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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Part of the journey that needs more attention!

What, as managers or coordinators of volunteers sets us aside from managers of paid staff? There are many differences and indeed many similarities. In fact I’ve often championed the belief that in terms of management we simply have to adopt similar processes, systems and styles. But managing volunteers does have its different flavours without a shadow of a doubt. It encompasses a different skill set and it embraces different philosophies.
As a writer on matters Volunteerism and Volunteer Management I am interested to know why certain subject matter remains a little taboo in Volunteer Management. And I speak of ageing, dementia and death.
Google ageing, dementia and death in Volunteerism and see how you go. You will get plenty of references to volunteers who contribute in many caring ways to support those undergoing ageing, dementia and death.
But where is the discussion, writing or workshops on Ageing dementia and death in volunteering? Maybe I am missing it. Would love a few pointers if I am.
Although there have been significant lifestyle changes due to the Global Financial Crisis there has traditionally been a retirement age for people in the workplace. Not so in the Volunteering workplace. In fact for many decades a large percentage of the volunteering workforce has been drawn from the retired workforce. And it has been great and a real benefit to society.
But how are we dealing with the associated challenges this can cause?
Let’s compare a HR Manager to a Volunteer Manager in relation to these matters.
The HR Manager generally does not worry about a person’s capacity to do the task safely because of age i.e. they are generally not required to determine if an 87 year old can continue doing the task. Volunteer managers do.
The HR Manager has less chance, I dare suggest, of managing a person with dementia.
People die. A HR manager will attend the funeral of their staff normally in tragic circumstances. Funerals may be par for the course during the year for a manager of volunteers with an ageing population.
These are huge differences in the management of people. I’ve seen far too little dialogue on the issue. Yet I’ve heard individual managers broach the question often.
I’ve often written topic matter on our sector gaining the recognition it deserves. But I also want to write on topics in our sector that deserve more attention.
And this topic does. For 2 major reasons:
1.       Volunteering encompasses all ages. We need to value the effort that comes from the 16 year old to the 98 year old! While it seems so hip these days to study why youth is volunteering and to come up with strategies on how we can encourage  and manage youth volunteering we will do ourselves a disservice if we neglect study into volunteering amongst the older generation.
2.       The Volunteer Management sector has a unique opportunity to show how it provides leadership in managing people of all ages! This can rarely be said of other management sectors.
I’ve been to volunteer funerals. They have all been deeply touching. Their volunteering experience has always been a part of the story. I have shed many a tear.
But how do we all deal with grief? We need more dialogue on this subject too.
To be the best leaders we can be in volunteer management we need to be able to deal with ageing, dementia, death and dying! And we need to be able to look after ourselves!
We may find that hard to talk about but it’s part of our journey.

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