Sunday, April 7, 2013

National Volunteer WEAK!

National Volunteer Weeks come and go around the globe around this time of year. Particularly in the States, Canada, Ireland, England, Australia and New Zealand.

It’s a week to celebrate and promote volunteering…

To me it seems to be an occasion where we celebrate “our lovely volunteers” and employ the language of paternalism and fluffiness.

Volunteering is not lovely. It is real and important. For Volunteer Managers, this is a week where we promote the service our organisations volunteers provide.

If it is a week where time and thought is given to volunteering and volunteers are simply forgotten about for the rest of the year then it will have served no purpose at all. Great organisations value and recognise volunteering all year round. Great organisations resource Volunteer Management and recognise the vital link between effective Volunteer Management and effective Volunteer Programs.

An effective and articulate Volunteer Management profession recognizes the opportunity to promote its sector during national Volunteers Week. It knows Volunteering is getting attention and seeks to harness that interest in a way that can educates organisations and policy makers on effective Volunteer Management.

Peak bodies for volunteering while recognising and welcoming the media attention that the week brings to the cause of volunteering should be advocating for all stakeholders in volunteering. The Volunteer. The Volunteer Manager. The organisations that effectively engage volunteering effort. Government policies on Volunteering. Their own Mission and philosophy on Volunteerism. Consultants and trainers in Volunteerism.

Jayne Cravens did a great service for International Volunteer Managers day when she stated years ago that she would never support the day if it became a “Pat the Volunteer Manager on the back day” or there were pins and mugs about the day!

I believe we need to say the same thing about National Volunteer Weeks. They are in danger of becoming weeks about Pins and certificates. They are in danger of becoming “pats on the heads of lovely volunteers. “That’s all well and good but unless that is matched by some serious Government and organisational support for volunteering along the resources line and along the recognition line that volunteering matters 24/7 every day of the year and is making a real difference to our society then Volunteers Weeks becomes Volunteers Weak!


  1. A great pun here DJ. I too lament the token gestures of a National Volunteer Week, and International Day (December 5), not to mention the day for Managers of Volunteers (November 5). There is such a lot of lip service (along with the 'pats on the head') that I wonder how sincere the compliments are, and what people really know and understand about volunteering and the community sector

    Email reply from Sue Hine
    Independent Advocate, Managers of Volunteers


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