10 answers from Sue Hine.

Sue Hine, from New Zealand has been been engaged with community organisations for more than 40 years, as a trainer, facilitator and clinical supervisor, and a volunteer in all sorts of roles. Sue is an independent advocate and also a member of the Managing Volunteers Development Project, sponsored by Volunteering NZ.

Sue informs me that she has been reading too much political philosophy this year, but manages to keep in touch with management of volunteers through tutoring and mentoring individuals and groups.

Now over to Sue!

Each question deserves a full-blown research thesis. I am very reluctant to confine 'management of volunteers' into neat sound-bytes or 50-word statements. We deserve more, and we need to do more than achieve a once-over-lightly item on the news agenda. I understand your motivation to get a narrative on volunteering and management of volunteers going, but I am not confident your methodology will achieve your intentions.

In my irregular following of international news-groups I find the conversation pertains more often to local issues and to questions on basic practice in management of volunteers. It is at this local level that we should be making the plugs, promoting good practice, finding education pathways for managers of volunteers, getting organisations and government to understand and appreciate volunteer know-how and can-do. We cannot go global before we get local.

So - with all that in mind I submit my responses to your questions.

1. In 20 words or less describe/define Volunteer Management
Enabling those who donate their time, their knowledge and skills and their energy in contributing to organisation goals and/or community services to find personal satisfaction and rewards for their efforts.

[This is an attempt to be inclusive of the divergent streams of community altruism, corporate volunteering, community sentencing and work-experience volunteering, et al. But corporate volunteers still get paid for their efforts… is there a way out of this bind?]

2. What are the 3 main differences between Volunteer Management and Human Resource Management?
• Flexibility in job placement
• Creating a role to fit the person not the other way round
• Freedom to ‘experiment’ with new ways of doing things
Vs : Paid staff are hired for specific purposes – along with application of employment contracts and practices; and too often HR has a place at executive team level while management of volunteers is relegated to lower orders.

3. Where is the current leadership evident in Volunteer Management?
Leadership is evident in many different ways in different organisations at local and national levels. If the question is about leadership of the profession there can be no claim to global leadership until we can reconcile differences in socio-political cultures and service delivery. At present Management of Volunteers is a fractionated discipline.

4. Finish this sentence in less than 50 words… An association in volunteer management should…
• Be the mover and shaker for the occupation;
• Represent and advocate for the profession at government level, with organisations (collectively and separately) and with corporate and philanthropic donors;
• Be an independent voice, collectively, and for individuals
• Be a central point for dissemination of information; resources; research

5. There have been many debates on the definition of volunteering itself. How would you define volunteering?
Undertaking work tasks at no cost to the organisation.

[Again, I am trying to ‘keep it simple’. This statement sounds awfully mercenary, yet it includes the different avenues of volunteer involvement, and avoids the interminable debates on ‘compulsory’ volunteering and being paid for your time as a corporate employee. However, we need to acknowledge somewhere that “Volunteers do not come for free”, and identify costs such as a manager’s salary and expenses related to training, recognition functions, travel reimbursement etc.]

6. If you weren’t doing this what other profession would you have been interested in?
Pass – I am single-minded on Management of Volunteers.

7. Who do you believe has been the most inspiring volunteer in history?
Not a fair question, because I might be forgetting important bits of history. If a manager of volunteers is doing their job they will be inspired every day by the willingness and enthusiasm of the volunteers that come their way.

8. Where do you think social media can take volunteerism and volunteer management?
Not very far. Yes, social media is a tool for recruitment and communication for volunteers and their managers (as evidenced from experience of the Christchurch earthquake and Queensland floods). But there is still a lot of grunt stuff to do. Getting volunteering and management of volunteers on the map requires research, writing, and a bit more communication and political activism than a few shorthand phrases on Twitter and Facebook.

9. Does Government get volunteering? If not why not?
Yes, of course Government ‘gets’ volunteering: it’s the next best thing in provision of community services, all that safety net welfare stuff! “We can do it on the cheap, and draw in the corporates and philanthropic institutions to help us do more with less.” Translation: The government does not fully appreciate the goodwill that goes into community services and volunteer involvement. We have become more of a convenient political tool. Right now I think we are experiencing a phase of exploiting the community sector and volunteers – most evident in UK’s Big Society policies. I think it is happening in New Zealand too.

10. What would you like to achieve personally in the volunteerism world?
To foot it as an equal at the table of the public and private sector policy determinations.

This ambition is a bit late in the day for me, yet I see it as vitally important for future development of social and community services. When Civil Society gets subsumed (really, ‘consumed’) by the other two power-brokers then the voice of volunteers is drowned, along with the spirit of volunteering and the ethos of community development. Not to mention the business of democracy and human rights and all that. Right now a concerted voice needs to be raised from community organisations along with their managers of volunteers.


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