Friday, January 28, 2011

First Class Volunteer Managers? Final comment on IAVE 2011

So the IAVE conference is over for another year. Well done Singapore and Singapore’s National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre for holding the event. Kudos too to UBS for being a major sponsor. I am confident that there was some great dialogue re volunteering.

The event had a mixture of conference sessions, forums, and workshops. On the agenda were issues addressed by the UN Millennium Development Goals of poverty eradication, literacy, health, environmental sustainability, and other issues including, engaging the baby boomer generation, youth, religious bodies, leadership development, cross-cultural sensitivities, research into volunteer capital, risk management, episodic volunteering, large-scale events, humanitarian relief, and corporate volunteering.

I wasn’t able to attend this conference but I kept my eye on it as best I could through social media. As is my want I was keen to see what dialogue if any emerged on Volunteer Management. Ive only picked up bits and pieces. But I’ve seen that in previous years the IAVE website has published details of workshops and keynotes so I’ll be keeping watch on what was said re Volunteer Management.

I do think they could have done better in communicating to those who didn’t make the conference via social media. Was there a Facebook page for the event? If so I missed it. Was there twitter updates? The National Conference in Australia did a great job for their most recent conference in keeping people updated on what was happening at the conference via Facebook and Twitter and through online news media organisations such as Pro Bono Australia. So if you werent there you felt part of the conference via social media.

I hope that the organizers for the Dublin event take note and decide to give more instant updates to the global audience who are interested but who can’t be there.

But back to the conference in Singapore. I, and other professionals in Volunteer Management would have been delighted to see that one strand of the conference concentrated on our profession. As the website stated

Track 5: Strategic Issues in Volunteer Management

Working with volunteers requires proper skills and professional training. With trained volunteer programme managers, we can see a greater impact through organised volunteering programmers. This forum will discuss strategic issues related to volunteer management and retention.


oChallenges in Volunteer Management
oGlobalization: Making it work

oMotivation, Retention and Service Satisfaction
oPolicy to Playground: Emerging Challenges of Volunteer Managers
oVolunteer Performance and Measuring Performance to meet expectations
oStrategic volunteer management: discover the steps in engaging today’s talent
oUnderstanding the role of life events in decisions to volunteer & The Psychology of Volunteering
oProfessionalizing the career of a First Class Volunteer Manager

Great stuff. And praise be where praise is due. I have often bemoaned the fact that Volunteer Management can be ignored when conferences on volunteering are held.

But now we need to examine what was presented in this Track 5 and what was said. So stay tuned as I try to source that important information. I am particularly interested in “Professionalizing the career of a First Class Volunteer Manager” AND “Policy to Playground: Emerging Challenges of Volunteer Managers"

So watch this space.

I am really interested to hear from the handful of Australians who attended this conference. Please share folks your experiences and insights and learning.

As a footnote I must add a comment that I received from another Volunteer Manager when I was talking excitedly about the fact that Volunteer Management was being talked about at this conference.

“Fair enough” they said ‘but I am a bit sick of all the talk – what exactly are the actions to advance and improve the profession?”. Brought me back down to earth a bit .

We want action not talk right?

But unless we are involved in the dialogue at a higher level then we have little hope of meaningful action I say.

First class Volunteer managers eh? Gosh – I can’t wait to read about that……………..

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keeping an eye out for Volunteer management at the IAVE Conference (2) reports

Mrs Tan Chee Koon, who is the Volunteer Chair of the 21st IAVE World Volunteer Conference Organising Committee, said: "It is no longer enough to look narrowly at volunteer management issues from recruitment to retention.

"We need to focus on leadership issues, strategic partnerships and emerging trends that impact volunteerism, amongst others. Volunteers are a national asset, and they should be cherished, nourished and recognised for their contributions in changing society, and therefore changing the world."

Keeping an eye out for Volunteer Management at the IAVE Conference (1)

Mr Goh Chok Tong is a Senior Minister in Singapore. Mr Goh spoke at the opening plenary of the 21st International Association for Volunteer Effort World Volunteer Conference held at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore in front of an audience of about 1,000 people.

On volunteers in general, Mr Goh said that "continuously recruiting but not retaining volunteers is not a sustainable strategy".

He went on to say "Unfortunately, volunteer management is often neglected, and is considered secondary to serving clients. This is short-term thinking."

"We have to manage volunteers better so that they come back," Mr Goh said.

Well said Mr Goh! Long term thinking must incorporate effective and resourced volunteer management.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jaynes Fight Club meets DJs Fright Club

Here My reply to the latest blog from the Jayne Cravens

To see what got me going you have to check out this blog. Just click on the title of this blog here and you are there. Best to read Jaynes blog first.

Oh Jayne!! So Right so right.

I think I’ve been in the Fight club for awhile now. It would be nice to emerge from the underground. I’ve been saying this type of thing for years. Damn it, I’ve been fighting for volunteers within several organisations for years. With great results. I’ve been fighting for our teams to be seen by senior management and they are seen. I am beginning to fight for my time. Budget, resources, salary? Tick. Tick. Tick.
But my experience of the fight club has led me to discover another club. The Fright Club. You may have encountered it Jayne. Some within my own sector who deem me a trouble maker or full of hot air or “having an agenda”. Like hello? I do have an agenda…and it is set out in your fight club manifesto.

The Fright club consists of those within the volunteering sector afraid to embrace change because they are challenged by it. Change may mean scrutiny after all.

You state “Fundraising managers, donor relations managers and even the HR manager are all making more than you.” And you can be pretty sure they all have Key Performance indicators to ensure a consistent performance level that demonstrate a valuable and viable Return on Investment. Not for them to be meek and fly under the radar with their niceness and quietness.

“Oh but we are volunteer managers – we don’t talk that kinda talk”.

Professional and effective volunteer management is absolutely necessary Jayne. It is time to join the volunteer management Fight Club but it’s also time to take on the Fright Club!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This organisation has earned a star for excellence in Volunteer Management

There’s been some talk from associations for Volunteer Managers on creating accreditation type programs for organisations. Accreditation is a good thing and many organizations in many industries rely on this process.

Sadly, it’s never gotten off the ground as far as volunteer management is concerned.

Wouldn’t it be great to see associations for volunteer managers adopt a system where they can say that an organisation is Association approved? And that approval will last 2 years.

Associations would develop a criteria and send a member annually to ascertain that criteria was being met…paid for of course by the organisation engaging volunteers.

What would be your criteria for an organisation to get the tick of approval from a national volunteer management association?

Some of my thoughts

•The Volunteer program receives an annual budget equitable to other programs within the organisation

•The Volunteer Manager sits in a position equitable to other management

•The organisational mission or value statement acknowledges its volunteering team

•The Volunteer Manager is seen as the expert in all matters volunteering

•The Volunteer Manager is able to demonstrate excellence in service provision and leadership

•An independent audit of the volunteering team determines that volunteer management is pivotal in the success of the volunteer program

6 criteria with each carrying a score of 16.6.

The organisation gets a tick if scoring 83 out of 100

The result need not be a reflection on the Volunteer Manager as results of each criteria are made public to the organisation and Volunteer Manager.
So we could have a case where the organisation fails to receive a tick based on their value placed in volunteer management and not on the work of the individual VM. Yet the organisation could be denied a tick due to poor Volunteer Management.

Sounds too simplistic? Well it’s not being done and something like this needs to happen. Maybe we complicate processes by too much thinking!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The year of doing things differently

“The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” ~Eric Hoffer

2011. Good grief. I don’t know about you but for me as a child growing up that seemed like a year of science fiction. I think as a 4 year old child in 1990 I would have had dreams of a world where……ok…there are some of you shouting…”hang on…this dude is older than 21. Alright! Alright! Allow me my fantasy.

Ok, as a child of the seventies I dreamt of space travel and meeting aliens by 2011. And here I am in the Volunteer Management sector so most dreams have been achieved.

Ok…lighten up. It’s been a heavy few weeks.

I think my blog will take a little lighter tone this year. By that I don’t mean funnier. I think the real me needs to come out in my writing. What does that mean? I think, in this stage of my evolution in my writing, there has been a little bit of worrying what some might think. There might have even been a bit of trying to please a certain audience. Or writing to appease or please. Though you wouldn’t think so if you were new to reading this blog.

I am hoping for something different this year.

Conferences, Retreats, dialogue, debates, blogs, newsgroups, advisory groups, networks, training, specialists , consultants, experts etc. can go on ad infinitum.

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
~Sandra Carey

And they will, as they have done, with minor modifications as long as people are happy with minor modifications. Conferences, Retreats, dialogue, debates, blogs, newsgroups, advisory groups, networks, training, specialists , consultants, experts etc will continue to deliver what they think meets the mindset of their audiences.

Same old same old has a certain comfort in worrying and uncertain times.
I hope that we see some different things this year as far as our sector is concerned. I hope we see boundaries pushed. I hope we see innovation. I hope we see confidence. And I hope we hear new voices. I hope we hear your voice.

“A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless and visionless … someone’s got to make a wake up call.” ~Warren Bennis

If those of us who already write or blog or train or manage or coordinate plan on doing the same old thing, albeit with some minor modifications or flowery language to dress up the same old menu, then we will be failing to lead into the future. Then we will be letting the future be written by others.

We can only reclaim the future by doing something different this year. How about we lead for a start? How about we gently get off any fences we sit upon and how about we act on being bolder about the profession we love?

“To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.”
~Harry Truman

Question your “experts” question your Peak body. Question your association. Question me!

Don’t sit at your next conference and think “well this is it”. Don’t just join an association and think you’ve done your bit for the sector. For every event you pay to attend ask yourself” what are the tangible results here that advance me in my professional development?”

And look for something different. Look for leadership.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
~Rosalynn Carter

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A dedication to the Volunteers in Queensland - January 2011

They never knew a smile was worth so much ‘till they saw yours
And when you reached out to them, they took hold
And with you they felt safe once again
One of many volunteer stories untold
I’ve seen the sun give birth to many mornings
But not like the miracle of today
As thousands of you braved the muck and stink
Shovels, gum boots, insect repellent spray
Heads down with ears thrown back
Mopping waters and tears that spill
No “yes we might” or “Yes we can”
But “Yes we bloody will! ”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Flood Disaster

I haven’t blogged for awhile considering that I like to blog every week! My home city Brisbane and state Queensland in Australia has been devastated by floods. I am very lucky that the suburb where I and my family live, has escaped. The community here in Queensland are pulling together and are doing an amazing job to help their fellow citizens. The volunteering effort is huge and will grow.

The Queensland Government has launched an appeal to help fellow Queenslanders affected by the recent floods. Many communities have been devastated. Some families have lost everything. You can help make a difference by donating to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal.

At this time, the Queensland Government is inviting financial donations only. Unfortunately this appeal cannot accept donations of goods or services.

Donate online

Make a donation to the Premier’s Disaster relief appeal using a secure payment form.

Donate by phone

0600 – 2300 7 days on 1800 219 028

Donate by internet banking

The account details for donations are:
Account Name: Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal
BSB: 064 013
Account number: 1000 6800

SWIFT code for international donations: CTBAAU2S

Once your transaction is complete, you should record the receipt number for your transaction. If you do not receive a receipt number, contact your financial institution.

If you would like a receipt for tax purposes, please forward a request, with proof of donation to:

Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal
C/O Department of the Premier and Cabinet
PO Box 15185
City East QLD 4002

International donations
The account details international for donations are:

Account Name: Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal
BSB: 064 013
Account number: 1000 6800
Donate by mail
You can post a cheque donation – please do not send cash.
Cheques should be made payable to:

The Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
ABN: 69 689 161 916
Cheques should be posted to:
Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
C/O Department of the Premier and Cabinet
PO Box 15185
City East QLD 4002

Donate in person

Donations can be made at:
• Commonwealth Bank
• Westpac
• Suncorp
• St.George Bank
• Bank SA (Bank of South Australia)
• Australian Central Credit Union
• Savings & Loans Credit Union
• Bank West
• Australian Central Credit Union
• Savings & Loans Credit Union
• Coles supermarkets.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How is Volunteer Management valued in your nation?

For me it’s simple. Volunteer Management is valued when VMs are given the resources to manage and coordinate volunteer programs. VMs are recognized for their skills by being paid the wages professional managers deserve. VMs are recognised when the community, government, volunteer peak bodies and the private sector see the VM sector as real and professional. And they demonstrate this by consulting with the VM sector on matters of policy and on major decisions that will effect volunteering.

Here’s a question to ponder. What are the signs to watch for that demonstrate to you that Volunteer Management is beginning to be respected in your nation? How can you answer the following?

Do you have a strong professional association? Is it influential? Does it help shape national policy? Does it advocate on behalf of you? Does it have a voice that is heard by Government and is therefore frequently consulted? Is it in the public eye? Is it visual? Is it constantly commenting on all matters volunteerism, via regular updates on its websites, through forums, social networks as well as local and national media? Does it make a difference?

How many ticks can you apply in your country?

What about you peak body for volunteering national or local? Does it have a good relationship with the VM sector? What’s good? Does it consult with your professional body? Does it raise awareness about the VM sector? How? Does it raise the profile of Volunteer management as a profession? When was the last time your national or local peak body invited you and some VM colleagues of yours into their place to have a chat about volunteering and volunteer management and I am not talking about conference here.

What sparked these thoughts was a great post to the i-volunteer website. The link to that website can be found on the right hand side of the page. Under the title “Value Volunteer Management Campaign – Time to Celebrate Success!” Volunteer England gives a progress report on this fantastic campaign.

It’s a great article which also includes very valuable resources for Volunteer Managers no matter where you are.

Have a read, comment and congratulate Volunteering England! Then have a look for signs that Volunteer Management is beginning to be respected in your nation.

If you don’t see them speak out.

I am!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The perception of volunteering and our role in maintaining or changing that.

Once a month I stand before a room of new employees. My mission: to talk about a volunteering service and volunteering in general. Before I commence I ask them to close their eyes and in their minds picture a hospital volunteer. Every time (and I’ve done this now for a few years) I get the same general consensus. The same description. And it is this - an elderly lady in a pink pinafore. I then explain that we have valuable volunteers in a certain age bracket (what’s old anyway these day? I think the word itself is outdated and meaningless) and then I go on to explain the diverse nature of volunteering in terms of age and demographics. They are often amazed. “Young “people volunteer? Who knew? And no pink pinafore?? Thank heavens for small mercies.

I talk a great deal about echo chambers in my blogs. We talk amongst ourselves about new and emerging trends in volunteering. We marvel at the kaleidoscope of colour that is volunteering. We love the diversity of volunteering. But I still wonder if the general public gets the true picture of volunteering. Despite some articles in the odd paper about volunteering, work being done by peak bodies to promote volunteering through National weeks etc I still sense the general public have a traditional view of the makeup of volunteering.

I am not sure that the volunteering sector helps itself sometimes by the public messages they send. Take IYV+10 for example. Stand on a street corner tomorrow and poll passersby on what it means to them? Perhaps they would venture a guess that it’s a new type of IPad or IPhone.

We get it. We know what it means. Well most of us. Do we really believe that the general public even recalls IYV in 2001?

If the general public is interested in doing some volunteering for the first time, perhaps in a hospital, I hope they don’t go to the Wikipedia entry on Hospital Volunteer.

Here are some gems from that entry.

“Hospital volunteers work without regular pay in a variety of health care settings, usually under the supervision of a nurse.”

Yikes! Volunteers work without regular pay? And busy nurses just got a lot busier.

“A few hospitals ask their volunteers to help out with janitorial duties, like cleaning beds. Other "advanced volunteers" include patient-care liaisons and volunteer orderlies. These volunteers must operate on the orders of a nurse or a physician and are given special training to permit them to work with patients.”

Advanced volunteers? Orders?

“Some hospitals keep all their volunteers in one place (a dispersal unit)”

The basement? Fridge?

“Some volunteers (particularly "advanced volunteers" described above) will wear scrubs”

Those Advanced volunteers get all the benefits!

Wikipedia is well read. Are peak bodies for volunteering happy with the image of volunteering as represented on sites such as wikipedia? Are they happy with the article on “Volunteering”? Have they checked out the one on ‘Virtual volunteering”? Is it important that they contribute to these? Is it their role? Is it ours in Volunteer management?

IT’S ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER!.....yea but……..

2011 marks the European year of volunteering.

I’ve been checking out the official website. I’m still searching the site for any mention or articles on the management of volunteers. I found one titled “The Value of Volunteer Management” but I didn’t think it really explored that.

Now some will say “It’s not about Volunteer Management it’s about volunteering”. If so, they miss my point and it is this.
Wherever volunteering is discussed Volunteer management needs to be on the agenda. It exists. Its important and in many organisations it’s the difference between an effective volunteer program and one that is disorganized and unappealing.

I don’t have to spell out here the importance of effective volunteer management. In our echo chambers we are aware of this. But we so need to escape our echo chambers and talk to people who make important decisions on volunteering about volunteer management.

Why are we content to be left behind or let out of the volunteering narrative?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thanks Mammy

Well here’s something that you wouldn’t expect on my blog. And it’s something that I thought about briefly and knew immediately that I must do.

My mother just got online before Christmas. This wonderful woman who raised eight kids in tough times learnt all about computers from scratch. Because there never was a computer in our household. I have been away from Ireland for 15 years and have only returned twice. Once due to sad circumstances. Here’s to you Esther. I miss you.

So I wanted to indulge in some personal stuff here dear reader. And I know that you will allow me this one brief post to escape from the volunteer management theme.

Because I would not be where I am today without the support, guidance and love from the best mammy I know.

In Ireland we call our mums “mammy”.

My mammy let me know recently how proud she was of this blog and what I do.

This is my simple way of reaching across the thousands of miles publically and giving my mammy a big hug and saying thank you…for being my mammy

Sentimental and mushy? Shucks yea! For Mammy !

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hopes and wishes for our sector for 2011 (Guest Post)

Wendy Moore, a Volunteer coordinator from Brisbane Australia responded to my previous blog on keeping an eye on 2011. She responded to my challenge where I asked people to let me know what they would see as real outcomes from the years. Wendy’s response was too long to fit into one reply post so I’ve reposted the whole reply here.

Thank you DJ for throwing down the gauntlet and challenging us yet again to relook at our sector. Perhaps now that many of us have had a short break over Christmas and New Year we can look at 2011 with refreshed eyes and renewed vision.

“Can you start my blog off for this year by telling me what you would see as some real outcomes for our sector in 2011 and how that might be achieved?”

This is a big question and while some in our sector are very happy to move the sector forward there are others who are quite content to stay with the status quo.

So I ask you, are we as a sector so afraid of offending people, by being outspoken, that we don’t say anything at all, lest we cause discomfort to others. Or have we had occasions where we have put forward ideas during healthy debates, only to be accused by critics, of stifling debate, when we dared to put forward an opinion just as these critics themselves had done?

While for me 2010 was fraught with personal challenges and tragedy it was also a time for growth, both professionally and personally. On a professional level I attended the Advanced Retreat for Volunteer Managers and also participated in hot topics and online forums including IBM Service Jam, a global interchange of ideas amongst 14,000 participants. I wait in eager anticipation for the publishing of the White Paper to see if it mentions anything about Volunteer Management. On a personal level I have become more confident in my abilities and strengths through meeting challenges head on.

I know that I have had a tendency to over-think things and have been in danger of producing articles that were the same old rehashed bland rhetoric. A colleague recently pointed out that rather than writing about what I thought people in the sector would want to hear, write about what I wanted to say, talk about the things that I was passionate about. This struck a chord with me and so my own challenge in 2011 is to be more outspoken on the issues that I am passionate about and to take those issues to a new level where I may be able to influence the sector as a whole.

So in answer to your question DJ, my response is as follows

Real Outcomes

Greater global awareness of the Volunteer Management sector
Education about the existence and the role of Volunteer Managers to the general community
Greater liaison with other Management groups in other fields
More professional networking opportunities within our own sector
More Leaders in Volunteer Management

How outcomes might be achieved
1.We have made a start in 2010 by participating in IBM Service Jam where volunteer managers participated in a global exchange of ideas. The White Paper will be the litmus test for the impact that volunteer managers made to the discussion. I would suggest seeking out more opportunities like this where our sector can participate in global forums.

2.“Shamelessly self promote” this was a motto in the very competitive promotions business in which I once worked. It also rings true for our sector. If we don’t promote ourselves, who is going to know, we exist? Rather than just answering”I am a volunteer manager” to the question “What job do you do?”I would suggest we use every opportunity to tell people what we really do and dispel the “how nice” response which generally follows our usual answer.

3.While volunteer management encompasses skills which are unique to managing volunteers there are other skills and ideas which are common across management in general. We as individuals could seek out opportunities to gain skills and ideas from management groups such as the Australian Institute of Management and by attendance and networking also promote our sector to managers in other fields who may have been previously unaware of our existence.

4.I would suggest that we seize opportunities to form or build upon networks, both online and face to face where we can exchange ideas and develop strategies as a group to promote our sector in a unified voice.

5.We need to empower ourselves by becoming Leaders in our field. To achieve this we need to seize any opportunity to participate in leadership forums, conferences, workshops, retreats and courses.

I leave you with a segment of the lyrics of a popular song, which I thought had particular relevance

“I get knocked down. But I get up again. You're never going to keep me down.”
Chumbawamba - I Get Knocked Down

I wish everyone a very inspiring and successful 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Keeping an Eye on Volunteer Management in 2011

Its 2011 and here is my first blog of the year. Happy New Year to those of you who’s New Year commences on January 1st.

For the Volunteer management sector I hope it’s a great one. I plan to keep an eye on happenings throughout the year and offer my own slant on things as well as engage in dialogue and debate about matters with people within the sector and with you the blog reader. Here’s some of the things I will be watching in no particular order

•Conferences: IAVE conference in Singapore this year – I will keep you up to date with what’s going on there

•New Zealand’s National conference on volunteering – it looks like a great line up of speakers and workshops, interesting topics and a good focus on leadership and volunteer management.

•The Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management will be held outside Australia for the first time ever. This year New Zealand will be hosting. No details yet realised by organizers. I hope to be there and report back, in fact live via daily blog

•It’s European Year of the Volunteer this year. Will be keeping in contact with European colleagues for stories on this. I am very interested to know if management of volunteers will be a topic

•Professional associations for Volunteer management worldwide. Will they make more noise in 2011? Will be keeping a close watch this year on PAVMW to see if they make any noise. When they do – I will tell you. If they don’t I will be telling them and you!

•IYV + 10 is being celebrated this year. Am I the only person who does not like this title at all? While I support the concept of having a year supporting volunteering I think we could be a bit more imaginative with titles.

•Volunteering Australia hosts another National conference to mark IYV+10.

•Dialogue moving our sector forward. More Volunteer Managers have entered the blogsphere writing. And I predict that even more will do so in 2011. I’ll be keeping an eye on the conversation and no doubt having my own say.

I’ll also be keeping an eye on how people are talking about our sector. I’ll be watching the Hot Topics to see what we are saying and wondering if we are rehashing the same topics or coming up with innovative ideas and or actions.

I am sure there are many ways of tracking progress in many fields. I’ve just invented my own novel way to track progress in the volunteer management sector. It’s called the Hot Topic litmus test.

Since April 1997 Susan J Ellis has given us a monthly Hot Topic on her website Energize. Down under Andy Fryar has done the same since July 2003 on his site Ozvpm

So I’ve quickly looked through almost 14 years of conversations and dialogue to conduct my Hot Topic Litmus test on certain topics. I will narrow it down to 2 or 3 topics for this blog for I could write a book otherwise!

Come with me as I go on a crazy travel adventure back and forwards through time. This is all done with a sprinkle of lightness and fun. We could land together on any random date or year and have a peak at the type of dialogue going on through the spectrum of these Hot Topics.

I’ve taken topics at random and again I must emphasize that they crop up at random. I don’t want to do anything as serious as year to year. Just compare it to being a time traveler in a time travelling machine that has gone a bit awry casting you into random years where you pick up snippets of conversation here and there.

Of course there is a serious side too

In 1997 Susan J Ellis asked if Volunteer management was really a profession. 13 years later the Association of Volunteer management in the UK was asking if Volunteer management was a profession in an article to Volunteering England’s magazine (February 2010 by Nikki Squelch)

In 2004 in another hot Topic titled “Chicken or Egg: Why Are Our Professional Associations Weak? “ Susan asked… “Which came first: weak professional associations or a weak profession?” and went on to state “This issue, which obviously starts at the local level on up (or perhaps on the national level on down), is integrally related with the recurring question of “is volunteer management a profession?”

In 2006 someone challenged a post I sent to Ozvpm by asking “Are we a sector really?” and continuing thus “I think there are a lot of assumptions made that VPMs have congruent agendas, ideologies, motivations and ambitions when clearly we don't”

In March 1998 Susan was asking Why don't we read and write more?
She went on to state “Some of you will head for the hills when you see this question! My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy "doing" that we won't make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”

And in 2002 Susan had this to say in her June HT “The two most frustrating aspects of how our field reacts to criticism are playing ostrich and generating backroom chatter. The ostriches simply don't pay attention. They are rarely aware of anything outside their own agencies or, if they read negative commentary, they never reply. More often, there is a good bit of discussion, but it's done as complaining to each other (on practitioner listservs, in the halls of conferences) rather than expressing opinions in forums where they might educate others. In general, volunteerism practitioners don't like to make waves. Isn't this ironic for a field that owes its history to pioneers and activists? A profession must stand for something and its members must stand for the profession.

Back to Ozvpm and 6 years ago Andy titled a Hot Topic “do we need a new title for volunteering?”

In it he made the intriguing point “Surely the more important part of any title is what a person actually does and not what their rate of pay is - after all, we don't use titles like 'paid CEO', 'employed gardener' or 'salaried bus driver' for staff who are on the payroll!”

Switch back to Energize and in 1998 a guest Hot Topic writer Sarah Jane Rehnborg, wrote a piece titled “The Limits of the "V" Word: Communicating What We Really Do”

Sarah opened her article by asking “Are we helping ourselves by continually trying to group everything that happens in our field under the label "volunteer"? We are selling ourselves short by not clarifying our language and by lumping all manners and forms of service within one broad and reasonably useless classification of "volunteer."”

Back to the present day now and the latest Hot Topic on Energize is The Word “Volunteer” Can Reveal, Conceal, or Confuse

“Confusing things is the fact that the English word volunteer is commonly used when something is voluntary but still recompensed financially. Thus the “All-Volunteer Army” in the U.S. means non-draft, not non-paid. Similarly:

•We are asked to “volunteer” to give up our overbooked airplane seat for travel benefits.
•Most medical experiment “volunteers” are paid for their time and expenses.

Again, most of us understand that this is not the kind of “volunteer” we mean in our field, but what’s the public perception of this label?”

And finally, for now, a responder to an Ozvpm Hot Topic wrote in 2009 “My frustrations over time has been resurrected by attending retreats and seminars, not eased. This frustration stems from the same issues being raised over and over, with no real outcomes.”

Well that’s an interesting snapshot of dialogue on the Volunteer management sector via the Hot Topic columns I mention.

I wonder if we should be asking if we are raising the same issues over and over again with no real outcomes.

Can you start my blog off for this year by telling me what you would see as some real outcomes for our sector in 2011 and how that might be achieved?

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The simple act of kindness.

How we learn from our children! This post was inspired by an act of my daughter. When her mum arrived at work today she found this...