Wednesday, August 3, 2011

John Ramsey Continues the narrative on the "10 great questions"

John Ramsey is a Volunteer Manager and has served as the Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, Head of Volunteering at Citizens Advice , Chief Executive at Student Volunteering England and Head of Information at Student Volunteering England.

Here is his reponse to the "10 great questions"

1. In 20 words or less describe/define Volunteer Management

Getting the best out of volunteers for our beneficiaries, our organisation, our community and our volunteers

2.What are the 3 main differences between Volunteer Management and Human Resource Management?

Legally – at least in England. Volunteers have no definition within employment legislation therefore there has been plenty of case-law about how you separate volunteers from employees.

Culturally – Volunteer Management requires a different mind-set to paid staff management. It is easy to be a lazy or incompetent manager of paid staff as people need jobs. A lazy or incompetent Volunteer Manager will quickly find they have few volunteers.

Operationally – the above two mean there should be a different framework for managing volunteers. For many reasons, paid staff sit within quite a prescriptive management framework. Volunteers should sit within the opposite, a fluid and flexible system that is much more focussed on meeting the needs of volunteers rather than those of the employer or the needs of legislation.

3. Where is the current leadership evident in Volunteer Management?

On the positive side, volunteer management in England has definitely moved up the political agenda in the last five years. It was not so long ago that it was never mentioned when talk moved on to volunteering. That is rarely the case now. And that is down to the likes of Association of Volunteer Managers, Volunteering England and a few vocal individuals.

However, we are missing two key ingredients.

Firstly a coherent discourse on the vision for volunteer management. And secondly a failure of individual leadership. Every volunteer manager has a responsibility to lead on volunteer management, whether that is in their organisations, their community, regionally or nationally. Failing to do so means we are failing both are own volunteers and are own beneficiaries.

But where is this mass rising up of volunteer managers demanding that they be listened to, demanding that they be involved? Apart from the odd voice, it is deafening by its silence.

4.Finish this sentence in less than 50 words… An association in volunteer management should…

…not be afraid.

5.There have been many debates on the definition of volunteering itself. How would you define volunteering?

Away from the more mundane ‘proper’ definitions: An expression of freedom to help your community be a better place.

6.If you weren’t doing this what other profession would you have been interested in?

Bread-maker perhaps. Or a sportsman – although I rather lack the talent, the dedication and the drive.

7.Who do you believe has been the most inspiring volunteer in history?

No-one comes to mind. One of our problems is that inspirational, successful volunteers are rarely celebrated as volunteers.

8.Where do you think social media can take volunteerism and volunteer management?

Down a blind alley, if we’re not careful. When you spend your working day on the internet, using emails, linked in to social media etc, it’s easy to forget many people don’t. It should be seen as one of many tools to develop volunteerism and volunteer management, nothing more, nothing less.

9.Does Government get volunteering? If not why not?

From an England perspective - yes and no. Without wishing to get too political, I think the principles behind the Big Society agenda do show an understanding of the role volunteering plays in the community but this has not been bought into at either national or local levels. I think a few individual members of Government understand the full power of volunteering but this has yet to be translated into meaningful action.

Why not? For the same reason that organisations don’t fully buy into volunteering. We, the volunteering sector, are failing to show that volunteering works in the way we say it does. We live in hard-pressed times when pragmatic decisions are being made every day. If we are saying volunteering is part of the answer without robust evidence to show that, it takes a very brave or a very crazy person to commit substantial time and resources into it. And to be honest, I don’t particularly want my government to spend its limited amount of cash on every scheme that comes along simply because there’s the odd bit of research that says it’s wonderful.

What we need to be doing is, firstly as organisations providing robust proof on the impact of volunteering, and then as a sector bringing that all together to show the benefits it has on health, on behaviour, on community cohesion… on every topic under the sun. If we’re not prepared to do that then why should we be taken seriously? And the same applies to volunteer management.

10.What would you like to achieve personally in the volunteerism world?

Make a positive difference in developing volunteer management and improving the lives of older people (who I work with in my day job)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks John for your thoughts and taking the time to write this!


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