 - 2003), serving as Chairperson for a total of 5 years. In 1998, he was responsible for convening the working party that evolved into AAVA - the Australasian Association for Volunteer Administrators – the Australasian region’s first and only professional association for volunteer managers.

I mention the above because his is a voice that matters.

In His current Hot Topic on his site Andy writes

“In short - break your inertia and voice your opinion. If we as a volunteer management community are not speaking up on behalf of our sector as these new initiatives start to be discussed and implemented, you can certainly guarantee no-one else will speak up on our behalf ...and at the end of the day, when we all begin to cry foul, the government will simply say 'we consulted and no-one said a thing!'

So let's hear from you

•What trends have you noticed that we should be addressing?
•Do you have tips about how to get active?
•Any ideas how we encourage each other to become more active?
•What role should our peak bodies play in all of this?
•What are YOU going to do? “

There has been absolutely no response to this article as I write.

The OZVPM Newsgroup site states

“OzVPM is a moderated forum where you can ask questions, share resources and get into some healthy debate so that we might progress volunteerism in Australia, New Zealand and right throughout the broader Australasian region together!

A recent posting reported:

“QUEENSLAND'S peak volunteer organisation says the vast majority of people who registered to help clean up following the floods and cyclone Yasi backed off at the last minute.

Volunteering Queensland's submission to the Queensland Floods Commission of
Inquiry also found that 30 per cent of callers were people in distress who
needed to "chat" and weren't in a state to volunteer.

After a huge spontaneous surge in people coming forward to volunteer following the disasters, most opted out when it came to getting their hands dirty, the submission showed.”

There was very little comment from the Volunteer management community on this. Why is that? Shouldn’t we have something to contribute?

As much as I am a huge fan of The Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management I have to say I am eternally disappointed by the invitation-only Retreat graduate online community “not just 50-not just 3”

Sorry folks

How about “Not just working – not just talking”

Apart from talking about the next retreat or a few weeks of excitement after a retreat this narrative becomes non existent and its facilitation needs to be really reviewed and examined. So there’s a challenge for the Retreat in NZ!

Let’s move on to e – volunteerism. Are the editors happy with the amount of responses to their articles even though they have revamped their site?

I regularly read this fine journal. I am disappointed by so little comment on it.

13 years ago…yes…13…Susan J Ellis wrote “My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy "doing" that we won't make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”

Have we moved on since then?

A whole article could be written on why our sector is so quiet on matters pertaining to their profession.

We’ve heard it all before

•Too busy
•Not my role or job
•Not interested in the politics
•Not sure what you’re talking about in the first place
•Were not a sector anyway
•It’s about volunteers not us
•Too busy
•Too busy
•Too busy


Jayne Cravens writes a fantastic blog.Check out the link. Many read. Few respond.

And you know what? I get the lurkers. Those who read articles and don’t respond and are volunteer coordinators or managers. Many just want to look after the world that they inhabit – their organisational needs. They may not believe that the bigger picture of sector development merits their contribution. And they get alot from those who do post.

But of all the non respondents the most who disappoint me are some of the major stakeholders in volunteerism:

•the organisations that engage volunteers

•the professional associations of volunteer managaement

•the peak bodies for volunteering

•Government

It beggars belief that there is not more of a coherent narrative between these parties on Volunteerism and Volunteer Management.

It is a constant source of disappointment to me that people, involved in these arenas are refusing or not willing to be invloved in the forums, Hot Topics or discussions that some are trying to foster for the development of our various sectors.

Board members from every association of volunteer management globally should be seen…and heard.

Peak bodies for volunteering must have members of their organisations involved in Volunteer Management forums so that they can respond to ongoing discussion.

The fact that they are not or are not seen to be is simply poor performance in this day and age.

More people must have more input and views on the whole volunteerism sector

Petty politics must be put aside. No one owns volunteering.

Volunteering demands and deserves better.

And for that to happen the relative silence needs to end.

***
"Fools said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence"


***Source More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/#share

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PLEASE VOTE FOR MY BLOG! CLICK HERE! THANKS!

I was delighted that this blog was nominated for the Best Australian Blogs 2011 Competition.

There is also a People's Choice Award and this is

where I am seeking your vote.

By clicking on the header of this post you will be taken straight to the voting page. Just scroll down to DJ Cronin :-)

Thanks for taking the time to vote and please spread the news!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Essential Event for Volunteer Management


I often talk about a significant event that happened in my life.

It was an event that changed my perspective on my career. It was the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management.

The first one was held in Canberra Australia in 2005. At the time I was at a career threshold. I was actually on the verge of changing jobs and leaving volunteer management.

Then came the Retreat. It blew me away. For the first time I met people who were serious about our profession. In fact it was the first time I heard the word profession mentioned. It was the first time I heard of a professional association. It was my first encounter with people who were engaging in critical thinking on Volunteer Management. It was the first time I encountered advanced thinking in our field. To be blunt – it was the first time I began to understand that we were in fact a legitimate field.

The event changed my perspective. In fact the event changed my life. How many life changing events have you attended? Had I not attended this retreat in 2005 I very much doubt that I would have a blog such as this. Had I not attended this retreat in 2005 I very much doubt that I would have made volunteer management not only my career but my vocation. Had I not attended this retreat in 2005 I very much doubt that I would have made the amazing connections and networks that I have.

I have been to every Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management since and every time I have grown. I have been a guest faculty member twice. Such is the vision of the organizers to place people and emerging leaders in the field in the spotlight.

This year, sadly for me, I can’t make it. For various reasons. It will be the first time I miss it.

But what I would like to do, even at this late stage, is to encourage anyone who has the capacity to attend but who hasn’t decided to do so.
I know that there are some spots left. This amazes me.

If you are in New Zealand this is an opportunity to be inspired and challenged. If you lead volunteers in any way please let me encourage you to invest in this. Volunteer management has come on in leaps and bounds in NZ. Embrace this opportunity to go a step further.

If you are in Oz or the Australasian region or happen to be there in May and are involved in the management leadership and coordination of volunteers this is a must attend event. By not attending you are missing out on a great opportunity for advancing your thinking on what I believe to be one of the most inspiring and dynamic professions in the world.

Susan J Ellis. Andy Fryar. Martin J Cowling. All in the one place over a few days! Plus the emerging voices in leadership of volunteers in New Zealand - Claire Teal and Sue Kobar.

What are you waiting for?

The link to the VPM Retreat is here by clicking on the heading of this blog.

It changed my life and career.

It can do the same for you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Carey asks "Do you feel lucky, Volunteer Managers?"

I just stumbled across a great and honest blog written on Volunteermatch

In this article the writer Carey Fritz has written about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of her experiences in volunteer management.

Her article in my opinion is brave, forthright and insightful. Its content and the content of the responses are indicative of the issues that the volunteer management sector face globally.

We need more perceptive writing like this. We need more people to share the Good the bad and the ugly of their experiences.

This is of course required reading for anyone interested in the volunteerism sector whether that be volunteering peak bodies or professional associations for volunteer managers.

How are Volunteer Managers coping on the ground? Really coping. Its very brave for someone like Carey to share her story because so few of us do it.

When I present on Validating Volunteer Management I happily share my story of emerging from the bad and ugly of being undervalued and or under resourced to the place of being respected as a professional with expertise in volunteerism within organisations.

I believe it all begins with validating yourself and your chosen career.
I plan to write more on this topic in the near future but for now I would like you to check out Carey’s blog. All you have to do is click on the heading of this blog and you are there! It would be great if you could leave a comment too!

Getting a look in..in Europe!


Here’s some news from Europe which is celebrating European Year of Volunteering at the moment

“European Year of Volunteering partners sharing £580,000 announced
12 Apr 2011

Volunteering England will lead the charge in the UK's efforts for the European Year of Volunteering after receiving £78,000 from a £580,000 pot provided by the Office for Civil Society (OCS) and the European Commission (EC) to help encourage volunteering.

The umbrella body will oversee activities undertaken by five organisations that will lead the key themes for the UK's participation.
Four of these five organisations, which will each receive £37,000, have also been announced by the Cabinet Office:

•Volunteering charity v and youth charity Catch22 will partner to lead the children and young people theme;
•Age UK will lead activity for health and social care;
•Groundwork West Midlands will lead on the environment; and
•Arts and Business will lead on culture and the arts.

The organisation leading on sports will be announced shortly, a spokesman for the OCS advised, as will the three further partner organisations which will each receive £67,000 to deliver employer supported volunteering, volunteer management and volunteering access for underrepresented groups. “

Source: wttp://www.civilsociety.co.uk

It’s encouraging to see Volunteer Management in the mix!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What’s holding us back? Discuss

Do the words volunteer, volunteering and volunteerism hinder and hold us back as a sector?


Now that’s a bit of a controversial statement isn’t it?
I recently gave a presentation at a conference. I got some strange looks. I do this. Normally at speaking engagements I give a personal opinion type of talk. This surprises people. I’m not into the “how to recruit and retain volunteers” talk. Though I can do so and have done so.

Misperceptions

Volunteering is free therefore there is less value placed on it

It’s noble

It’s lovely

Like volunteer management?

Do we have an embedded subliminal fear that our jobs are not “real” because we manage a movement that is unpaid – and thus devalued? Would a psychological analysis reveal some real fears on job security, career authenticity and a predisposition to not rock the boat at any cost?
Do we keep our heads down so we aren’t really noticed and thus keep our positions? Do we therefore have problem putting up boundaries. Do too many of us take on too much, with too little resources? We try to do it all, and then wonder why we aren't provided with the resources, pay, etc.
We won't be until we demand it by saying "No", I cannot do this without additional resources.

Our jobs create and add enormous value to our societies. Let us stop being afraid to acknowledge that. Let us cease being fearful of validating ourselves and our profession.

Let us change our language

“It’s the volunteers that do all the work not us”

“ it’s the volunteers who deserve the recognition and not us”

“I get paid – that’s enough for me”

“I am not in it for the money”

There have been critics of International Volunteer Manager’s day. Apparently it makes people cringe. There have been critics of the AAVA Volunteer manager of excellence.

Apparently we are afraid to strive for excellence.

I believe that AAVA may even be changing the name of this award.

We need a dialogue happening now. We need a movement. What we are today as a sector is a result of our own past actions. Whatever we wish to be as a sector in the future depends on our present actions. We need to decide how we act now. We are responsible for and whatever we wish ourselves to be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Volunteer Management Blog Nominated for award


Today I received a lovely surprise by email:

“Congratulations on being nominated for the Best Australian Blogs 2011 Competition, brought to you by the Sydney Writers' Centre. Offering over $7,500 worth of prizes and showcasing the Australian blogosphere, the Best Australian Blogs 2011 competition has 4 distinct categories and is also running a People's Choice award that you can opt into.”

This came from Rose Powell Communications Coordinator at the Best Australian Blogs 2011 Competition - A Sydney Writers' Centre Initiative

This came totally out of the blue and I’d like to thank the person who nominated me! I often talk about validating our colleagues in the Volunteer Management sector and here is the perfect example of how we can do such things.

I have opted into the people’s choice award as well as I feel this can be an opportunity to promote the Volunteer Management sector. I will be letting you know how you can support me with this via this blog and Facebook and other social media.

Valerie Khoo founded the Sydney Writers’ Centre in 2005, with a vision for it to be the kind of buzzing, dynamic and results-focused organisation she wish had existed when she was finding her feet as a writer. It is now Australia’s leading centre for writing training.

http://www.sydneywriterscentre.com.au/

Watch this space!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Volunteer Management: Are we a profession or not?


Some of us have the audacity to call ourselves a profession. After all in some countries we have so called professional bodies for Volunteer management.

In a research paper from 2009 Debbie Haski-Leventhal states
“Management of volunteers is an occupation, that is, it is a job (usually a paid one) that is undertaken in an organisational context, usually in nonprofit organisations. In order for it to become a discrete
profession a few conditions have to exist.

Brint (1994) explained that a professionalization process usually occurs in five stages:

1. A group of people start to work in a required occupation, usually in full time paid work;
2. The group develops a union or an umbrella organisation for purposes of professional
socialisation, education and learning;
3. The group begins to look for ways to formally train its members;
The professionalisation process of volunteer management in Australia

4. The state/government may give some guidelines on who can work in the profession,
sometimes through licensing; and

5. An ethical code is developed to protect service recipients as well as the professional
status.

Brint asserted that professions are based on related tasks, which have high demand in the work
market, and that in order to perform these tasks one has to be trained (usually in an higher education institute) so that access to the profession is not open to all. However, Brint explained that besides well-
known professions such as medicine, accounting and law which have all the above criteria, there are some more minor professions which have only some. Morris (1995) argues that a profession brings together skills and knowledge, high standards and ethical behaviour. It has to be based on a concrete body of knowledge, have professional standards and ethical guidelines."

The research paper is well worth a read and should be in fact required reading by board members and members of any professional bodies for Volunteer management. It can be found at this link

http://unsw.academia.edu/DebbieHaskiLeventhal/Papers/184232/The_Professionalisation_Process_of_Volunteer_Management_In_Australia

Haski-Leventhal Concludes in her paper:

“In the last two decades a new profession is emerging: management of volunteers. The body of knowledge which acts as the professional basis is being developed, and it now includes theoretical and practical aspects. The professional challenges are being acknowledged and coped with, through
the body of knowledge, training and networking. There are several professional associations worldwide; ethical codes are being written; and the opportunities to learn, train, and professionalise are greater than ever.

However, it is still an occupation that does not require any formal training or licensing, and almost anyone can become a volunteer manager. Although there are more and more people who see their profession as “volunteer managers” the mobility is still high. The developed body of knowledge,professional standards and ethical codes, are not well-known to all those who perform the task, and not every organisation encourages its volunteer managers to train and develop the necessary knowledge and skills. As there is no degree or postgraduate level training, but only TAFE level qualifications (or less), it is a para-profession.”

An interesting piece that elicited no response from our so called sector. We have only ourselves to blame when we cannot rise to the challenge of responding to such papers.

Do we all agree to the papers findings?

According to wikipedia “A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through "the development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights."

In the same wikipedia entry:

Characteristics of a profession

The list of characteristics that follows is extensive, but does not claim to include every characteristic that has ever been attributed to professions, nor do all of these features apply to every profession:

1.Skill based on theoretical knowledge: Professionals are assumed to have extensive theoretical knowledge (e.g. architecture, medicine, law, scripture) and to possess skills based on that knowledge that they are able to apply in practice.

2.Professional association: Professions usually have professional bodies organized by their members, which are intended to enhance the status of their members and have carefully controlled entrance requirements.

3.Extensive period of education: The most prestigious professions usually require at least three years[at university. Undertaking doctoral research can add a further 4–5 years to this period of education (for example, architecture generally requires 5 years of study, 2 years work experience and a further year of work related study before one can apply to become a chartered member. Architects generally become chartered in their late 20s early 30s and earn between 22 - 24k before tax in the United Kingdom).

4.Testing of competence: Before being admitted to membership of a professional body, there is a requirement to pass prescribed examinations that are based on mainly theoretical knowledge.

5.Institutional training: In addition to examinations, there is usually a requirement for a long period of institutionalized training where aspiring professionals acquire specified practical experience in some sort of trainee role before being recognized as a full member of a professional body. Continuous upgrading of skills through professional development is also mandatory these days.

6.Licensed practitioners: Professions seek to establish a register or membership so that only those individuals so licensed are recognized as bona fide.

7.Work autonomy: Professionals tend to retain control over their work, even when they are employed outside the profession in commercial or public organizations. They have also gained control over their own theoretical knowledge.

8.Code of professional conduct or ethics: Professional bodies usually have codes of conduct or ethics for their members and disciplinary procedures for those who infringe the rules.

9.Self-regulation: Professional bodies tend to insist that they should be self-regulating and independent from government. Professions tend to be policed and regulated by senior, respected practitioners and the most highly qualified members of the profession,

10.Public service and altruism: The earning of fees for services rendered can be defended because they are provided in the public interest, e.g. the work of doctors contributes to public health."

I ask you which attributes apply to the profession of Volunteer Management?
Let’s have a look at what Associations for Volunteer Management say in a few Countries

In Australia and New Zealand AAVAs Vision is as follows
“Volunteer Management as a profession whose vital role in society is valued and respected.”

While their Mission states

AAVA achieves its Vision by;
•Providing pathways for professional development,
•Creating opportunities for peer support,
•Advocating for the Volunteer Management profession,
•Developing strategic relationships with government, community and corporate sectors.

In the United states we have a few professional associations for our field.

The Association for Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals (AHVRP)
“A professional membership group of the American Hospital Association is the premier professional membership society for healthcare volunteer services, retail operations and related support services disciplines. AHVRP provides education, recognition for personal and professional achievements, national networking as well as affiliation and collaboration with the American Hospital Association on public policy and advocacy issues related to healthcare volunteer services and retail operations. AHVRP is the professional association of choice providing leadership to volunteers to ensure a safe health care community where all our members reach their full potential.”

Also In the Unites states “AL!VE (Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement) serves to enhance and sustain the spirit of volunteerism in America by fostering collaboration and networking, promoting professional development, and providing advocacy for leaders in community engagement."



In England we have the AVM :

The Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) is an independent body that aims to support, represent and champion people who manage volunteers in England regardless of field, discipline or sector. It has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers.

The AVM aims to:
•facilitate and support effective peer-to-peer networking of those involved in volunteer management locally, regionally and nationally
•campaign and speak out on issues that are key to people who manage volunteers
•develop information and good practice resources on volunteer management
If you manage, co-ordinate or administer volunteers or volunteer programmes, directly or indirectly, then this is the Association for you."

All well and good and from my viewing space they seem to be the one of the best associations for VM in the globe. However nowhere is their mention of a profession on their site until you come to this:

“Internationally, the need for developing volunteer managers has been recognised with professional associations for volunteer managers in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore and USA. There is also an International Volunteers Managers' Appreciation Day held on the 1st November each year. However there was no professional association for volunteer managers in England until the Association of Volunteer Managers was set up”

In Ireland we have PAVMI

Professional Association of Volunteer Managers Membership
The Professional Association of Volunteer Managers Ireland (PAVMI) is the network of managers, both voluntary and paid, who spend the majority of their time coordinating the work of volunteers.

Who is it for?

Anyone who manages or supports volunteers in a paid or unpaid capacity. Our members include full-time, part-time, paid and voluntary managers who work with anywhere from a handful to hundreds of volunteers in their work.

The aims of PAVMI are to:
•Provide mutual support
•Share knowledge and experience about good practice in volunteer management
•Provide a voice for the volunteer coordinator in Ireland
•Advocate for the development of accredited training courses and standardisation of career structures in volunteer management
•Develop national recognition for the work of professionals in the field of volunteer management.
•Promote best practice in volunteer management
•Develop infrastructure that will facilitate in opening lines of communication and sharing of information"

These are but a few examples but “professional” is a word being utilised regularly. I’ll actually leave you to look up the definition for para profession.

Are we a sector where almost anyone can become a volunteer manager?

I’ve had an interesting experience in the last few weeks. On one hand I am hearing people who are asking me about benchmarking wages in volunteer management. People who are saying they are worth more than they are paid etc and how do they advocate for themselves - Please pay attention to this “professional” bodies for volunteer management

On the other hand I’ve met coordinators and managers who tell me they are not in it for the money and that the recognition of volunteers is above all else.

If we are to aspire to be a profession what views do we need to be taking?

If we aspire to be a profession what do we need to be doing in regards to national qualifications and accreditation?

If we aspire to be a profession who needs to be benchmarking wages?

And the most challenging question of all – have we reached the tipping point where we care enough about the aforementioned questions

I say if we don’t reach that tipping point soon we will never be able to truly claim that we are a profession.

We won’t get anywhere unless we have a dialogue on these matters. Who is debating these topics? Let’s start with your “professional” association. Are they? Show me the dialogue debate and discussion.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It’s good news week....every week


Today I met a guy who volunteers one day a week at a school tuck shop.He inspired me.

A few days ago I gave a talk to over 70 volunteer managers and coordinators in Adelaide. I left the venue having met some really inspiring people.

I spent a day at the Lyell McEwin hospital and was amazed at their inspiring volunteer services staff and volunteers. I spent an hour on my own wandering around having a look at their volunteers in action. I had a wonderful conversation with a volunteer at their cafĂ©. They were friendly, generous with their time and…I say it again…inspiring.

I suggest if you work in this field visiting a place where there are volunteers and from a distance observing the work of volunteers. Hospitals can be a good place to do this. Watch the friendly faces meet and greet, direct, ease concerns, and add the human touch.

It’s a humbling experience especially if you remove your hat of Volunteer manager. Because at the end of the day, beyond the processes, beyond the PDs, systems and paperwork here are the people. Volunteering.

Today thousands upon thousands of people volunteered their time in your country. Tomorrow thousands more will do the same.

But you won’t read about this in your local paper.

The world lately seems to be getting a battering. Natural disasters seem more prevalent. There are uprisings and wars. Many national economies are basically stuffed. And we see this daily in our news bulletins and in our papers.

Even our politics, in my opinion, seem to be getting a little nasty. Harsher word are being employed. We can do better.

There are even those who are talking of end days and 2012 in apocalyptic ways.

And despite the gloom and doom our media portrays, people will wake up in the morning and volunteer some time.

Volunteer counselors will listen to people. Volunteer firefighters will put out fires. Volunteers in hospitals will bring comfort to patients. Volunteer lifeguards will save lives. Volunteers will raise funds for medical research. Volunteers will work to save our environment. Volunteers will work in schools and clubs and better the lives of our children. And much much more.

Why?

It’s human nature.

Volunteering may be taken for granted by some. It may be misunderstood by others. And it is generally not reported on by mainstream media.

Could it be that good news in no news?

No matter, volunteering will happen tomorrow and beyond. Volunteering is one of the most inspiring stories of human kind and I am lucky to count myself as a participant in volunteerism.

"Life isn't as serious as the mind makes it out to be."
— Eckhart Tolle

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