Response to article on volunteering in The Observer

Open letter to the editor of The Observer:

Martin Newland and his respondents highlight that there are sometimes obstacles in place preventing a smooth transition into volunteering.

The Association of Volunteer Managers is campaigning to highlight the difficulties that those working with volunteers face in recruiting and placing volunteers.

It is not unusual for an organisation with over 200 volunteers to have one volunteer manager (perhaps part time, perhaps a volunteer themselves, perhaps with no arrangement in place for continuity in their absence) with sole responsibility for recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in their roles. It is not unusual for an organisation to have a volunteer manager who takes the lead responsibility for involving volunteers as part of an already very full workload. It is not unusual for a volunteer manager to be paid significantly less than their colleagues within their organisations. It is not unusual for volunteer managers to be in posts that have project rather than core funding.

Volunteer Managers have to find the balance between ensuring that volunteers feel welcomed into their organisations, that volunteers are taken seriously by their colleagues, and that volunteers do not put the organisation at risk.

Volunteering is and should continue to be easily accessible to all – with free training (we do hope that Mrs Newlands has had her £200 reimbursed), the ongoing support necessary to ensure good performance, and that the experience is beneficial to the volunteer as well as to the organisation.

While there is no excuse for poor practice, creating and maintaining that balance is no simple task. Volunteer managers need continuing support – stability in their roles, ongoing specialist training as well as clear rather than conflicting guidelines on the best way to involve volunteers in their organisations work.

More can be found out about the work of AVM at


John Ramsey (Chair)
Kate Bowgett, Sean Cobley, Patrick Daniels, Steve Gee, Steven Howlett, Caroline Loden, Alan Murray, Nikki Squelch and Debbie Usiskin (Board of Directors)


This letter is a response to the article: "All my family wanted to do was help. So why make it so hard?" (Observer 17th June 2007)

The article received the following responses from readers.

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