Friday, June 29, 2012


Martin J Cowling, trainer, consultant and blogger on Volunteerism stated in a recent blog post about THE National Conference Volunteering Service in Chicago, Illinois, USA. recently

“The glaring absence for me, was the absolute non mention at any time of managers of volunteers”

It seems to be a global trend.

I recall attending a National Conference on volunteering. I remember in the opening address the CEO of the national body on volunteering making a long speech on volunteering. I remember deciding to count the amount of times ‘Volunteer management” was mentioned. As far as I recall I was on the board of the association of Volunteer Management at the time. That’s why it had a special meaning for me back then. My continued passion for the role of volunteer manager and its recognition is the reason I still talk about it today. I don’t think it got a mention that day. I remember saying to someone else attending that I couldn’t believe Volunteer Management didn’t get a mention. I was rebuffed. ‘The conference is about volunteering, not Volunteer Management.”

It’s like the volunteer managers I’ve occasionally met who’ve said the same thing. When I talk about promoting their profession, promoting their skill set, promoting their value, promoting the integral role they play in their teams success I often get- “No – it’s about the volunteers, it’s not me”

Look! I get that. Truly. I know where they are coming from. But it’s the kind of humbleness that sticks our profession in a rut.

“We should be out there promoting our volunteer teams, singing their praises and broadcasting the fantastic work that they do”. Yes yes and yes. But they are a fantastic team because someone has planned their activity. Someone has strategically planned. Someone has coordinated their shifts. Someone has engaged in good people management skills. Someone has worked towards strong volunteer retention. Someone has devised excellent orientation and training programs. Someone has facilitated feedback. Someone has ensured job satisfaction; someone has ensured volunteer effort is recognised and valued on an organisational level. Someone has understood the value of building social capitol. Someone has enabled community participation. Someone has been a leader. Someone has advocated for volunteers.

That someone is the volunteer manager or coordinator. That someone matters too. Organisations that ignore this do so at their peril. Organisations that value volunteer management value volunteers and visa versa. It’s a key formula in successfully engaging volunteers in your organisation.

There are changes happening with National Volunteering bodies worldwide at the moment. Now they have an opportunity to finally engage with the volunteer management sector. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Let’s share and talk like we should have been from the get go! Because at the end of the day our goals are the same.


We must stop sitting there waiting for this to happen. .

I’ve been advocating for this for years. I’ve been advocating for other changes for years. Some of these changes are now happening and I will blog on some other successes in the future.

I have learnt though that sometimes you might feel like a lone voice. It does not mean that the support isn’t there.

More and more people are standing up and speaking out for volunteerism and volunteer management.

They are on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

And this is progress. Thanks to those who are leading and being brave by writing and commentating first.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

GROW! 21 Modules for Volunteer Management Training

Over the last 12 months there has been some discussion on accreditation for the Volunteer Management sector and on the professionalization of Volunteer Management. In layman’s terms much of the discussion has been around what qualification people should have for entry into the field. Right now there is none. Despite our chatter within our echo chambers this remains the same. From my view I don’t feel much has been achieved as a result of some of the initiatives in VM circles as I don’t feel there was a great response to any online or website based forums or sites on the issue. One wonders where the lethargy stems from? But the reality remains that Volunteer Managers come from a variety of life experiences and I still see adds for the job that have the words “experience leading volunteers would be an advantage” as an afterthought. Not to mention the fact the “Mary from Finance” is still a popular choice to lead volunteers (see earlier post on Mary from Finance)

What is lacking beyond the social media chatter is the firm action of having effective and experienced Volunteer Managers across the globe collaborate on what a certificate/diploma/degree should look like.

I have done so many courses and workshops over the years that have served me so well in Volunteer Management. This combined with practical experience has given me the ability to lead with confidence, passion and belief in my own journey.

I believe that as a sector we need to lead in determining what type of education or course needs to be created to bring forth our future leaders of volunteers. We have a choice. We can sit back and accept what others decree is best for us or we can contribute to the discussion on what such training or education looks like. The latter is most important.

Peak bodies for volunteering may eventually come undone when they ignore the voice of those working at the coalface. It’s such an important voice.

So to start the ball rolling here are my thoughts on the skills I believe need to be inducted into any Volunteer Management course! And please, when and if you have the time, add yours!

1. Management and coordination

2. Conflict resolution

3. Recruitment

4. Interviewing

5. Marketing/media/PR

6. Event Management

7. Retention

8. Recognition

9. Task planning

10. Time management

11. Reflective Counselling

12. Listening

13. Empathy

14. Leadership

15. Grief counselling

16. Financial Management

17. Business development

18. Legal frameworks

19. Workplace diversity

20. Health and safety

21. Public speaking

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