On Volunteer Management Network Meetings!
I have often seen in literature on Volunteer Management (VM) advice to VMs to join a VM network. I am a supporter of this. Volunteer Managers normally work in isolation within organisations i.e. you rarely find a team of volunteer managers and volunteer coordinators in the one building.
There are many advantages in my opinion to a network:
The simple fact of meeting others in a similar role to you
Talking a talk that others should understand!
Ideas, solutions, problems in a safe environment and with people who share the same issues or solutions
Debriefing and support
Good networks can do this.
If you truly value your job as a profession meeting like minded souls can be empowering.
Identifying best practice
Networking encourages you to learn from others who have good ideas or who have implemented great strategies.
A great truism for me is the belief that sometimes we need to experience something negative to truly get something positive!
My first experience of a volunteer management network wasn’t the best. I sat with a group of people who were offloading their issues. And the big issue was ….drum beat…..those pesky volunteers! Yes I kid you not! Story after story was about what this volunteer did and what that volunteer did to annoy this coordinator or that manager. Sure it was an opportunity to vent but where was the balance? There was none. Where was the professionalism? Sadly lacking with this approach I felt. So I quietly disappeared from the group. Instead of speaking up which I should have done! In my defense I was a new kid on the block!
I’ve since been involved in several networks. Plus we now have online networks. That may be a topic for another blog altogether for they blow hot and cold.
So here are my 10 tips on effective networking and network meetings.
A network needs to have terms of reference. There must be a vision. A stated purpose. To “ chin wag” and gossip doesn’t cut it! Volunteer Managers are busy so there needs to be clarity and structure. Agenda items, minutes and all those lovely things associated with committees don’t go astray!
Not the kind you are sitting on! If you are going to have an effective network meeting then the chair needs the strength to keep everyone on topic and on time!
3.Not Social Now
Yes, you are meeting up with fellow VMs but professional network meetings shouldn’t be social occasions. To be sure you can organise social get together’s as part of the agenda but focus is required for professional network meetings
Have a goal for each meeting. What will be our learning? What will we resolve? What will we discover? What can we achieve?
5.Trust and confidentiality
A good network needs to establish a safe environment. Do you feel you can talk on any issue and have it remain within your network group?
6.A full agenda
You must work together to ensure there are many items to discuss. Now come on! There is so much to discuss in Volunteer Management. There is never an excuse to have a network meeting without an agenda!
A network can’t survive if the same one or two people are giving agenda items or speaking up at each meeting. Everyone has a unique viewpoint and everyone should be encouraged to share.
8.Outsiders and other views
Invite guests to your network meetings. Think outside of your VM square. Look for other successful managers. Leadership and management skills can be universal – explore!
Network meetings are about networking!! Have you got the business cards of everyone at that meeting? Continue the networking? Ask if they are comfortable sharing ideas and touching base with you on issues on a one to one basis. Ask first though.
10.Thank you and appreciate
Being on a network is a voluntary act more often than not! It could be a Key performance indicator for your job. Whatever the case, a basic tenet of volunteer management should come into place – recognising and thanking the efforts of others. If you get some great advice or tip at a network meeting follow up with a quick email to the individual who helped you out.
Volunteer Managers often spend a great amount of their precious time offering solutions or being good sounding boards. Acknowledge peoples contribution.
Effective Networks can only strengthen our sector. Join one today if you haven’t already or if there are none that you know of – start one yourself! Feel free to use some of the tips above!