AVM Director Elections open

The 2017 elections to join the board of AVM are now open for nominations.

If you’re a member this is your opportunity to help shape and lead the Association of Volunteer Managers as a director.

Find out more by downloading the information pack:

 

The returning officer for this year’s election is vice-chair A.S. Maini. If you have any questions or difficulties you can contact him directly for help or advice.

Nominations close at 6pm, Sunday 17 September 2017, so get your skates on!

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AVM working with Open University to raise the profile of volunteer management.

The Open University is currently producing some material for two short courses called

Self Development for Managers and Managing People and their potential.

They would like to film some interviews with managers along the themes that are mentioned below, and have asked AVM if some of our members may be interested in being interviewed and filmed. They are  looking for people who have responsibility for managing volunteers, not necessarily  senior managers or directors . They are hoping to interview managers across a range of sectors including those managing staff as well as volunteers.

They hope to be doing some interviews over the next couple of weeks. The interviews would take about an hour or so and they would probably film either at or close to the persons place of work. They would obviously talk to the people in advance to advise them on the types of things they would want to ask them, so that interviewees are happy that they want to contribute.

The course is a short course delivered online to students and covers a number of different areas

Managing People and their potential covers:

• Welfare, Well-being and engagement at work
• Keeping healthy and Safe at work
• Understanding and Managing risks
• Work health and Well being

Self Development for Managers covers:

• Personal Development
• Time Management
• Developing a PDP
• Planning into action

Anyone interested in this should contact Amanda Willet at: amanda.willett@open.ac.uk

 

Are You in a Volunteer Management Silo?

Guest post by Susan J. Ellis


When you want to increase your volunteer leadership skills, discover new ways of doing things, or simply rekindle your energy professionally, where do you look for education and inspiration?

Acknowledging that you may have limited time and funds for professional development, do you tend to prioritize books, conferences, even Web sites that focus on the same type of setting or services in which your volunteer corps works? For example, if you involve volunteers in a hospital, do you most often go to health care resources or, if you work in a museum, do you most often go to resources for cultural arts? But where do you go when you want to be challenged or connect to the wider volunteer management profession?

While you can learn a lot from your immediate colleagues, if you rarely venture outside your “field,” you are in a silo.

The problem is that a silo is a storage facility with circular walls and no windows. Its main purpose is to preserve what’s inside, not connect it to the world outside.

Evidence of Silo Mentality

Most of us would agree that the principles and even the daily tasks of effective volunteer engagement are pretty universal. Yet, those of us who publish and plan conferences for the field know from experience that it is a hard sell to attract an audience as diverse as the field itself. Let me share two recent examples.

  • As you may know, I coordinated the on-site bookstore at the recent Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership in St. Paul, Minnesota. Many of the attendees were amazed at the selection and range of the books on display (about 35 titles, which doesn’t even scratch the surface, of course). Over and over, people would stand at the table, look at the books (without touching them), and ask: “What do you have on working with volunteers in _______ (my specific setting)?” When I explained that we had chosen books that were relevant to many settings, they often still did not try opening any of the books. My personal favorite was being asked: “Does this risk management book apply to volunteers in _________ (my specific setting)?” I noted that the principles of risk management are about human beings, whether employees, clients, or volunteers, and issues like screening protocols or avoiding accidents apply to all organizations.
  • The Energize calendar of volunteer management conferences actively seeks a wide variety of programs to promote. On the 21st of September, there’s an event in London, UK, sponsored by the Association of Volunteer Managers, “Winning in Volunteer Management: How Sports & Non-Profits Can Learn Together.” Here’s how they describe the day:

Volunteering and Sport have the power to change lives, but do all Volunteer Managers face the same issues? This event aims to bring together presenters and delegates from sports and non-sports volunteer organisations, to see how sharing experiences, challenges and successes can be of mutual benefit to all.

I was excited and intrigued, and the editorial team of our journal, e-Volunteerism, immediately contacted the organizers to try to develop some articles on what would be discussed. However, at the moment, the event is not attracting volunteer managers from human services or other sectors (although there is still time to register and I hope some of you will!).

I would love to be proven wrong, but unfortunately I suspect that many folks never seriously considered attending simply because they assumed they would not benefit from the program. That makes me sad at missed opportunities.

Roaming in the Volunteer World Expands Your Vision

Leaving your silo to explore the volunteer world is very much like recreational travel. You must go someplace away from the familiar to recharge your batteries, have unexpected adventures, meet new people, and come back home able to see your daily surroundings with a fresh eye. Reading a volunteer management book or spending a day in a meeting room with colleagues you have just met is not quite as broadening as a visit to the Taj Mahal, of course. But it always offers the potential to come away with new ideas.

Roger van Oech, in his wonderful book on developing creativity, A Whack on the Side of the Head, includes an exercise that I have used a number of times at the start of large conferences. He suggests imagining conversations between people from very different jobs, such as a police officer and a clown, an airline pilot and an exotic dancer, etc. The test is to find topics that they might actually have in common. So I challenge you: if you spent time talking to someone who recruits and works with volunteers in sports, what issues might you share? What might the colleague teach you? What might you teach him or her? (If you are the one in sports, let’s partner you with a leader of volunteers in a nursing home.)

Here’s my starter set of ideas:

  • Many volunteer projects want more male volunteers. Sports organizations generally have more men involved. How do they do it? Do they do anything different to recruit more female volunteers? Do they need help with that?
  • Most sports take place literally “in the field,” where games are played. How do they schedule volunteers to make sure all the needed roles are filled? How do they maintain standards of care and performance remotely?
  • What are the challenges when volunteers are related to the people being served? In other words, what are the dynamics when parents coach youth sports leagues, or parents volunteer in their children’s classroom, or adult children run programs at their older parent’s nursing home, or….? (See where this is going?)
  • What are the similarities in running large events with volunteers, whether for sports, cultural exchange, or anything else drawing a crowd?

We All Need to Have a Cross-Sector Perspective

Changing the silo status quo needs everyone’s energy. It begins with a genuine interest in things beyond the familiar. Purposely read an article or go to a workshop because you think it doesn’t relate to you! Were you right? (Remember that someday you may change jobs but still stay in volunteer leadership, so what you don’t think you can use today may become important to know later.)

Writers and presenters too often speak only from their perspective in whatever settings they have worked or studied. I frequently remind people that volunteering is not limited to the nonprofit sector and, in fact, may be even more critical to public, government agencies. In the same vein, exclusively teaching with case studies from human services ignores the innumerable volunteer activities (and equally valid examples) in animal protection, firefighting, environmentalism, sports, and so much more. Colleagues in the cultural arts especially are quite vocal about feeling left out. If you write or present, be sure you vary your vocabulary and examples.

Readers and participants, on the other hand – if they test unknown waters at all – resist having to “translate” information to their setting-specific language. Or worse, they do not ask questions during the event that would help them understand. Yet they will complain on the evaluation sheet afterwards that the material wasn’t relevant to them! So speak up. If you are unsure how an example relates to you, ask. Or offer a different example so that others also broaden their knowledge. This is good advice online as well: if what you’re viewing offers a comments section or some sort of discussion board, use it! Every site visitor will benefit and very often the source of the material will be happy to add a response to your comment, too.

Always remember, the volunteers we lead are not one-dimensional. We may know them through a hospital, a youth sports league, or an art center, but chances are excellent that they also volunteer with other organizations – certainly other members of their families do. Doesn’t this suggest we ought to see what we do as interconnected and not go back into our separate silos?


Energize Hot Topic, September 2017: “Are You in a Volunteer Management Silo?” by Susan J. Ellis – Reprinted (or excerpted) with permission.

 

Engaging, Empowering and Energetic – my experience at the AVM conference

In a special guest blog AVM member Kathryn Harrington shares her experience of attending her first conference, as well as how it influenced her personal and professional development going forward.

Back in the summer of 2014, I joined the dedicated Volunteering Team at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Making the big move down to London from Wales, I was very aware of the limited contacts and connections I had in my new profession in London.

NCVO provided the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of voluntary organisations, from small local charities to large national organisations, and it was here that a colleague recommended attending the AVM conference, to help develop new connections and broaden my learning in the volunteer management field.

I attended my first conference in 2015 with a colleague from NCVO with the hope of connecting with other volunteer managers from different organisations and sectors, as well as promoting the Investing in Volunteers Accreditation to attendees, a great programme that I worked on whilst at NCVO focussing on good practice in volunteer management. It was the perfect space to talk to other professionals about an accreditation related to their area of work, but it was also a great personal development event; an opportunity to share experiences and learning with over 200 volunteer management professionals, and have the opportunity to listen to up-to-date research on volunteering trends and discuss the latest approaches towards volunteering with a wide mixture of people from different organisations.

Since attending my first conference in 2015, each year has provided something different, and continued to remain very relevant to the roles I have moved into. Whilst working at the Royal British Legion, the conference provided the opportunity to network with other professionals in the Armed Forces Charities, and discuss setting up an Armed Forces Volunteer Leadership Network to facilitate collaborative working, as well as share resources and good practice materials.

The variety of keynote speakers and workshops provided the opportunity to develop new exciting ideas for the year ahead. I attended the Volunteers and the Law workshop, delivered by Mark Restall, and Measuring Volunteer Impact, delivered by NCVO’s Joanna Stuart. Both sessions were extremely useful for the projects I worked on at the Legion, but it was always tricky to decide which two workshops to attend as they were all so relevant to my area of work. Luckily all of the presentations were shared with delegates online after the event so you can review the content from all of the sessions in your own time.

I’m really looking forward to attending the conference this year, in my new role as Volunteer Services Coordinator at Mencap. If you are looking to make connections with other volunteer managers, share learning and experience with a wide mixture of people from different organisations, and find out some of the latest research and approaches towards volunteering, I would highly recommend booking a place at this year’s conference!

If you want to experience the networking, learning and development opportunities for yourself book your tickets for AVM 2017 now.

Volunteer Management In The Next Decade

Karl Wilding continues our tenth anniversary blog series with thoughts on how Volunteer Management’s journey to date will shape the next ten years.

In the ten years since AVM was established, much has changed in the world around us that has impacted upon volunteering and therefore volunteer management. Some of this surprised us: a financial crisis, a decade of economic stagnation and social tensions, albeit punctuated by the highlight of volunteering during London 2012, and more recently the decision to leave the European Union. Some changes we saw coming: the demographic pressures and changing social attitudes of an ageing, more diverse and more atomised society. What we probably didn’t see was how quickly these changes would come about and the pressure they would place on our communities and the services we use. We probably also didn’t see how the opportunities that digital technology would deliver, or some of the social fractures it would deepen. Building bridges between communities of place and interest is more vital than ever, a tension that saw volunteer management hit (for the first time?) the front pages of our national newspapers recently.

We live in interesting times. It seems to me that these wider social, demographic and economic changes will continue to shape and reshape volunteering over the next decade, though only the most foolhardy venture to make predictions these days. What therefore might AVM members want to mull over as shaping the next 10 years?

For me, the slow burn of demographic change will reshape volunteering and how we think about how we work with those who want to engage in the communities (note the plural) around them. Public services are already being refashioned so as to involve service users more in their delivery. Boundaries between paid and unpaid staff will blur as we try and cope with pressures from a growing, but ageing, population. Note also the less flexible labour markets that many argue will result from the decision to leave the European Union.

Informal volunteering, such as acts of neighbourliness, especially seem important as reducing demand is seen as a way of helping public services better cope. The Royal Voluntary Service’s increased focus on social action might be indicative of the way forward here. Do we need to (re)think volunteer managers as convenors, catalysts, shapers of people who want to get involved in their communities? If so, is it a radical rethink or an evolution of change already afoot? Either way, it will be more important than ever that we build and strengthen the bonds of community. More people helping people.

But it’s about more than just individuals doing good things: bringing people together so that they are more than the sum of their parts, working out how best to involve businesses who feel a responsibility to the community, and working out how to work alongside our public services are all part of the emerging landscape. We’ve learnt over the last decade that volunteers don’t always just appear spontaneously; or even when they do, good organisation and infrastructure enables volunteers to make a bigger impact.

Effective, impactful volunteering needs good infrastructure and networks. As government and business become more interested in social action, the case for investment in volunteer management might become more apparent, based on experience. In turn this will inevitably lead to more thinking about value for money, greater calls for management information, and more data collection. That has to be a good thing, but for some it might be the less attractive side of continued professionalization. If that leads to less of the ‘let’s sprinkle some volunteers on the problem’ type thinking, then a more data-driven approach is OK by me.

The topic of data leads to a discussion of digital (aka #techforgood) and how that might shape the future of volunteering. This is the most difficult to call: AVM’s ten year anniversary coincides with the device that pretty much kicked off the smartphone revolution, the iPhone. Could anyone seriously have predicted the impact that would have on pretty much every aspect of life? Current trends might suggest an ever-more efficient brokering of people who want to get involved with opportunities that fit (based on the data that your phone now collects about you); more emphasis on place and opportunities based on where someone happens to be; and more mopping up of small bits of spare time as the smartphone facilitates activities such as mentoring, remotely. Finally, tech blogs are currently awash with discussions of AI and machine learning. I can’t even begin to understand how these will shape volunteer management – they will – but in terms of volunteering itself, volunteers are already helping machines to learn how to recognise patterns that have a social outcome, such as this project around slavery. A brave new world indeed.

Volunteer management will not stay static in the next decade. Nor should it. I look forward to AVM leading the discussion around what the brave new world of volunteer management could, and might, look like.

 

Karl Wilding speaks and writes widely on issues facing the voluntary sector. Karl is Director of Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO, a trustee of both Creating the Future and St Albans CVS, and an advisor to Charity Bank.

Raising Resources to Meet Our Full Potential

Ruth Leonard, AVM Director and Head of Volunteering Development at Macmillan Cancer Support, discussed raising resources in the widest sense not just funds in the CASS business school Centre for Charitable Excellence quarterly newsletter.

Oh brave new world that has such people in it

Recent devastating events such as the fire at Grenfell Tower and the attacks in London and Manchester have shown what we in volunteer management know to be true – that volunteering and community engagement is and remains universally strong. People, without being asked to step in, came forward to give their time and share their skills, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support. In order to support these initiatives and enable people to contribute effectively it is vital to think about how to develop and provide the relevant set up.

As evidenced by the reaction to the Grenfell Tower fire, volunteers, as members of a local community, can help address needs which statutory services or organisations on their own cannot reach. If we are going to efficiently address some of the ways the Voluntary and Community Sectors can continue to add this value, I would argue that we need to think more widely and creatively about how we raise resources in the broadest sense, rather than merely funds – such as the assets which people themselves can bring.

Volunteer management is the golden thread that enables people giving their time to be engaged, supported and motivated and ensuring that volunteer management is recognised as a skill and a valued profession – as fundraising is – is essential to the continued flourishing of volunteers and indeed volunteering. Empowering everyone who works with volunteers to feel confident in their abilities and knowledgeable about how to work with an individual’s and community’s existing assets is essential – and this includes ensuring we are having the conversation across the sector about the strategic importance of involving volunteers as well as generating income.

You can read the full article, which appeared in the Cass quarterly newsletter, here.

Winning in Volunteer Management: Working together, what can we achieve?

21 September, at The Crypt, Christ Church, Spitalfields

This event is looking at how we can work more closely together. Click here for more information or to book a place.

Prior to the 2012 London Olympics, the government asked sporting organisations what they knew about volunteering, and they asked volunteering organisations what they knew about sport. Both answers were the same: “Virtually nothing!”

Yet sports volunteering accounts for 22% of the UK total – more than any other sector. (This information came out at our last event on 27 July)

Many charities organise sports-style fundraising events, such as walks or runs or cycle rides, but is there cooperation with sports organisations in the preparation or administration of these events?

Surely the time is ripe for sports and non-sports volunteer managers to get together and start to work together: to share experiences and challenges and successes.

This event will hear from presenters with experience of both sports and other non-profit and charity organisations, from research professors working in collaboration with sports organisations across the world and from the London 2012 Legacy charity: Join In. There will also be the usual networking opportunities and the chance to voice your own opinions.

Speakers will include: Jenny Betteridge, Sport England; Chantel Scherer, Join In; Dr. Fiona Reid, SRVN / Glasgow University; Dr. Lindsay Findlay-King, SRVN / Northumbria University; Alex Beaumont, LTA -British Tennis; Kerry Marland, England Athletics.

Click here for more information or to book a place.                                                            

House of Lords Seeks Views on Active Citizenship

Volunteer managers are encouraged to take a look at the House of Lords’ latest call for evidence on Citizenship and Civic Engagement.

The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement has published the call hoping that a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations will submit evidence that helps them understand the nature of the citizenship challenge for different parts of society.

The part that will be of particular interest to the volunteer management community is section six, which asks:

Do voluntary citizenship programmes such as the National Citizen Service do a good job of creating active citizens? Are they the right length? Should they be compulsory, and if so, when? Should they include a greater political element? Should they lead to a more public citizenship ceremony? Are they good value for money? What other routes exist for creating active citizens?

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Chairman of the Committee said: “This Committee has been established to investigate citizenship in the UK, what it means and whether it should change. We also want to find out if there are barriers preventing people from being more involved, both locally and nationally. We hope to hear from people all over the country who have an interest in this topic, who work with communities who are disengaged as well as from people who are disengaged themselves.”

Interested parties have until 8 September 2017 to respond, and can find full details on the House of Lords website.

AVM Updates Its Constitution

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 27 July 2017 the Association of Volunteer Managers updated it’s Articles of Association.

The meeting, chaired by the Association’s vice-chair A.S. Maini, was held at Christ Church in Spitalfields and attracted 33 members in total, who voted through the changes unanimously.

You can find the articles in the new, updated constitution on the AVM about us page.

Every Journey Had A Beginning

Continuing our series of blogs celebrating AVM’s tenth anniversary, Rob Jackson reflects on his memories of the time leading up to the creation of AVM.

Joe Saxton recently shared his thoughts about what the next ten years might hold in store for AVM so I thought it might be nice to travel back in time to the birth of the Association.

AVM had its genesis in regular networking meetings John Ramsey and I used to organise (as volunteers) for volunteer managers. After the demise of the National Volunteer Managers Forum the only networking opportunity that remained was a closed group, which neither John nor I were a part of. We didn’t begrudge the group existing but did think that something should be available to any Volunteer Manager that wanted to take part.

The group met at various locations across London and, on one occasion, close to Old Street roundabout, the group hosted a visit from Australian colleague Andy Fryar. Andy had agreed to come and share his wisdom with us whilst visiting the UK on business. During the resulting discussion Andy challenged us to follow the lead of our Australian colleagues who were busy founding AAMoV, AVM’s cousin ‘down under’.

That meeting and that discussion gave birth to the idea that became AVM. To this day Andy rightly considers himself the midwife that helped deliver AVM.

Not long after that I started a new job at Volunteering England. My employer deemed it a conflict of interest for me to take up my new role and be involved in AVM and so I stepped back, leaving John to carry the baby to term, so to speak.

I take absolutely no credit at all for creating AVM. I was just one voice in a room that helped initiate the idea. John Ramsey deserves all the plaudits for making the idea a reality, along with all those early board members. It is thanks to their hard work, their risk taking (something Volunteer Managers aren’t always naturals at) and their commitment to our field that, ten years later, we have the Association of Volunteer Managers.

AVM isn’t perfect but, do you know what? Neither are volunteers and volunteering. We are much better off now with AVM in existence than we were twenty-three-years-ago when I started in this profession.

AVM is the sum of all of us. It succeeds when we all get involved, when we all commit to our field, when we all take action, when, as the theme for this year’s International Volunteer Manager Day states, we all take steps to ‘Be The Voice’ for volunteer leadership and management.

I can’t leave this article there, though. The last word should go my my friend John Ramsey. John’s death in 2014 left AVM and the profession of Volunteer Management weaker. Thankfully we have some of his wisdom preserved in his writing, so I end on one of my friend’s quotes, something we should all remember every day:

I will never tire of saying this: Volunteer management is about respecting our volunteers sufficiently that we properly invest in them to maximise their engagement and participation, and ensure the very best outcomes for our beneficiaries.