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?


  1. Hi, DJ -- just to let you know, I have put a link to this blog posting in the "response" area to my Hot Topic this month. I like how you "position" yourself as distinct from a consultant -- and thanks for the references to the other interesting postings on iVolunteer right now.

  2. Nice blog creation by you about management training....
    Management Training


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