Dear Mr Hope,
Congratulations on your appointment as Minsiter for the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office. One of the successes over the last ten years has been how the role of volunteers and their value to society has become better understood and supported, a crucial development bearing in mind the increasing role volunteers are playing in the delivery of public services and the 2012 Olympics, for example.
However, our major concern is that the crucial link between volunteers, and successful and sustainable volunteering “the volunteer manager“ is still misunderstood and consequently unsupported.
The need for improving the involvement of volunteers was recognised back in 1997 when 71% of volunteers said in the National Survey of Volunteers that ‘things could be much better organised’. However, the welcomed growth in resources for the volunteering sector has been focused on increasing volunteer numbers rather than improving local capacity to better involve and manage both existing and new volunteers.
The role of the volunteer manager is the crucial element in the volunteering relationship and yet its pivotal nature is rarely recognised by funders and many organisations. This is particularly problematic as the regulatory burdens placed on volunteers are growing. For example, in the Health and Social Care sector it is commonly agreed that a manager should have responsibility for supervision of no more than 20 people (and less if there are other elements to their role). However, although research has found that the management of volunteers is more complex, it is not unusual for a volunteer manager to have responsibility for ALL aspects of management including supervision of many more than 20 people, and this is assuming there is a volunteer manager which is not always the case.
Recognising this and other problems, we recently set up the Association of Volunteer Managers. Working with existing volunteering development agencies, our aim is to support, represent and champion people who manage volunteers in England, and Ed Miliband kindly sent a message of support to our launch.
As volunteer managers we know the valuable role volunteers play in developing communities and combating social exclusion and this would be greatly improved if volunteer managers were properly recognised and supported. To this end we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we could work with you to enable the development of local volunteer management capacity.
Association of Volunteer Managers