Saturday, March 25, 2017

Enough of the constant struggles in Volunteer Management

As a person who had been in the volunteer management sector for 20 years this year I am privileged that I know volunteer managers around the world.

I have made great friends in the sector. It happens. Meeting people from around the world who are as passionate about Volunteer management as you are is a pleasure and a privilege.

Although I don’t blog as much these days I often hear from people in our sector through my email, my blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Something happened in the last week that inspired this blog. I have changed the names. Sandra has been a Volunteer Manager for 15 years. Last week she sent me a heartfelt email. She had finally given up the ghost of her role. “After 15 years I’ve had enough of the constant struggles within the sector to be appreciated and recognised. Specifically by my own manager and organisation. Sometimes you need to put your health first”

Wow! So much for length of service!

In the same week I heard from Mark. In the sector for about 15 years he is thinking of leaving. Why? “I just feel that in our organisation volunteering always come last. We are given a room that can best be described as a cupboard and we get no financial support at all” And he goes on “ We are like an afterthought”

Volunteers as an afterthought. In our sector. In 2017. And we think we are making progress.

What’s kept me in this sector for 20 years? I have been lucky. Because of my passion and interest in speaking about my experience I have come in contact with global thought leaders on volunteering. I’ve worked with Martin J Cowling and Andy Fryar from Australia. I’ve presented with Rob Jackson from the UK. I’ve worked alongside Jayne Cravens from the US and written for and met Susan J Ellis. I’ve met with Sue Kobar from NZ and Sue Jones from England.

Name dropping? No. I’ve simply been lucky that these thought leaders have come into my life and I’ve had the ability to call on these people when I’ve needed to.

She won’t like me saying it because she is a very humble lady but I wouldn’t be still in the sector if it wasn’t for Susan J Ellis. Once I was close to leaving the sector. The reasons are what volunteer managers go through every day. But in a Skype call that got Susan out of bed one early morning she was there for me.

And as I struggled to remain in the sector Andy Fryar and Jayne Cravens were like good buddies: always there with words of encouragement!

So I was lucky. I remained in the sector. I moved jobs but I had the most supportive global network!

And I realise that not everyone has that!

As long as volunteering is seen as nice to have but not necessary we will struggle. I’ve argued for years that the value you put in your organisations volunteers is directionally proportional to your Volunteer Management.

When I hinted at this blog on Twitter someone replied that we have improved immensely. I don’t know. It worries me that people leave the sector due to lack of support. Two people reached out to me in the last week. Why could they not talk honestly to their networks? Why could they not send their communication to their association for volunteer managers? This is the bread and butter stuff that associations need to be there for. Stop being there because your board status seems fancy or it enhances your resume. Be there as an activist to support your Volunteer Manager!

I write this for those thinking of leaving the sector. People have helped me. Please email me if I can help you before you quit.

Because I get it. And I care.


  1. The Sector is very fortunate to have someone like you who gets it and cares. Thank you DJ for your candid comments.


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