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"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." ~William James

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On where we are at and what we say.


I’ve been blogging for over 17 months now. And anyone except for the non occasional reader can tell that I have the same few points. Indeed maybe some will say that I go on about the same old thing again and again and again and again.

And again.

For that I make no apology. For I only go on and on about any matter if I think it’s an ongoing issue in our sector.

Sometimes I feel like it’s a crime to expect that volunteer management should be a well resourced and well paid occupation. And this is a major “fall down” aspect of our sector. The same I suppose could be said of many areas in community service. The old line goes like this “ if you are in any sort of community service such as volunteering, caring for the disadvantaged, a carer, counselor, social worker, youth worker, etc then you will not be paid as much and in my opinion linked to something that is valued as much as other professions.”

As much as I hate to admit it there is a connection surely between value and pay when it comes to employees. And of course being in volunteer management leads to major conundrums when it comes to that thought bubble. But one we must face up to. Those with a want to disagree will say that such thinking flies in the face of volunteering. We don’t pay volunteers so there is lesser value. A ridiculous statement right? Or is it? Is there a subconscious feeling in operation here that because there is no cash figure placed upon it there is less meaning and less worth?

I have no doubt that this is the case. I think the whole philosophy stinks but I am not an ostrich with my head in the sand about the matter and I am pretty certain that this is one of the many reasons why Volunteer management remains an under resourced and undervalued profession and why it’s even referred to as a profession by so few of us in the volunteer management sector. And we remain where we are because some in the sector subscribe to the same view. “I aint in it for the dollar” and “I’m in volunteer management for the only reason that I love volunteering and volunteers.”

Is the idea of providing a professional service which will result in better volunteering outcomes a complete anathema to some? If so why is that???

What do volunteers deserve? Professionally run programs? Leadership teams that last the distance and spend the time on strategic development ensuring the best outcomes for volunteers and those they serve? Advocates for better run volunteer programs that can get the resources that they deserve from organisations that can do that? Volunteering solutions?

Not free labor. Not money saving. But real value. People value. Skills value. Heart and soul value as well as the accepting of skill and time from those who donate it for their own reasons.

Volunteering used to be an “out of the goodness of my heart activity”. And it still is…but that’s not the exclusive reasoning behind volunteering any more.

To me it’s the end result of volunteering that matters.

We spend so much, too much maybe, time on our ever so serious debates on definitions of volunteering and big society and social capitol and generations and Xers versus boomers etc that we lose sight of the real volunteering stuff….the receiver at the end of it.

Because volunteerism deserves all the recognition and support it can get and that includes the notion that volunteer management must be taken seriously.

Unfortunately our issues lie within the volunteerism sector itself. Unless we can sort ourselves out first we will never be taken seriously by other stakeholders in the community.

Regrettably there has been little or no dialogue from our sector on such matters. Those few who do speak up or often cast as trouble makers.
The critics in our sector ( and these are those who have sometimes been critical of lack of progress in our sector) have recently been spoken of badly in some blogs and commentaries.

They are seen by some to be just critical all the time so therefore unworthy of an audience, a debate or an understanding.

Regrettably I have seen some bloggers and commentators in our sector lately come under personal attack for expressing views. Some have refused to publish posts to their sites because of attacks of a personal nature. This is shameful in my opinion. And I cannot remain silent on the tone of some of the conversation that exists in our sector.

I know of some people, in various nations who are refusing to publish their opinion for fear of personal attack. This is a ludicrous situation.

Too many people are having a say under the” brave” title of ‘Anonymous” or utilizing pseudonyms. Yes, that’s the nature of Social Media these days. However it’s interesting to note that Anonymous letters will not be printed in most print media (unless requested where name address and number is nevertheless provided to the letters editor)

People must be able to express their opinions without the fear of personal attack. Freedom of speech demands this.

My other concern though is the silence of those in the sector on these matters who are quick to offer an opinion on various topics. Those purporting to be “voices” or taking leadership roles in the sector.

Let us please continue our debates. Let us please agree to differ. Let us grow through our differences. Let us become wiser and learn from each other. But let us not become bitter and personal. Let us speak of constructive ways to find solutions to our differences.

And if we speak out...Let us be consistent, brave and emotionally intelligent enough to speak out for what is right and fair.

‘History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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