Sunday, June 12, 2011

Volunteer Management: Perhaps our greatest weakness is not realising our own power.

Power. – “The ability, strength, and capacity to do something - control and influence over other people and their actions” – The Encarta Dictionary.

Lord Acton wrote that power corrupts and I bet you never viewed Volunteer Management as a position of power. Power and Volunteer Management don’t seem to belong in the same sentence – don’t seem to be a natural fit. And good grief why would I be pitting them together when after all other word combinations seems to sit uncomfortably in our profession.

Such as:

Career aspiration and Volunteer Management

Education pathway and Volunteer Management

Financial security and Volunteer Management

Consultancy and Volunteer Management

The above 4 are surely a blog for another day. If you have doubts on what I am saying or difficulty understanding just look at the combinations again and change Volunteer Management into Human Resource Management.

So basically there are positions or philosophical places or contemplations where Volunteer Management is a no go area in my view or an uncomfortable and unwelcome guest because some of us have tried to bring a few of these ideals together.

Take power and Volunteer Management. What power do you wield as a Volunteer Manager or Coordinator within your agency, your community and world?

Have you ever even contemplated this question?

If we follow assumed constraints this may seem like a silly question. Ken Blanchard author of the One Minute Manager wrote that “An assumed constraint is a belief you have , based on past experience, that limits your current and future experience.”

Looking at this statement - I believe that as a sector we don’t believe we have any power at all.



We are not consulted as a profession on a national or international level; if you think so – where I ask you? Please point out and I will publish here. There may be some positive things happening globally but nothing groundbreaking – Again, if you think so – where I ask you? Please point out and I will publish here.

When was the last time you ever saw an association for Volunteer Management exhibit or exercise power? Where? Anywhere in the globe?

Where is the evidence of our ability to act and speak with strength, our capacity to do something and control and influence other people?

Where are the voices then who challenge our consumed constraints? I hear individuals but not a collective organised voice.


I’ve always believed that in order to have a successful Volunteer Management sector we need to have a critical mass of successful Volunteer Managers driving the sector forward.

If the majority of us feel we don’t get what we deserve, or we are under recognized and under resourced or that nothing ever changes within our own organisations then how can we expect any advancement for our sector?

If we, as Volunteer Managers and Coordinators feel powerless at our workplaces then how can we expect our sector to influence anybody or anything?


Effective Volunteer Managers bring to organizations:

Knowledge of an amazing movement that Susan J Ellis calls People Raising (As opposed to Fundraising)

An enormous array of talent and skill given freely

A diversity of background, age, nationality, thought, belief, skills, and motivation

Priceless, yes Price less community buy in

And you, yes, you reading this, manage or coordinate this.

You cultivate the most amazing experiences and influence the lives of so many. Volunteers look to you if you are an effective leader. Other look to you for volunteering solutions. The community seeks you out for gateways to involvement. Society relies on your efforts for building.

You don’t acknowledge your power. It is time you did. And when you do…Lead others to the same belief. And lead some real collective action.

“The only way in which anyone can lead you is to restore to you the belief in your own guidance” – Henry Miller

1 comment:

  1. A great post DJ. Very inspiring. DJ you ask if we are consulted as a profession. Late last year 14,000 people participated in the IBM Service Jam where people were consulted on all things regarding volunteering. The end result was the production of a “White Paper” based on information collated from the online forum held over three days. At least two Volunteer Managers from Australia were published in the white paper. Sadly I feel that this and $5 will get you on a bus. I wonder at the value placed on the insightful input given and how this is utilized.

    I too have read the One Minute Manager. I believe that many of us in the volunteer management sector are stifled by assumed constraints. We feel powerless to do anything out of fear of past bad experiences. Perhaps a reluctance to disturb the status quo lest we suffer from the tall poppy syndrome and are cut down for being too vocal, too out there, too passionate about the volunteer management sector.

    I went searching for my copy of the One Minute Manager and unfortunately couldn’t find it however I came across another book, Management in a Minute by Dr Neil Flanagan and Jarvis Finger. It’s funny how the right book or the right words seem to present themselves at the appropriate time. There is a chapter called “How to use power to get results”. I was drawn to section 5 “Begin Empowering Others”. “…..You’re in power when you act as a mentor or sponsor, when you catch people doing things correctly, when you invite participation…..” This is exactly what you are doing DJ. You have the Power!!!


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