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.