Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where do we share ideas on Leadership?

I have a longing for a dialogue on leadership within our sector. Go through my blog postings and you will see this emerge. I guess I will keep coming back to it. Of course we will have to have a debate about the word “Leadership” first.:-)

Where is the Leadership Lounge in Volunteer Management? Where do you turn to for leadership ideas? Where do you turn to for a little inspiration? Leadership and inspiration are different things yes but I see them as intertwined on so many occasions.

Don’t leaders inspire?

When I see dialogue in volunteer management I still come across much of the same old dialogue Ive seen come up intermittingly over the last 14 years.

An example is some recent discussion I’ve come across on some forums. What should we call volunteers? What should we call volunteer managers? Or should that be managers of volunteers.

We seem to be addicted to questions of semantics and terminology. Meanwhile the great issues for our sector remain largely unspoken of or commented on. Yet we will get plenty of folk engaging on the semantic topics. Are basics like “what we should call each other” the Everest of our intellectual conquests in volunteer management?

Where can we form our leadership lounge? Where can we find the space to share thoughts on leadership?

Lessons in leadership can be found in many places.

One place I often go to for ideas and inspiration is the Ted Talks. Here’s the wikipedia definition of TED

“TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading."

TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event and the conference was held annually from 1990 in Monterey, California. TED's early emphasis was largely technology and design, consistent with a Silicon Valley center of gravity. The events are now held in Long Beach and Palm Springs in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, educator Salman Khan, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners. TED's current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.

From 2005 to 2009, three $100,000 TED Prizes were awarded annually to help its winners realize a chosen wish to change the world. From 2010, in a changed selection process, a single winner is chosen to ensure that TED can maximize its efforts in achieving the winner's wish. Each winner unveils their wish at the main annual conference.
Since June 2006,the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under a Creative Commons license, through As of August 2011, over 900 talks are available free online. By January 2009 they had been viewed 50 million times. In June 2011, the viewing figure stood at more than 500 million, reflecting a still growing global audience.

TED's mission statement begins:
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”

TED can be found at

The title of this blog links to a fun TED talk on leadership!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking a break.Chilling. Being.

Right now i'm enjoying a holiday. Smelling the roses more. Being. So Ive decided to also take a break from blogging and writing.

Happy trails to you.....

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so."

Mary Jean Iron

Friday, September 16, 2011

A call for International collaboration on Volunteer Management

A blog I posted to I -Volunteer today. The link to I - Volunteercan be found on my favourite links here

There have been some criticisms of England’s professional body for Volunteer managers (AVM) on I-Volunteer of late. Unwarranted in my view. And I say this as a Volunteer Manager from down under!

To me, at least your association is visual. They have a fairly current and active website with some very interesting and topical blogs. People on their website can engage in conversation. As I look now the most recent comment is a couple of hours old.

I’ve seen them active on social media. I’ve seen them consulted by the press. I’ve seen them engage with Government. I’ve seen them comment on issues of the day relating to volunteerism and volunteering. I’ve seen them demonstrate a healthy relationship with the peak body for volunteering "Volunteering England". You’ve had a national campaign to recognise Volunteer Management with AVM and you have a National Conference on Volunteer Management!

So to an outsider looking on – they seem to be doing ok in my book. And fair play to them. Whilst I know that they don’t need my defense it intrigues me that they are condemned for being “London Centric”. Whatever the significance of this may be anyway.

I wouldn’t care if my association were Canberra or Sydney centric as long as they were carrying out their brief. But alas in Australia, in my opinion, things are very quiet as far as development in the volunteer management sector is concerned.

Right now you folk in the UK have great conversations on our sector as is evident by your robust debates on this great website I - volunteer.
Keep it up! Try not to make the debate personal though.

I’ve always believed that our sector is so small that we need to collaborate globally. Some professional associations around the world tried to do this once but it pretty much fell over on its arse! What happened?

There is some great dialogue and thought going on globally about Volunteer Management. How can we tie it all together somehow? How can we help each other?

These are just the thoughts of an outsider as far as your sector in the UK is concerned. But the global village of Volunteer Management is a very small one. Let’s get to know our neighbors to begin with!

Somehow I have a feeling that we can achieve much together!

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What we do in Volunteer Management

I began a blog on “The 20 traits of Volunteer Management in 2050.” Simply because several people look at 2020 to bring about new change.

I am not as hopeful. I started writing thus:

1.Our sector will be seen as a vital part of society

2.We will extract ourselves from the traits of volunteering

And then I stopped. And then I realised, as a Volunteer Manager for many years, that I had come upon a major issue in our field. One that is, of course, not discussed due to the general lack of curiosity in research in Volunteer Management.(Oh we have heaps of research into volunteerism...great fodder for acedemia at conferences......)

And it is this.

We have for far too long equated feelings or assumptions on Volunteering with Volunteer Management.

Let me give you an example of what I am hinting at:

Volunteering is nice. Therefore Volunteer Management is nice

Volunteering is a warm, cozy and fluffy story therefore so is Volunteer Management

Volunteering is nice but not necessary therefore…….

The problem, as I see it, is that so many in our field self perpetuate this line of thinking.

On top of this we have peak bodies for volunteering in some countries not taking Volunteer Management as a profession seriously. I will resist mentioning my own national peak body …suffice to say they have never written a piece on this blog anyway or responded to other volunteer management blogs or forums and there are a few!…so enough said!!

But maybe we have attached ourselves too much to the motivations and traits for volunteering.

We do not need to do this! We need to understand the motivation behind volunteering but we do not need to be advocates for these motivations!

Let me give you an example of what I am getting at. I’ve heard it say that a prerequisite for a Volunteer Manager should be individual volunteering experience!I.e.that you need to have been a volunteer.

I absolutely disagree!

You need to have an understanding of managing or coordianting and an understanding of how you do this in relation to volunteers. Period!

I’ve done one form of volunteering or another for over 2o years. In my next volunteering role I won’t care if my manager has volunteered or not. Let’s get over our non issues! I’m happy as long as I am engaged and utilised appropriately and as long as I leave my volunteering job for the day with a sense that I achieved something!

Volunteering and Volunteer Management needs a demarcation too.

In 2050 we can have a confident, resourced and respected sector that manages and leads. Let the volunteers do what volunteers do best please!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Observations on Volunteer Management dialogue

On my own blog site several people have responded to my 10 questions on Volunteerism and Volunteer Management. I am delighted that they did and thank them. I believe that some more will be responding soon. When they have the time I suspect! I’ve always been a champion for dialogue in our sector. I believe that its important.

I see a lot of interesting dialogue on Volunteer Management in certain quarters right now and I’ve been observing some strong views over the last few months.

On I Volunteer (which has a link on this site) there has been some fascinating conversation.

Sue Jones, a training manager in Warrington UK has an excellent post there at the moment. In it she proclaims:

“And, when I say 'raise the profile' of the profession, what I really mean is that we are simply talking more about it. Whilst at first look, this might not seem like much, it's actually really important that we keep doing this - to one another, to our managers, to our colleagues, to our friends and family, to government, to our funders, our partners and most importantly across our whole organisations. Every movement needs a starting point and through communication with one another, we can explore how we really feel about stuff, gather our thoughts and then act. But this starting point does need to gather momentum and this won't happen without participation from those of you actually working in this field.”

There are obviously some wonderful things happening at Warrington as another blogger on I volunteer from there by the name of Huffee is talking about some inspirational stuff:

“Thoughtful Thursdays

We're keen to encourage more volunteer managers to share their ideas and skills. One idea that came out of the Volunteer Management Champions group was Thoughtful Thursdays. Using the hashtag #ttvolmgrs we're encouraging people to share their thoughts and experience as volunteer managers.
There's plenty more coming up, as soon as details are confirmed I'll post more here”

Love the sound of this and how they are utilizing social media to promote Volunteer Management! Fantastic!

John Ramsey has a great piece on I Volunteer

“We need to decide if this is what we as ‘volunteer managers’ want. This is not something a small group of people can do. Aside from the practical capacity issues it needs to have legitimacy. But where is the mass rising up of volunteer managers? Quite often I hear the same old reasons: I don’t have time, I’m not sure if I’ll still be here in 6 months etc etc. There’s a reason for this. It’s because volunteer management is not valued and so it becomes a vicious circle. We need to break that circle and to do that requires sacrifice, commitment and belief.”

I Volunteer has this and much more opinion on their site. So right now there is a great conversation happening so please check it out if you have the time.

Meanwhile on the Energise website which is also Linked here Susan J Ellis has chosen as her Hot Topic for the month "Addressing Volunteerism Issues in the Blogosphere"

“Sometimes I worry that I am known more for criticizing than celebrating, so I’m happy to devote this Hot Topic to praising the courageous people who post their informed opinions about volunteer-related topics online. While serious discussion of principles and issues is so often missing at major conferences in our field, in the last couple of years we’ve seen the emergence of some truly wonderful and provocative blogs. Here are some of my favorite volunteerism blogs at this time and the reasons why you should pay attention to them.”

Susan makes one particular observation that I would like to respond to:

“While some of these blogs are produced by major organizations, it is striking that the majority are written by private consultants. Is there a lesson here? Is it necessary to have a degree of independence to comment and criticize – to be willing to take risks? Do consultants feel that their primary loyalty is to the readers of their blogs – their actual target market – without having to worry about offending any third-party funding sources? What makes some organizations and individuals take a stand publicly? And that last question refers to both the blogger and the reader, who always has the choice to join in.”

My blog is not produced by a major organisation. Neither is it written by a private consultant. I have never considered readers to be a target Market though I understand the terminology. I have stated from the start that “This is my personal blog on matters pertaining to Volunteer Management and Volunteerism. It consists of my own opinions and does not represent the opinions of any other person, business or organization.”

I have always felt that the beauty of blogging lies in the fact that anyone can do it. I’ve been pulled up in the past when I’ve used the phrase “Just a volunteer manager” in this context. Whilst I understand that this word mix can cause consternation in some quarters I have used the wording to try and go to the heart of my motivation for blogging on matters related to Volunteerism and Volunteer Management. That is to say I am “just” availing of the opportunity to speak as someone who is on the ground as a Volunteer Manager. I believe there should be more bloggers in a similar vein sharing their experience. I believe that this is happening slowly. But happening nonetheless!

I do understand that it takes some courage to write publically. What I feel may be a deterrent to those who want to write is fear of being attacked. Yes, sure, when we express a view then the right to talk should be always respected whether or not we agree with that view. But I know of some people who will not express a view for fear of being assailed. This is a shame. I wonder how many of you are nodding your head in agreement.
I am not afraid to be constructively critical of organisations that purport to represent my profession or volunteerism. After all if you choose to be part of a board or committee then critical analysis becomes part of the territory.

As bloggers and commentators though we need to be aware of the language we use.

Steve Moreton in a response to a blog on I Volunteer sums it up beautifully in his response to a particular blog article

“Generally people management does not seek to belittle or undermine anyone. If you do not understand where they are coming from, recognise that all management is a genuine partnership and seek to recognise and understand the motivations of others. Also, our special contribution to the organisation is managing volunteers. If we expect others to respect us for our contribution, we need to respect others”

And this

“The responsibility of being in charge is never easy. There are many complex pressures and different stakeholders to manage. No-one knowingly sets out to do a bad job. Mutual respect is the best way to any approach to authority”

I feel that there are some real jems in the snippets of volunteer management conversation. I do worry about echo chambers (See my blog on this)

One thing I will say. If we want to appeal to other sectors and demonstrate our professionalism then we need to be professional at all times.

David Maister states that professionalism is, "...believing passionately in what you do, never compromising your standards and values, and caring about your clients, your people, and your own career."

Wikipedia states

The main criteria for professional include the following:
1.Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practicing professionally
2.Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession
3.High quality work in (examples): creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing or other work endeavors.
4.A high standard of professional ethics, behavior and work activities while carrying out one's profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company, or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.). The professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon the client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional. Often the professional is required to put the interest of the client ahead of his own interests.
5.Reasonable work morale and motivation. Having interest and desire to do a job well as holding positive attitude towards the profession are important elements in attaining a high level of professionalism.
6.Participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs b : having a particular profession as a permanent career c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return
7.Appropriate treatment of relationships with colleagues. Special respect should be demonstrated to special people and interns. An example must be set to perpetuate the attitude of one's business without doing it harm.
8.A professional is an expert who is master in a specific field.

Whist we engage in the dialogue of promoting our sector as a profession we need to keep an eye on exactly how we engage in dialogue.
Let’s encourage more dialogue. But let’s be professional about how we talk too.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Unique ability to motivate people" - More thoughts on Volunteerism and Volunteer Management

Sue Kobar is the Volunteer Services & Hospice Shop Operations Manager for Nurse Maude New Zealand. She is passionate about volunteerism and believes that volunteers are an integral part of an organisation. Her motto of “don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself’ has served her well over the past 25 years.

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

Volunteer management is the unique ability to motivate people to donate their time to be of service to others.

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

Do you mean other than the huge pay discrepancy! Human Resources Management is very structured and HR staff tends to work in a black or white environment. Whereas Managers of volunteers tend to create volunteer opportunities where needed and work in all shades of grey. Both provide staffing (paid or unpaid) assistance, guidance, advice and support across an organisation.

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

There are lots of people out there making themselves heard however I believe the strongest evidence of leadership is still in the grass roots organisations where the work is identified and organised mostly, if not entirely, by volunteers. If anything has been confirmed in the volunteer sector since the Christchurch earthquakes it is that people will take action to help and side step the obstacles – that is true dedication and volunteer leadership.

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

I’m probably not the right person to answer this...however, since you asked: I believe an association of volunteer management should promote all aspects of volunteerism, engage their membership in dialogue about future directions, and be inclusive rather than exclusive.

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

Volunteering is the willingness to be of service to others without expectation of remuneration.

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

I would very much like to be in theatre – and I don’t mean serving the refreshments.

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

Princess Diana

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

Social media is fantastic for promoting volunteer opportunities. It also provides a mechanism for feedback which means we will be instantly held accountable for a person’s experience while volunteering with us.

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

Yes, absolutely there is a place for government in volunteering. They have the resources to pass legislature that will improve all aspects of volunteerism and we should become more comfortable in working alongside government agencies and key government officials.

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

My goal has always been towards education & support for leaders of volunteers. Other professions have educational requirements – why not us. What I have seen though is that in the process of developing an educational component it becomes too complicated and people become discouraged because it takes years to achieve.

I would also like to leave a legacy of promoting voluntary service and work hard to ensure that a person’s volunteer experience is so positive that it results in a lifetime of service. That a person know it’s okay not to volunteer all the time however say yes when they can.

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