Friday, June 3, 2011

A bit rich for Volunteer Managers

The next National conference on volunteering organised by Volunteering Australia - VA - takes place this year. Yep – we had one last year too but because it's IYV plus 10 it’s deemed a significant year to hold another. I am sure some research goes in to these years but I can tell you as a Volunteer Manager on the ground that IYVplus 10 isnt meaning much to some.
If you want to have a display at the next VA conference it will set you back a few bucks. According to my sources space is a privilege of sponsorship and not available on its own. Sponsorship packages range from $15,000 to $50,000.

Is this therefore a barrier to:

•Small businesses who are engaged in volunteerism or volunteer management consultancy

•Representative Organisations such as the Australasian Association for Volunteer Administrations

•State centre’s for volunteering

•Any community organisations with an interest to promoting itself.

Sure I understand and applaud the attempt at engaging big business to sponsor such things. And sure I get the work towards involving government and extracting a dollar from them as well but
Is this pricing a significant sector out of our National Conference in Australia? Doesn't this lose sight of the seemingly "smaller" players who actually have a large impact on the narrative in volunteerism and volunteer management.

At the next conference our sector should be able to see a diverse range of people and organisations who have an interest in volunteerism.


  1. Thank you for calling this DJ.
    I have four reactions:
    1. How is this building the sector? Bo small NFP can afford this?
    2. the City Volunteer Managers Network in Melbourne contacted Volunteering Australia to ask them to discuss the cost vs the benefit with VA. There is concern that the conference is out of reach of most members, Volunteering Australia who are located in Melbourne refused to meet with the group citing that to do so would mean they would have to go to every volunteer manager's network in Australia if they went to one. . Where that logic comes from I dont know but it would be a good idea for VA to connect with all the networks but I would have thought itv would be a brilliant ides to go to a place where you are invited.
    3. I still have my own beef with Volunteering Australia. At the second last conference, People First purchased a display table to display our services. We gave space for free at that table to the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators. A couple of other agencies used the table to display brochures of their work because even $1000 for a display table was highway robbery to be frank! It was a lot of money for me. On top of that I provided four workshops for the conference for free. I paid my own way and my own accommodation. Volunteering Australia wanted me to pay the full conference fee. I demurred. They demanded half the fee. I still refused. I was prepared to pay for my meals (which considering how much I was providing) was probably generous. VA would not discuss this situation and treated me as a pariah for the conference (eg not allowed into main sessions. I could not even get a lunch for my $1000!
    4. Volunteering Australia consistently have refused for 3 years now to advertise or support the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management. Their rationale is they see it as "commercial". Yet the Retreat costs less than the conference. Andy Fryar and I do it on a po bono basis and run it as a not for profit venture because of our commitment to building volunteer management. Then VA run this conference which they clearly are making money from to finance their operations (which I dont actually have a problem with but it seems unfair!

    Be nice to see change.

  2. I do wonder what VA's motivation is for charging such amounts for sponsorship. I think that even big business may balk at paying these amounts.

    I agree with you DJ that this would present barriers to small businesses and community organisations which could otherwise offer mutually beneficial services, courses and other information to conference attendees and by doing so promote and support volunteerism and volunteer management.

  3. Their motivation is financial survival. They have been substantially de funded by government. They need to put the agency on a footing to survive. They will most likely get it from NAB, AON and FahCsia who are the ones that normally support the conference. I dont have a problem with the sponsorship. My issue is that there are no display tables for community agencies or small enterprises like mine that dont charge big bucks for people to access training. In addition, the massive fee charged to attend the conference cuts out 80% of the sector.

  4. Hi Martin

    Re your first post

    "Volunteering Australia consistently have refused for 3 years now to advertise or support the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management. Their rationale is they see it as "commercial".

    I would love to hear VA comment on this and what they think of the retreat.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to comment Wendy. its a good dialogue to have and hopefully we will hear more from VA on the matter.

  6. Hi Martin

    Thanks for your response. A lot of people read this blog. Therefore your commentary is crying out for a response from our peak body.

  7. Sue Hine has also posted a response to this blog.

    Thank you for the post Sue:

    Here is an excerpt

    "When Volunteering Australia sets its bar for exhibiting at the forthcoming conference it is excluding all the creative enterprise initiated on the smell of an oily rag that could be such a stimulus for others. When Volunteering Australia sets its sights on attracting deep-pocket sponsorship it has lost the plot on the nature of the community and voluntary sector, that part of our social structure that forms the vital third leg of the stool, the balance with government and the private sectors."

    The reply was made into my most recent blog post if you want to read more.

  8. Any more comments out there? Please email me if you are having trouble posting a reply.

    your reply is valuable whatever your viewpint. Please dont be afraid to speak up.

  9. Andy Fryar has also replied to this topic. As there are some techincal issues with posting ive posted it as a seperate blog. Thanks Andy for the post. Here's a quick excerpt

    "I actually believe that a conference should be about more than keynote addresses and workshops - and should instead be a space where the entire volunteer sector can share new initiatives, products, ideas and publications. I actually see this as a responsibility of a peak body to allow this type of dialogue to occur."

  10. Thanks for acknowledging my passion DJ, and for publishing my extended response to your initial post on this topic. From other comments it is good to see I am not alone in my views. Which then raises the question 'Whaddya gonna doaboudit?'

    Best if I do not put my revolutionary ideas into print for now. But I would like to get a crusade going.


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