Wednesday, August 30, 2017

20 Years A Volunteer Manager




At about this time In 1997 I first encountered a role where I was managing volunteers. The spice girls were all the rage. Mary Mcaleese was elected president of Ireland, the first time in the world that one woman had succeeded another as elected head of state. Bill Clinton was re - elected.

Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car crash. I remember the newsflash on TV like it was yesterday. Tiger won the masters at 21. Hale-Bopp came to have a look at Earth. John was PM in Australia while Tony ruled in the UK.

It was one heck of a year for the Adelaide Crows, Might and Power and Skip Away. People were dancing to MMMbop and Freak.

The International Year of Volunteers was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1997. Australia, and in particular the 4,500 volunteer centres, played a significant role in petitioning for the year.

In 1997 Apple was a struggling computer company, AOL was a booming Internet service provider, Microsoft was on the verge of releasing Windows 98, and the Web was a very different place. There was no Google web page!

A youngish Irishman had the task of Managing a major Doorknock appeal for a Major Not for Profit in a Major Australian City. I had the belief back then that our dreams would be achieved by the assistance of volunteers. I gathered a team of inspiring Southbank TAFE students around me and together we recruited over 2000 volunteers to Doorknock and collect for our great cause. 80% of our volunteer collectors were high school students. And we did it! We surpassed our target. I knew then that volunteers could achieve anything. And so began my 20 years in volunteer management.

20 years later and I now reflect on one of the most inspiring and amazing professions one could choose. I have interviewed thousands of volunteers. I have hundreds of inspiring stories. I have seen friendships forged, people changed, lives impacted, tears of joy, lives comforted, communities helped, people helped, time committed, good deeds carried out, time sacrificed, love shared, smiles embraced, hugs a million and tears wiped dry.


I have seen people grow, people shine and people share. I have seen the very best of the human endeavour. In an oft negative world I have seen the most positive of people. I have seen real impact delivered by people giving up their time. I have seen heroes, quiet achievers, great leaders and simply wonderful human beings at their most humanitarian and compassionate.

I have encountered amazing colleagues across the globe. I count volunteer sector people as friends from the United States to New Zealand and from London to Adelaide and Toronto to Dublin and Cork!

What changes have I seen in my 20 years? This is for another blog post. This post is just for my celebration. If you are reading this and you have just started a career in volunteer management and/or coordination welcome to what can be a most life rewarding profession! Just know that we are a tight knit community around the globe and many of your colleagues are here for you!

I finish this little reflection to thank my colleagues around the world who have been there to support me and encourage me. I know that I can always count on you! That’s Volunteer Managers for you!


We are a profession. We make a difference.

And finally to volunteers. I would not be here without you. In 20 years you have never failed to cease inspiring me.

Thank you






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Volunteers. Volunteerism. Volunteer Management. Titles used to get more views on volunteer management blogs!


I haven’t blogged for a while. Been so busy with life and work. That happens. I’ve realised my blog is part of my life but not all of it. I come back here now and then to share A STORY or to impart some wisdom according to DJ Cronin!

I do have lots of stories to tell. But I was intrigued by an email I got today from Susan J Ellis. At the most recent Volunteer Manager conference in the US a group convened consisting of bloggers who blog about volunteer management. There happens to be a few. I imagine maybe 30 around the globe but I may be wrong.

A bloggers group met there. People who blog about volunteerism and volunteer management. And I admire them as I admire Susan (who I think is the reason so many of us have a voice today and for the fact that we consider ourselves a profession!)

Anyway I could not make this conference due to the fact that I could not gather a dollar to attend. (Happens to many volunteer coordinators around the world who are sometimes lucky to get a few coffee vouchers throughout the year)

And that kind of thinking led me to realise that I want to be there for those people who coordinate or lead or manage volunteers but have no budget! Its ok for me to say “If you are serious about your career then you will spend 70 bucks of your own money to join your “professional Association” If you are serious about being a volunteer management professional then you should spend hundreds if not thousands of your own dollars on professional development.

 Most of your regular volunteer coordinators or managers cannot afford professional development. And Guess why? Most of your regular volunteer coordinators or managers are poorly paid! And most of them get no budget. Yes….no budget….not just a small budget! Sometimes trainers and consultants forget this. This should not be the case because this needs to be a serious organisational policy! But there is no one there to push this through organisations. Or peak bodies are too busy dealing with Governments lack of intelligence of all matters volunteering.

But back to the bloggers group for I digress!

Groucho Marx once said that he would never want to be a member of a CLUB that would accept his membership. I’m wondering about a bloggers group and hoping that this blog gets their first debate going!

Blog about people who will never afford professional development because their organisations place no value on volunteer management

 Over to you










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