Open Letter to Phil Hope MP, Minister for the Third Sector

Dear Mr Hope,

I raised a question at the recent Westminster Briefing concerning the funding of training for volunteer managers.  Comparing the £4m intended to cover training for both volunteers and volunteer managers (VMs) with the amount allocated to v; I asked whether the funding for training was adequate especially as politicians and society have such high expectations of the voluntary sector.

Your answer, quite rightly stated that £4m is a considerable sum although everyone would like it to be more.  You went on to say that Train to Gain is a demand led funding stream that could yield hundreds of millions in funded training to the sector.

Cancer Research UK, the charity I work for, already accesses some T2G funding and some European funding for the provision of retail related NVQs for shop volunteers and shop managers.  I am unaware of any provision for training in volunteer management even at a basic level.  The main obstacle to accessing T2G funding for volunteer management training is that a very high proportion of volunteer managers have more than level 2 qualifications indeed degree standard is the normal level of academic education for people who manage volunteers or volunteer programs.  Most roles in volunteering seem to ask for applicants to be "educated to degree standard".  The fact that many VMs will have been educated beyond level 2 does not mean that they automatically have the skills required to manage volunteers.

Volunteer management is an underappreciated and under recognised profession struggling to establish itself as a group with a separate and unique skill set.  If we are to make inroads into the objectives being set for volunteers to achieve, the people who recruit, motivate and manage them will need to develop their skills and work towards a relevant and accredited level of achievement.  As a very large proportion of us work for charities, NfPs, etc. we do not have access to adequate funding for professional development from our organisations.

Volunteer managers work with people of all ages and ethnicities, disabled people, ex offenders, unemployed and homeless people, all of whom are supported by government but the funding of development and training for volunteer mangers who work with these groups, as well as all other sections of society, does not seem to be available from any source.

Best regards,

Steve Gee

Director – Association of Volunteer Managers
Volunteer Development Manager – Cancer Research UK

3 thoughts on “Open Letter to Phil Hope MP, Minister for the Third Sector

  1. Steve.

    A cracking letter, well done.

    If you want me to publish this on UKVPMs then I am happy to do so. Also, if you’d like this circulated within VE and/or to our membership (in line with the new AVM/VE memorandum of understanding) then I’m happy to arrange that as well.


    Rob Jackson
    Founder and moderator

  2. I agree, it is a very good letter with some very good points. Another issue arising, however, is just why “educated to degree level” should be an essential criteria for volunteer management posts. I have 15 years experience of working in the voluntary sector, and am very proud of my achievements in that time. But I don’t have a degree as I never went to university (my choice). I would have less of a problem with this if the requirement was for a “relevant degree or equivalent qualifications”, although having seen some of the content of one such qualification I remain unconvinced of their value (not that I think they have no value, but maybe not as much value as some seem to believe). One fairly insidious conclusion which could be drawn from this is that it is simply a means of keeping the middle-upper echelons of the voluntary sector middle class. I would think, and hope, this wasn’t the case. But I cannot think of any other valid explanation.

    As Steve says in his letter, “The fact that many VMs will have been educated beyond level 2 does not mean that they automatically have the skills required to manage volunteers”. Equally, the fact that many are not educated beyond level 2 does not mean that they do not have the skills required to manage volunteers.

  3. In the main I tend to agree with Peter on this one, but would add that unfortunately if we are to be seen by non VM’s as being equal to those who manage paid staff, then we need to mirror the qualification expectations of paid staff managers; even though in reality we (VM’s) know that often we often manage people far more effectively than our paid staff counterparts, and with far less resources, access to training etc.

    There is often a great deal of snobbery and elitism from those who manage paid staff, but to those “managers” I would ask this question.

    How long would YOU retain your staff if you took their pay packet away tomorrow?

    Like Peter I have do not have degree, unlike Peter this was not my choice, but down to circumstances at the time; ironically perhaps, because I didn’t do a degree, what I feel I have got is a wealth of first hand field experience and positive feedback, from real volunteers not text book examples.

    And finally: One quality that many VM’s possess which “others” often don’t and you can’t get a degree in as far as I am aware, is common sense!

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