Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where are the Fireworks on International Volunteer Managers Day?

Sue Hines writes an interesting piece on International Volunteer Managers Day in her latest blog. The link to Sues Blogsite can be found on the right!

The view that there will be noise all round the world to celebrate the day is one, alas, I cannot share.

The problem, as I see it, with IVMD is that it is being smothered with niceness and tarnished with insignificance.

Years ago I had an issue with a well known speaker on volunteerism who basically stated the day was cringe worthy and had no time for volunteer managers patting themselves on the back. I disagreed vehemently then.

I am not so sure now.

My belief in the day and its purpose has not wavered. I am not too sure that people understand what the day is about. If small pockets of volunteer managers throughout the globe meet for tea and cakes and do nothing more for the sector itself then how is this “education through celebration”

I saw someone writing on the IVMD Facebook page that they were going to get a few Volunteer Managers together to clean up a beach. How is this “education through celebration?”

Where is IVMD being celebrated? Is the Volunteerism world itself sitting up and taking note? Let’s take a quick look at what the sector is saying 6 days before the event.

Volunteering Australia fails to mention the day in its “Latest News”. There is no story about the day on its website. Click on the Managers of Volunteers page and you find no mention of the day.

Search “International Volunteer Managers day” on its site and you get a link to the days website. Nothing more.

Ok – let’s look at the AAVA website. The professional association for Volunteer Managers in Australasia has no news on this day, which is 6 days away, on their website. It’s a bit harder for our sector to make the above comments on the lack of Interest from Volunteering Australia when our own sector is not getting it right. Stones and glasshouses and all that! There is no news about what is happening anywhere on this site for IVMD!

Same can be said of the Association of Volunteer Management website in the UK. No mention of our “big day” on their site either. A search of IVMD on the site yields a few results and articles from 2009 and 2007.

Close to home again there is no mention of IVMD on Volunteering Queensland’s webpage (would be a good story for the Wonderful VOLQLD TV Channel IMHO!)

Nadda on Volunteering New Zealands site – not even on the events calendar. Better news from Volunteering WA and Volunteering Tasmania who are highlighting some events associated with the day. Ok I guess tea and cake is better than nothing!

Rather than go on I encourage you to check your own local association or volunteer centre and check out what they are saying or doing about IVMD this year.

Sue Hines writes that “Most events will happen on Friday November 4. At least we avoid the fireworks this time.”

We actually need Fireworks for IVMD! We need more passion and to get more people to take notice.


•Drop an email to your professional body for volunteer management and ask them how they are marking the day?

•Send a blank Celebration card to your national body on volunteering. In it slip a note and write “Please don’t ignore IVMD again next year – from a Volunteer Manager!

•Send a congrats email to those organisations that do support the day

•Alert your local member of parliament/Senator about the day and encourage them to get together with local VMs

•Write a blog here on the merits or otherwise of IVMD.

For me IVMD should be about raising the profile of our profession thus increasing its value! IVMD should be the vehicle to profile Volunteer Management in a positive light. It should be used to educate organisations and the community about the importance of effective and well resourced Volunteer Management.

It should be the Blue Ribbon day for all professional associations for Volunteer Managers! It should be an important date for Volunteerism!

But is it?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How happy and fulfilled are you in Volunteer Management?

How happy and fulfilled are you at work?

Now there’s a question that may well stop you in your track. Because, let’s face it, in your busy role when was the last time you were asked that question? Have you been asked that as part of your own annual performance evaluation? Or is it a question you regularly ask yourself?
This train of thought arises from some info I’ve come across on the net. I am grateful that we live in an age where a vast amount of knowledge and information is available. In terms of volunteer management I sometimes think that we are guilty off seeking guidance or leadership from a narrow silo. That is to say that we seem to lack the courage and conviction to look outside our sector at generic leadership and management philosophy. We sometimes tend to think that Volunteer Management is so unique and different that we can’t learn from others.

Of course Volunteer management is different and unique…but I do belive we can learn from othert sectors as they can learn from us! But back to happiness and fulfillment at work. There haven’t been many surveys on the Volunteer Management sector. Not many in my memory at least. The only one that I recall is an international survey conducted by People First Total Solutions> I’ve written about that one before but it appears that it was largely ignored by the volunteerism sector. Which is a shame if I am correct?

A section on the Wall Street Journal called ‘The Source” has teamed up with the iOpener Institute for People and Performance to find out how happy and fulfilled their readers are at work. The Institute has a specially designed survey to help readers establish how happy they are at work .

Before inviting people to take part in the interview the article has some great ways of describing happiness at work

Their research shows that there are five important drivers that underpin the science of happiness at work.

1. Contribution.

This is about what you do, so it’s made up of some of the core activities which happen at work. Like having clear goals, moving positively towards them, talking about issues that might prevent you meeting your objectives and feeling heard when you do so.

2. Conviction.
This is the short-term motivation both in good times and bad. That’s the key point: keeping going even when things get tough, so that you maintain your energy, motivation and resources which pull you through.

3. Culture.
Performance and happiness at work are really high when employees feel they fit within their organizational culture. Not fitting in a job is like wearing the wrong clothes to a party—all the time.

4. Commitment.
Commitment matters because it taps into the macro reasons of why you do the work you do. Some of the underlying elements of commitment are perceiving you’re doing something worthwhile, having strong intrinsic interest in your job and feeling that the vision of your organization resonates with your purpose.

5. Confidence.
Confidence is the gateway to the other four drivers. Too little confidence and nothing happens: too much leads to arrogance and particularly poor decisions. Without greater levels of self-belief, the backbone of confidence, there will be few people who’ll take a risk or try anything new. And you can’t have confident organizations without confident individuals inside them.

To see the whole article and to do the survey follow the link by clicking on the heading of this blog!

Make you own mind up on the science of this survey because there are plenty of comments in the comments section.

I do feel it’s an interesting experiment for us to take in a sector that is devoid of self analysis and research in the first place!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Be who you must be

I’ve had a recent period of mental blockage followed by self reflection. I rewrote that first line and added mental. Attempts at humour are still there.

I like to write on volunteer management issues but recently I’ve suffered writers block. I would sit in front of the keyboard and stare at the blank screen. But nothing came. “What gives” I thought. Had I run out of things to write about? Had I said all that needs to be said on Volunteer Management?

I love Volunteer Management and I enjoy writing. Here I was fusing two passions.

So during my moments of writers block I had many competing thoughts.

“What’s the purpose of it all?”

“Finish the blog and write on other things you are passionate about”

“ write that book that’s in you and bursting to get out” That’s the espionage thriller about the secret agent posing as a Volunteer Manager who thwarts the alien takeover at the White House!

And then just as I was tiring of staring at a blank screen and as my bored fingers were getting fidgety and restless at the cobweb ruined keyboard I had a thought. I nearly said I heard a voice. But I didn’t want to freak you out. However when one says “I had a thought” I wonder what is this awareness having the thought?

Anyway the thought said

“Relax release and reflect”

The 3 Rs of writers block!!!

You cant force writing. Or if you do, it may very well come across that way. By relaxing I was able to release this frustration of not being able to write. By relaxing and releasing I was able to find the space to reflect on my writing and indeed on many other aspects on my life too. This resulted in a good moment of clarity and self awareness. Here I’ll defer to a websites definition of such matters

“To get a clear understanding of self awareness, it's a good idea to first understand awareness itself. So what is awareness?...

Simply put, awareness is our capacity to notice things. We may be aware of the time or aware of a particular situation - we may notice that we are late or that someone is watching us. Being aware of such things means we have taken note of them.

This is awareness.

Self awareness basically describes a situation where the light of awareness is turned onto ourselves. While awareness is our ability to take note; self-awareness is our ability to take note of ourselves.

When we turn our awareness to shine on ourselves, we may become conscious of a great deal of internal activity. We may notice specific thoughts or thought patterns. We may notice particular emotions or flows of energy. We may awaken to physiological processes happening in our body such as heartbeat, heat, sweating. We may notice intuitions or gut feelings.

The world of the self is rich and fascinating and we are privileged to possess the ability to actually enjoy all of this consciously. Our capacity for awareness is what makes this possible.”

Definition Of Self Awareness - What Is Self Awareness http://www.evolutionary

Our lives are busy. So often we hear the cry of “ Not enough time” from people in our sector. It is not exaggerated. So we look towards Time management workshops, Gurus or books. Sometimes we even hear “ I haven’t time to attend a time management workshop”

There is too much doing. There is too little being. As I commute to work I notice how people are still so busy. Devices of all kinds are stuck to ears of the commuter on the train. If tweeting had a noise we’d all be deaf. How long can we go without checking what our “Friends” on Facebook are up to? News is assimilated not absorbed. Politicians “live in Spin”. The modern world – I phone, I Pod, I Pad, I have forgotten to relax!

So I am thankful for my writers block. It allowed me the space to reflect. It reminded me to sit and look at everything about me. It led to a little awareness and more self awareness.

What has all this got to do with Volunteer Management one might ask? Everything and nothing!

Have you had the time lately to step back, metaphorically speaking, from your job and observe where it is at? Where you are at?

Have you looked at the people around you and wondered in awe that such inspiring people such as volunteers are in your life?

Have you looked at everybody around you and wondered why they were in your life in the first place? Or why you are in theirs?

Instead of worrying about this blog as in “What’s the purpose of it all?” I will just be and do what I do. Just be who I must be.

If one person gets something from any of this then this is a bonus.

I am grateful for my writers block. I am grateful for the space where I can reflect. I am grateful to those around me. To all those who come into my life. For the lessons, the challenges, the tears of joy and sadness, the ups and the downs.

Try a little being, a little less doing.

If Time were a person I suspect they would laugh at the concept of being managed!

I end with a piece I wrote several years ago. Its time I reflect on my own stuff more!

Be who you must me

I don’t know where you are on your path
I have never stood in your shoes
I see not with your eyes.
I know not what your purpose is here
In this stage of your evolution.
But I feel blessed to know you.
As you are not in my life by chance
And you are my teacher
As I hope you learn from me.
I pray I show reverence to you
I pray not to judge you.
I wish to let you be
Who you are
Who you dream of being.
I will just be beside you
And watch you grow.
And the day will come for sure
When we will know why
Our paths crossed this way.
And until then my friend
Be who you must be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Erin Barnhart: "true facilitators of democratic action"

Erin Barnhart is an internationally recognized expert in domestic and international service and volunteer engagement. She has been quoted by such media sources as, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Post, The Boston Globe, Smart Money, Marie Claire, and Budget Travel and has developed and delivered effective engagement tools, trainings, and resources for volunteers, volunteer resource managers, and organizations worldwide.

An AmeriCorps*NCCC alum, Erin has an MPA in Public Policy and a Graduate Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from the University of Oregon. Following completion of her Masters Degree, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Canada to study volunteer centers (PDF) in British Columbia and the Yukon. In 2005, Erin began work on a Ph.D., studying international civic engagement at Portland State University; she expects to complete her dissertation in 2011.

Here Erin has kindly taken the time to answer 10 questions of mine on Volunteerism.

In 20 words of less, describe/define Volunteer Management

The practice and profession of engaging and facilitating collective voluntary action by global citizens and community partners

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

1) While both professions require the building of relationships and trust with their team members, the incentives for showing up a second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc.) time are different for paid and unpaid staff. Unlike HR Managers – who may only be required to assess employee satisfaction once a year via an annual evaluation – volunteer managers must consider and assess the motivations and satisfaction of their volunteers on a daily – if not hourly – basis.

2) When the economy is tough and organizations freeze the hiring of new positions, HR Managers likely begin spending less to perhaps no time on recruitment and much more on managing existing staff needs. Conversely, the need for volunteers generally goes up – especially for human service organizations – which means that the volunteer manager is often called upon to find even more individuals to lend a helping hand, all while also maintaining relationships with and taking care of existing volunteers. This reality makes it all the more frustrating when volunteer manager positions are among the first to be cut in times of financial crisis.

3) HR Managers generally work with predetermined staff positions; there might be some room to negotiate pay, benefits, etc., but the position’s hours, expectations, etc. have almost always already been decided. In other words, applicants for paid roles apply within existing position frameworks. Alternatively, volunteer managers may have a desired framework in mind but are more often negotiating many critical details of the role, both upfront and on an ongoing basis, with potential volunteers, all while likely experiencing an higher level of turnover.

Where is the current leadership evident in Volunteer Management?

While there are a handful of national volunteerism and service organizations around the globe that are doing exciting work to support the field – Volunteering England’s recent VM initiative is one example – it does seem that much of the current leadership is driven primarily by consultants. I can see why this might be the case though: consultants are similarly immersed in the day-to-day work of their clients and audiences but also have the benefit of a 30,000 foot view. By drawing from the experiences of peers and practitioners around the globe, they are in an excellent position to offer both anecdotal and collective evidence on the state of the field. At the same time, as self-employed professionals, they may potentially have more room to innovate and try new models, all while avoiding some of the politics that others have no choice but to address.

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

...serve as the collective voice for the field, including advocating for and educating leadership and the public on the critical role volunteer management plays in facilitating meaningful, effective community engagement and providing accessible and innovative tools and resources to adequately support practitioners in the field.

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

I generally use two definitions to define voluntary action. First, there is “service” which I consider to be a broad umbrella under which many kinds of voluntary action efforts take place – from people serving in stipended national service programs like AmeriCorps in the United States to those who give their time as part of a court-ordered mandate. Within “service,” there is also “volunteering” which is, to me, anytime an individual freely contributes their time, skills, and perspectives to a cause or issue without expectation of financial compensation.

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

Ah, well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, but then I realized that I wasn’t gifted in science and didn’t really enjoy flying. I also wanted to be the first female President of the United States but that was before I discovered that I have very little patience for politics. Ultimately, I recognized that what I really wanted to do was find a way to help the everyday citizen make a difference. One can see why I’m such a nerd for all things volunteer management!

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

Rosa Parks. Not only was she courageous, inspirational, and utterly selfless, but she was also smart, engaged, and strategic; Rosa Parks was both an everyday citizen living in a scary, segregated world as well as an active participant – the secretary of her local chapter of the NAACP – in the struggle for Civil Rights in America.

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

I think social media offers great potential for the world of volunteer engagement and management. It can potentially be used as a tool for outreach, recruitment, and building truly global connections; it can also be used to galvanize, inspire, share stories and practices, and build community among many different kinds of organizational supporters (advocates, donors, volunteers, etc.). Social media may even help to blur the lines between how we define these actors in community involvement, redefining how we engage and inform citizens to take action. While the learning curve to keep up with new models of social media as they rapidly emerge may be daunting, I’m confident that there is a real opportunity to harness the power of web-based connections for greater social and environmental good.

Does Government get volunteering? If not why not?

This is indeed a very big question. I’m hesitant to give any kind of definitive answer here as I know that governments – like all institutions – are made up of a broad and diverse spectrum of individuals and opinions. There are certainly some government entities that appear to have more readily embraced volunteer engagement but there are also many who do not seem to understand yet how important it is to engage citizens in the inner workings of their own communities - nor how much extraordinary impact individuals can have if only given the chance.

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

Ultimately, I’d like to help facilitate meaningful volunteer engagement in the world – those opportunities where an individual recognizes that they have ideas and skills of real value, and organizations and communities benefit from partnering with them to collectively make the world a better place. My best shot at making this happen is to harness my passion for volunteer engagement and my understanding of the importance of supported, effective volunteer leadership and focus them on serving the field of volunteer management itself. Volunteer managers are such extraordinary heroes to me; they are true facilitators of democratic action. If, throughout the course of my career. I’m able to effectively support the people who do this work day to day, I’ll feel that I’ve succeeded.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Somebody, nobody and Anybody in Volunteer Management

I recently came across a great poem by someone called Charles Osgood

“There was a most important job that needed to be done,
And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none.
But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask
Is who exactly will it be who'll carry out the task?

Anybody could have told you that everybody knew
That this was something somebody would surely have to do.
Nobody was unwilling; anybody had the ability.
But nobody believed that it was their responsibility.

It seemed to be a job that anybody could have done,
If anybody thought he was supposed to be the one.
But since everybody recognised that anybody could,
Everybody took for granted that somebody would.

But nobody told anybody that we are aware of,
That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of.
And nobody took it on himself to follow through,
And do what everybody thought that somebody would do.

When what everybody needed so did not get done at all,
Everybody was complaining that somebody dropped the ball.
Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame,
And everybody looked around for somebody to blame.

Somebody should have done the job
And Everybody should have,
But in the end Nobody did
What Anybody could have.”

Funny enough, the poem reminded me a little of our sector in Volunteer Management. In particular it made me think of 2 upcoming momentous events for Volunteer Managers. Globally, International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD) and in Australia the 2011 AAVA Volunteer Manager Award of Excellence. I’ve written about both on this blog before. I believe that both should be supported in Volunteer Management. I believe however that both concepts may fail if everybody thinks that somebody else should organise events to mark IVMD or anybody could nominate for the AAVA award but nobody does!

Many of you of course will be able to draw parallels with the following whose author is still unknown to me ( happy to attribute if you know who wrote it!)

“This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.

Somebody got angry (about that) because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody knew that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Somebody wouldn't do it. And It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody because Nobody actually asked Anybody.”

"A very different philosophy of management is arising. We are moving beyond strategy to purpose; beyond structure to process, and beyond systems to people.... Asshole management is not inevitable."

Sumantra Ghoshal, humanist management thinker, writer and academic, 1948-2004, who believed that management should be, above all else, a force for good!

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