More Response to "The Great 10 Questions"

"Rob Jackson is one of the leading authorities on volunteering in the world. His standing is based on an impressive mix of the practical and strategic. For much of his career he has been involved at the coalface of volunteer management." - Dr Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive,Volunteering England

In April 2011 Rob left Volunteering England and founded Rob Jackson Consulting.Rob has written, spoken and trained on volunteer programme management internationally for nearly twenty years.

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

Volunteer leadership and management is about engaging and inspiring people to bring about change.

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

HR management, in my experience, is largely about compliance, making sure managers and staff follow set policies & process. It is about ensuring a paid workforce is managed by the rules, reducing the risk and liability to an employer of being sued by disgruntled employees. In volunteer management there is an element of policy and process setting but there are key elements that don’t appear in HR management. These are leadership, empowerment and flexibility.

Leadership – setting and/or communicating a vision and inspiring people to work together towards its fulfilment. That’s not something I’ve ever come across in HR where managers tend to be so focused on making sure people play by the rules they often seem to forget what the game is.

Empowerment – encouraging and supporting people to use their skills, their talents, their experience, their abilities to the fulfilment of the vision. HR keeps people in their boxes, volunteer management encourages them to flourish and realise their potential.

Flexibility – processes and policies are important but they cannot prepare for every eventuality. Good volunteer management realises this and is prepared to be flexible where necessary. HR sees the rules as absolute.

If I can cheat and have a fourth thing it’d be passion. I’ve met many volunteer managers who are passionate about what they do but not many HR managers with the same passion.

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

There are great leaders in volunteer management in organisations all around the world, leading amazing volunteers who achieve marvellous things.

However, I suspect your questions is less aimed at an organisation level and more of a global level.

In which case I’d say that the leadership I see in volunteer management is twofold: that aimed at making what we do better; and that aimed at setting a vision for where we should be going as a field.

We have ‘professional’ bodies, peak bodies and individuals all playing a part in one or both of these areas of leadership.

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

…be independent; be an advocate for volunteer management; be vocal; work with and for its members; nurture talent and grow leaders for the future; represent the field.

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

I’ve always liked Ivan Scheier’s definition:

"Volunteering is doing more than you have to - because you want to - in a cause you consider good."

I like it because it defines volunteering from the perspective of the volunteer – if they think it is volunteering then who is to say that it isn’t?!

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

No idea.

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

The people who right this minute are giving their time out of a quiet conviction that things could be better and they will take some personal responsibility to make some change happen.

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

I think social media has lots to offer volunteerism but it is a tool. It has its place but it isn’t the magical solution to the challenges facing volunteerism in the 21st Century as some would have use believe. For example, it can help make it easier for people to find out about volunteering but it doesn’t help us create new or re-engineer existing volunteering opportunities that meets the needs of people when they decide to volunteer.

Where social media, and the internet more generally, has helped volunteer management is in making it easier for us all to connect. There is no reason for volunteer managers to feel isolated anymore because with the click of a mouse they can engage with peers across the globe to share problems, discuss solutions and build support networks.

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

Government as an entity, no. Why? Because government is made up of people. So what about people within government (elected officials and staff)? Well some do and some don’t. Why? The same reasons some people see what they do as volunteering and others don’t – backgrounds, belief, philosophy, experience etc..

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

I’d like to continue to make my living in this wonderful field, meeting new people, deepening existing friendships, contributing to our collective knowledge and experience, sharing my passion for volunteerism and learning from others along the way.


  1. Many thanks Rob for sharing your answers on this blog- - Its appreciated!


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