National Survey of Volunteer Management Capacity

The Institute for Volunteering Research has published the first piece of major research into volunteer management capacity 'Management matters – a national survey of volunteer management capacity'

It makes for some fascinating reading. Some of the issues that stood out for me:Organisational recognition of the need to manage volunteers:

  • 12% organisations had no one responsible for managing volunteers.
  • 31% organisations did not have funding for supporting volunteers.

Organisational recognition of the role of Volunteer Managers:

  • Just 6% of Volunteer Managers are paid, full-time Volunteer Managers.
  • Just 24% of Volunteer Managers were called volunteer manager/co-ordinator.
  • Of those with a job description 22% have volunteer management tagged on without it being in the JD.
  • Most Volunteer Managers are paid below the national average.
  • 83% Volunteer Managers say they receive sufficient support from their organisations.


The average number of volunteers managed by a Volunteer Manager was 15.


Over the last 5 years (and particularly in the last 18 months or so) we've definitely seen an improvement in the recognition of the role that volunteer managers play and the skills required to perform that role, not least in the Office of the Third Sector's announcement of funding for training volunteer managers.


However, the research suggests we are starting from a scandalously low base. For starters, to have one in ten organisations who involve volunteers not to have someone responsible for managing them is a disgrace and disrespectful to the volunteers involved.


Not surprisingly just under a quarter have volunteer management 'tagged' onto their role without it being recognised in their job description, and only another quarter are actually called 'volunteer manager/co-ordinator'. I think this is symptomatic of a large part of the volunteering sector not truly understanding what volunteer managers do. I know from my own experience that volunteer management does not yet have a recognised 'home' within the organisational structure.


A couple of months ago, I ran a session with some volunteer managers to look at the skills they needed to do their job. Unsurprisingly, they came up with a long diverse list, and yet according to the research most volunteer managers are paid less than the national average salary, which doesn't reflect the competencies needed to be a good volunteer manager


Of course, some of the findings may challenge your own beliefs. For example I've spoken to many volunteer managers who say that actually they don't feel supported by their own organisation, whether it's not having access to training, not being given the opportunity to meet with peers, or having line-managers who don't actually understand what they do. And yet, apparently, the vast majority do feel supported.


So what does this mean for volunteer managers and for AVM? I think it shows there is a long road ahead of us to have volunteer management properly valued and recognised. We've come a long way in recognising the value of volunteering and volunteers but we now need to make that next cultural step-change that says effective volunteering is reliant on effective volunteer management, and that is a job for all of us. No-one is going to do it for us.


What do you think?



3 thoughts on “National Survey of Volunteer Management Capacity

  1. Hi JohnI agree that it is surprising that so high a proportion of volunteer managers feel well supported by their organisations.  I suspect that many have low expectations based on their past experience of their difficulties in accessing training, funding and practical support.RegardsSteve   Steve GeeVolunteer Development ManagerCancer Research UK

  2. What the first in-depth study of volunteer managers and management(Third Sector, 23 April) really does highlight is the shameful level offunding being invested in how we manage volunteers. Many of thiscountry's services and charities would collapse without volunteers and yet just half of organisations who involve volunteers fund volunteer management through the core budget and a quarter did not provide any funding at allThis shows how much we still take for granted the millions ofvolunteers who freely give their time, skills and knowledge each yearand is a wake-up call to policymakers, funders and organisations whodon't value volunteer management, that we must invest in the quality,if we want to achieve the quantity.

  3. There are lots of things I think of when I read these results. One is that there is such a wide range of what seems acceptable or not in terms of managing volunteers and waht you get paid for even withoin one organisation, let alone across the whole sector. In one job I was paid £5000 less then a collegue who manage around 15 volunteers in a full time job covering 2 projects. I managed close to 100 volunteers youth volunteers in a fuull time job covering 3 projects plus doing one-off art and drama projects with the hard to reach every year. When I asked for a pay rise And used this colleague as an example, I was told we have different funders (she had a pension and I didn't due to the funding structure too) and that her volunteer roles were more complex. Once I educated my line manager on the complexities involved in 16 and 17 year olds volunteering, I was told that if I wanted more money then to fundraise for it! Not very motivating… but I am sure that this is a familiar story.So John, I agree, we have a hard steep path to travel and we can only do this together.

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