2016 AVM Conference – Only 10 places left!

The 2016 AVM Conference is almost fully booked and we don’t want you to miss out on this great learning and networking opportunity with over 200 of your peers.

If you’ve not already booked your place now’s the time to do so as we only have 10 places left.  You can book your place here.

If you are still not sure if this is the event for you then below are just a few of the comments we received from delegates at last years conference.

‘AVM Conference is by far the highlight of my year, in terms of conferences/training/network events. It’s a refreshing change to go to something where everything feels 100% relevant and speaking to people in the same profession.

It’s so well organised and by far the best conference I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot!). I’ve been to the past 3 conferences and it’s great to see it getting bigger and better than ever!’

‘It has something for all the different levels of volunteer managers, for those starting out to those who are strategic leads, or aspiring to be.’

‘First AVM Conference as a new member! It was an extremely useful and, most importantly, relevant meeting. There is only one of me in my organisation and getting the chance to hear sector updates plus all the opportunities to network were really valuable. It’s great to see our profession championed in this way.’

‘There is no other conference that concentrates fully on volunteer management and the issues that relate to my work.’

Surely now you can’t afford to miss this event?  200 of your peers are already going!  See you there.

AVM Conference Team  – Abi, Anne-Marie, Wendy, Alex, Karen and Alan

AVM Learning & Development Day: Volunteer reward and recognition

Book your space Here.

Venue: Better Bankside | Bankside Community Centre | 18 Great Guildford Street | London | SE1 0FD

Date: Friday 30th September 2016

Timings: Registration will open at 10:00 with presentations beginning at 10:30. The day will close at 16:30.

Agenda:

For many volunteering is its own reward but as Volunteer Managers we all know the importance of rewarding and recognising volunteers for giving their time, energy and creativity to our organisations. This can be deceptively difficult to do effectively, from limited resources to legal pitfalls there are many obvious and not so obvious challenges to overcome when considering your own reward and recognition programme.

Join us for our latest learning & development day where we explore reward and recognition good practice, challenges and triumphs with talks including:

Macmillan’s Journey of rewarding and recognising volunteers
Johnny Keating – Volunteering Journey Programme Manager – Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan have reviewed and repurposed a lot of their reward and recognition mechanisms, and have introduced some new initiatives to ensure volunteers feel valued. As we all know, every person is different, and would like to feel valued in different ways, therefore offering a suite of reward and recognition tools has ensured every volunteer has a great experience with Macmillan.

Maintaining Engagement Beyond Event Day
Jennifer Fash – Volunteer Manager – London Marathon Events

Drawing on her previous experience and work at other organisations Jennifer Fash will be sharing her plans for creating a comprehensive reward and recognition programme at London Marathon Events, where their most well-known event the London Marathon attracts in the region of 6000 volunteers the biggest challenge is maintaining engagement beyond event day. Jennifer will share with us how she hopes her model will help change this.

We will also hear from Geraldine McCarthy at Age UK Camden and her experience of making volunteers feel valued by creating meaningful rewards within a smaller organisation.

Please note: Light refreshments will be provided throughout the day but lunch will not be, instead delegates are encouraged to bring their own or to purchase it from food vendors close to the venue.

Book your space Here

Not a member? Why not join AVM and save on the cost of your ticket?  YOU CAN JOIN HERE

Simply complete the paperwork and send us a cheque and then pop back here and book on as a member – what could be easier? No need to wait for confirmation of membership.

AVM Network Day – how to engage young people through social action – 12th Sept

Important update: Unfortunately we have had to postpone this event until later in the year. We will circulate details when we have a new date available. Many apologies to those who expressed an interest, and we hope to welcome you to this learning opportunity soon.

For our latest networking day we have teamed up with the #iwill campaign to take a closer look at what makes younger volunteers tick and how we can better engage, retain and manage them.

Drawing on industry research we’ll explore what motivates young people to volunteer and hear first hand from current #will ambassadors how they want to spend their time doing so.

We’ll also hear from fellow Volunteer Managers at organisations at the forefront of engaging young volunteers and the practical steps they have taken not only to target their approach towards younger people but to identify and remove barriers for youth involvement.

Please Note: Lunch will not be provided on the day. Delegates are encouraged to bring their own or purchase lunch from the onsite cafe or from local food vendors. Please be aware however that this is a Buddhist Temple so meat, fish and alcohol are not permitted.

Why the need for a “volunteering framework”?

After attending AVM’s Networking Event: Embedding a Volunteer Culture within an Organisation Sabine Pitcher reflects on her own personal experience of doing just that at City Lit. Where a volunteer framework will support the strategic direction of the college by directly linking in with some of its key objectives, including bringing people together, enriching lives, and increasing community impact.

A volunteer culture and a volunteer framework go hand in hand.

A volunteer framework puts in writing the mutual commitment, so volunteers know what is expected of them and how they will find the appropriate support, ensuring that the volunteering experience adds value both to the volunteers and the organisation.

I have been working at City Lit since 2008, where nearly 30,000 adults study with us each year, most on very short courses. We offer more than 5,000 courses in total and pride ourselves on being able to cater for a whole range of sometimes quite complex access needs. Formerly Head of Student Services, I have been looking into how we can set up a volunteering framework across the college.

We have a long tradition of involving volunteers in a handful of small areas – e.g. giving ESOL students extra support with their reading or helping out at community events. Across the college, these initiatives are often not well-known and there is little imagination for what else volunteers could be involved with. I’ve always thought that’s a shame – and a missed opportunity.

City Lit is so varied and diverse that there is a lot we can offer potential volunteers. And they could help us broaden the scope of services and initiatives we provide to our students. So I have started to talk to colleagues across the organisation about their ideas and needs, and what we would need to have in place in terms of a support structure.

It turned out to be a bit of an uphill struggle.

While the initial conversations were positive – it helped that I knew colleagues from my previous role – as usual, the devil proved to be in the detail. In an organisation like ours volunteering isn’t top of anybody’s agenda and just getting everybody I’d spoken to individually to a joint meeting was a hurdle. With no immediate need, the success of the project will depend on persistence and perseverance and finding ways to illustrate to colleagues that, yes, initially they will have to put in a bit of work, but they will get something in return. This approach works if this “something” is important enough to them and isn’t overtaken by other priorities or changes.

On the plus side, I have now done nearly all the leg work. I have done my research and spoken to people in other organisations about their volunteering experiences and structures. I have drafted a framework, discussed it with colleagues, produced templates for role descriptions and done all the other “back-office” preparation. Some colleagues might have experienced this as an impingement on the way they have handled volunteering in the past – they feel that it takes their autonomy away and doesn’t do justice to their volunteers. Others, however, saw the benefits in integrating and sharing experience and expertise. In an ideal world, they would all have been involved in all the different stages, but time is usually precious. Getting them all into a room just once was a major achievement.

A framework will eventually add transparency and also ensures that knowledge and information is shared and not held by just one person with whom it could get lost. A framework doesn’t have to be a “one size fits all” – it can still allow for flexibility. This is something which we’ve explicitly agreed, for example with regards to the extent of detail in role descriptions.

My advice? Persist and persevere…

What is a volunteering framework?

It takes time to develop a framework and gain consent from all the various stakeholders in your organisation. But once it is in place, it will make your life a lot easier, and will provide a point of reference for your volunteers as well as for everybody in your organisation. Such a framework will clarify roles and responsibilities and set expectations by addressing the following elements:

  • Rationale – what does the organisation gain? What is the value volunteers contribute?
  • Benefits of volunteering – what experience will volunteers gain? How does it benefit their development?
  • Relationships – how do volunteering roles sit within or alongside paid roles? Is there transparency and appreciation?
  • Volunteering roles – what is expected of them? What is the scope of their contribution? And how are they being recruited?
  • Training and support – who provides the induction? Who can volunteers turn to if there are any problems? What training do they have access to?
  • Reward structure – how are you celebrating volunteers? Are you taking them out / can they benefit from free courses / are their achievements being made public internally?
  • Expenses – can you ensure that reasonable expenses are being paid in a timely manner? And what would those be in your specific context?
  • Management and coordination – who is in charge of the volunteering schemes? Who coordinates the volunteers and who makes decisions?
  • Communication – volunteers might not be “active” all the time; how are they being kept informed? Are they included in staff communication?
  • Volunteer involvement – do volunteers have an opportunity to contribute to the further development of the volunteering scheme?
  • Conflicts –is there a process to deal with conflict, e.g. volunteers not adhering to boundaries, or complaining about not having been accepted for a particular role? What is the protocol for volunteers to report about bullying or mistreatment (by colleagues or by your clients)?
  • Reporting – there should be a way to regularly update others in your organisation on the work of volunteers and gather feedback. (Don’t wait until you’re asked for this information.)

I would also strongly recommend that you include your unions in the debate – they can support the integration of volunteers into your staff team, and they will appreciate reassurance that no paid work is being replaced. They can also help to ensure that you have appropriately identified the benefits to the volunteers.

Don’t feel afraid to seek legal advice if ever you are in any doubt – your organisation will have a contact.

Last but not least… your volunteering framework needs a budget.

How to you get all that established?

This assumes that either you don’t yet have a volunteering scheme or there’s a need to make changes.

In many instances, the contributions volunteers make are vital for the organisation to deliver its services. There is no benefit in downplaying the gain to the organisation. On the contrary, you need to be able to prove what this gain is – your senior team might appreciate if you can express this in monetary terms. This can include funding you wouldn’t otherwise be able to attract; elements of your service for which there is no other funding available; service users you would potentially lose as a consequence; outcomes for your service users that would either improve through volunteers or deteriorate without them. And don’t forget to highlight how the work of your volunteers sits within your organisation’s strategy and goals. (If it doesn’t, this might be a debate worth initiating.)

In order to ensure that processes and procedures are adhered to, my recommendation will be to involve HR – e.g. in the initial stages of recruitment and delivering a central induction. As an organisation, we would want all our volunteers to be ambassadors of City Lit and to understand our culture and values. A dedicated volunteer manager would then work across the different departments. Depending on the scope, there might be several (part-time) volunteer managers, and different approaches might be pursued for different areas of volunteer engagement. However, I will suggest a central point of contact who stays in touch with volunteering organisations (networking is vital), disseminates information, updates documents, ensures that volunteers feel engaged etc. There’s only one thing worse than having no framework/documentation – and that’s to have outdated ones.

We are in the lucky situation to have a student counselling service. The lead counsellor will provide an additional point of call for volunteers, in addition to colleagues and managers in the various departments. This could take the form of moderated peer-support or individual mentoring where this is suitable and appropriate.

Our strategy and processes are still only in draft form, but feedback from colleagues has, so far, been positive. The challenge is to get colleagues to commit to the next steps. These include drafting role descriptions, agreeing on responsibilities and suggesting recruitment periods and are all things that can’t be decided centrally. Once the framework is completed, I foresee a section on our website “Volunteering at City Lit”. (At present, there are three separate sections and they aren’t easy to find.)

I would like to thank the AVM and the wider network for their support and inspiration. I will take my personal experience into my new job and will certainly continue to promote their work

Sabine will now be leaving City Lit and will hand over her responsibilities to the student experience team. But for anybody who has questions or would just like to stay in touch, they have a dedicated email address – volunteering@citylit.ac.uk – which everybody in the team can access. Sabine can also be found on LinkedIn.

AVM Network Day – Embedding a volunteer culture within an organisation

Our latest networking day on embedding a volunteer culture within an organisation was held in London on Friday 8th July and brought together 38 participants from organisations all over the UK. It was a great day for networking and sharing new ideas and best practice.

Rachel Tapp, from The London Borough of Havering Council discussed how getting
a clear volunteering strategy in place in the short term was essential in generating a pro volunteering culture within her organisation in the long-term. In Rachel’s presentation she gives clear practical steps that other organisations can follow to achieve this.

In contrast Kate Adams and Liz Cyro discussed how they used internal communications to shape their volunteer culture at Mencap. They decided to move away from a lengthy written strategy in favour of volunteering principles that focused on mutual benefit for both the organisation and their volunteers. Their key aim being to create “One Mencap” where volunteers and staff feel included in their mission and are all pulling in the same direction. Moreover they encourage all staff to be volunteer managers and to take responsibility for volunteers in their orbit; this approach has ensured that there is an understanding of volunteering woven throughout the organisation.

Finally Adrienne Thompson and Cassandra Kamara from Arthritis Care shared their journey towards becoming truly volunteer led. They started by carrying out extensive baseline scoping of their volunteering body to ascertain where the problems were and how they could fix them. Both Adrienne and Cassandra will agree this has been a lengthy process and whilst it’s not over yet by fostering a culture of continues reflection and learning already they have begun to see positive changes.

Many thanks to all our speakers, for those of you who attended and to Jewish Care who very kindly provided the meeting space. For those of you who couldn’t make it we hope you will join us at our next event but in the meantime follow the below links to access the presentations.

1 – Rachel Tapp – Havering Council – Building an Effective Volunteer Programme from the Ground Up.

2 – Kate Adams & Liz Cyro – Embedding a Volunteer Culture within Royal Mencap Society

3 – Adrienne Thompson & Cassandra Kamara – Arthritis Care – Creating a Culture of Volunteering

Bookings Now Open for AVM Conference 2016

welcome to avmThe conference team have been busy, the venue is booked, keynote speakers are in place and the Volunteer Management event of the year, and highlight of the AVM calendar, is ready to go.

Bookings for this year’s AVM annual conference are now open.  You can book your place here.

This year we are offering a small number of member tickets at last year’s conference price so book early to enjoy all of this year’s conference benefits at last year’s price – what could be better.

Key note speakers this year are:
• Karl Wilding, Director of Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO
• Julie Bentley, Chief Executive of Girlguiding
• Joe Saxton, Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy and its founder

Workshops this year include:
• Volunteers and the Law
• Future Trends and Issues in Volunteer Management
• Measuring Volunteer Impact
• Volunteering and Digital Media

It’s an exciting conference programme and we look forward to seeing you there.

Volunteer led organisations

In the final part of our “Embedding a Volunteer Culture” blog series, Lynn explores what it means for an organisation to be ‘volunteer led’. 

Is being ‘volunteer led’ essential to a pro volunteering culture? What do we mean by ‘volunteer led’?

Most charities are quite literally volunteer led, since responsibility lies with the Board of Trustees, which is usually unpaid.

But does it mean something more, such as being wholly volunteer run, or acknowledging the low staff/high volunteer ratio, or volunteers being involved in setting vision, strategy, policy and how volunteers are engaged – perhaps as representatives of the charity’s beneficiary group or customer base?

Given the importance of a ‘one team’ approach to a pro volunteering culture, how do staff feel about being part of an organisation that is ‘volunteer’ led? Moreover, how do volunteers feel about that? In the same way that it might not be useful to talk about volunteer ‘programmes’, it marks out volunteers as being different/separate. Lots of grass root community activity is volunteer led and can be a good thing, but in an organisation that employs both paid and unpaid staff, should we be talking about it being volunteer led?

Several volunteers I have worked with have expressed anxiety at the prominence of volunteers in their organisations, concerned that staff will feel disempowered. This is sometimes married with feelings that volunteers shouldn’t have a say about strategic issues – that being outside of their proper domain and, very often, their interest. And staff can feel left out when there is a focus on volunteering development – ‘what about us?’.

I’ve worked in organisations where induction, reward and recognition is better for volunteers than it is for staff. Volunteers can also be treated differently to staff, manifested in double standards – inappropriate volunteer behaviour is not dealt with for fear of upsetting a much needed team – risking the credibility of staff. We do need to make volunteers feel valued – Volunteers’ Week is a great initiative as is giving thanks/feedback regularly – but if volunteers genuinely get value from their involvement and are thanked for that, is there also a need to mark them out as particularly special (more special than staff) because they give their time for free?

Still, given that most charities have more unpaid than paid staff, it of course makes sense that volunteers have a strong voice, or at least the opportunity should be there for those who want it. Having Trustees who understand and champion volunteering is also vital – don’t assume that Trustees, as volunteers themselves, will understand volunteering. In terms of voice, there is often a gap between that senior body of volunteers and those in other roles – very often few opportunities to drive/contribute strategically, or playing key roles.

Senior managers and other staff often pay lip service to volunteering, not understanding it and its power. This ignorance can lead to suspicion of volunteer motivations (often related to job security), and misconceptions around a lack of professionalism and reliability can lead to a lack of trust and reluctance to relinquish control.

Volunteering has never had such a high profile, but some organisations still state that volunteers can’t do the same jobs as paid workers, though in practise this is rarely the case. It is difficult to see how  gardeners, researchers and retail volunteers aren’t doing the same job as their paid counterparts.

Perhaps it’s something to do with paid staff taking overall responsibility for the organisation and quality of the work, but this attitude, coupled with a lack of understanding of why people volunteer, also leads to missed opportunities to ask volunteers to do things that some consider inappropriate in other ways. As Canal & River Trust colleagues will testify, whilst engineers and surveyors are keen to share their skills and time, some of us actually do just want to pick up litter or scrub graffiti off bridges.

People will still volunteer, even if the volunteering culture isn’t great, because they are passionate and committed. But in these changing times of increased competition for people’s free time that probably won’t last for long.

This guest blog is by Lynn Blackadder, a coach and consultant with 22 years’ experience of helping organisations involve volunteers. Lynn blogs in a personal capacity.
lynn@lynnblackadder.com , @lynnblackadder )

 

Investing in volunteering

In contrast to Lynn Blackadder’s last post in our “Embedding a Volunteer Culture” blog series, today she discusses how to best involve and create a framework for volunteers when an organisation (and its culture) is already up and running. 

If you can’t start from scratch and build volunteering in with the bricks, you need to invest time and money to affect culture change.

An organisation that has been thinking differently about volunteering for some time is the National Trust – an organisation set up by volunteers, governed by an elected, unpaid Council and Board of Trustees.

The Trust has a clear volunteering vision that aims to involve volunteers from all walks of life in all roles and at every level – shaping the Trust’s work, not just delivering it. Trust staff and volunteers are working hard to encourage their places to take a ‘one team’ approach, avoiding a culture of ‘us and them’. Two properties I have worked with – Polesden Lacey and Nymans – have achieved this by:

  • Recruiting volunteers to supervisory/coordination roles
  • Staff and volunteers designing and delivering together core induction and other training sessions. New staff and volunteers are inducted together, setting expectations and embodying the culture from the outset
  • Creating a forum or sounding board – representatives from all teams working together to take stock, give feedback and influence what happens
  • Celebrating success and rewarding achievement together
  • Creating policies that apply to all – everyone signs up to the Trust’s values and behaviours and are treated equally.

The Trust invests heavily in volunteering development to ensure that people running its places feel confident and capable of providing an excellent experience. Fully embedding a devolved volunteer management structure has been key to that. With such high numbers of volunteers at many Trust places, responsibility for the volunteering experience has become part of many roles as opposed to one.

This is essential to sustaining a pro-volunteering culture, as is raising awareness through induction and training of why people volunteer and how to get the best out of working relationships – whether or not people are directly supervising volunteers.

In any organisation I might run, I would never put someone in charge of people – paid or unpaid – without people management experience. Yet so many organisations do, and this is often a major factor affecting the volunteer experience and culture. Inexperienced people managers are expected to get results from a very diverse range of people, some of whom have, quite rightly, very high expectations of management – generally, but often based on substantial previous professional experience.

Creating one set of communications for all is also key: newsletters, daily briefings and consultations that everyone receives regardless of role. And people feel valued when we demonstrate that we listen to them: a strong team will accept (indeed seek out) open and honest conversation and feedback. Explanations as to why ideas and suggestions are/are not taken up is also vital.

This guest blog is by Lynn Blackadder, a coach and consultant with 22 years’ experience of helping organisations involve volunteers.
lynn@lynnblackadder.com , @lynnblackadder )

On 8 July, we will be hearing from Kate Adams, Head of Volunteering, and Liz Cyro, Head of Internal Communications, at Royal Mencap Society. They will be talking about Mencap’s volunteer culture, their agreed principles of volunteering, and how internal communications have been an essential partner in developing their people messaging.

To book your space on AVM’s “Embedding Volunteer Culture within an Organisation” Networking Day click here.

Thoughts from AVM’s new chair

As newly elected chair of AVM, Debbie Usiskin lays out her thoughts on the way forward.

Some of you may already be aware that I was elected Chair of AVM earlier this year. I was one of the founding Directors, gathering together volunteer managers from all sectors to talk about what we would want from a professional association, forming the first board and then launching the organisation..

I have been the Vice Chair since we inaugurated working closely with each of my predecessors to lead us to where we are today. I am pleased to be taking the Chair-ship at this exciting time. Membership is growing to such an extent that we have engaged professional assistance to administer to members. Our events are growing in popularity to such an extent that we have engaged a professional event co-ordinator to put on more and better events – in all parts of the country.

And, at the same time we are in discussion with an increasing range of training providers in relation to skills development for volunteer managers, and in dialogue with academic institutions who are researching many issues around volunteer engagement.

There are opportunities for you as a member to get involved with all of these things – host a networking event, present a piece of work that you have done to your peers, take part in research or represent us at meetings with training providers, for example.

This is OUR association and will grow in the direction that WE take it so please let us know what you are thinking and what you can do to help.

Looking forward to seeing you at a network day or conference soon.

 

Maintaining a volunteering vision

In the second instalment of our “Embedding a Volunteer Culture” blog series, Lynn shares the benefits of ensuring volunteer involvement from the outset as well as maintaining a clear vision of their place within an organisation.

The volunteer program springs from the Museum’s strong belief in the importance of social inclusion. Museums in the twenty first century need to actively involve people from every level of their community …. Imperial War Museum North is wholly committed to lifelong learning … the program is a vital element of our accessible learning strategy that appeals to local – as well as national – audiences and encourages community involvement.
Jim Forrester, Director, IWM North

When IWM North opened its doors to the public in 2002 they were welcomed by a team of people, a great number of whom lived locally in the then regeneration area of Trafford. Many of those were volunteers who were, as I said at the time, ‘in with the bricks’: we recruited and started to involve around 250 volunteers whilst the museum was being built, and as the above quote shows, volunteering was at the heart of the museum’s strategy.

As a multi-site charity already engaging volunteers, with a volunteer board and strong volunteer belief and leadership at Executive level, the new museum was well placed to take volunteering to new heights – both in terms of reaching non-traditional volunteers and embedding volunteering in the new organisation.

With all of these ducks in a row, the cultural expectations of staff and volunteers – existing and those being recruited – were set well in advance, and this pro-volunteering culture permeated every aspect of the museum’s operations.

Of course, people move on, and sometimes new colleagues are less aware of volunteering’s role and power. They won’t necessarily relate to or understand the culture. This is why it’s crucial that everyone coming into an organisation is made aware of that culture from the first exposure: through job adverts, taster sessions, interviews, induction and training – right through to exit interviews.

Staff and volunteers should always be inducted and trained together whenever possible. Mess facilities should be shared, and reward and recognition should apply to everyone.

This guest blog is by Lynn Blackadder, a coach and consultant with 22 years’ experience of helping organisations involve volunteers.
lynn@lynnblackadder.com , @lynnblackadder )

On 8 July, we will be hearing from Rachel Tapp, Volunteer Coordinator for the London Borough of Havering Council, about building a volunteer program from scratch and exploring the journey towards an effective, working volunteer strategy woven throughout the aims and objectives of the wider organisation. To book your space on AVM’s “Embedding Volunteer Culture within an Organisation” Networking Day click here.