AVM Chair’s speech – AGM, 23rd September 2008

Below is the AVM Chair’s speech from our first AGM. It’s also attached as a document.

Introduction

I would like to welcome everybody to the first Annual General Meeting of the Association of Volunteer Managers. Today is another landmark in our journey; from having the idea nearly three years ago, to last year’s launch, and now the successful completion of our first year.

For our first AGM we wanted to do something that reflected our philosophy about bringing volunteer managers together and giving them a voice. We are therefore delighted to have speaking today Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England, and John Knights, Volunteering Policy Adviser at the Office of the Third Sector.

Volunteering England and the Office of the Third Sector are two of the leading stakeholders in our work and have done much to support us in our first year.

We are also pleased to welcome Red Foundation who will be giving you the opportunity to feed into the work they are doing for Capacitybuilders.

I would like to start, though, with a number of thanks. Firstly to Scope who have supported our work in many ways but in particular by hosting both our launch and today’s AGM. Secondly to Red Foundation and the National Support Service Partnership for sponsoring today’s event. And finally to everyone involved in setting up and taking AVM forward; my fellow directors; our members; and everyone who has given us support and guidance over the last year.

Without all of them and all of you, AVM quite simply would not exist.

Looking Back

I believe the need for AVM is greater than ever before. As volunteering develops, as volunteer management develops, it is vital that volunteer managers are not just at the heart of that development but that they have a voice to articulate their thoughts and experiences.

The problem though has always been the fragmented nature of volunteer management; organisationally; culturally, hierarchically and economically. Which is where AVM comes in. To bring together volunteer managers and the field of volunteer management in a coherent and articulate manner.

To date 126 volunteer managers have joined AVM. A further 510 have signed up to the website. It’s not just about numbers, though, it’s also about where our members are from. They are from all parts of the country. They are from Local Authorities, universities, volunteer centres, small volunteer-led community organisations and from large national charities.

We are extremely grateful for the trust that members have shown in us and our commitment to all our members is that we will do our best to repay that.

So what have we achieved this year?

We’ve raised the profile of volunteer management. We’ve responded to the increasing number of Government department third sector consultations ensuring that they recognise the need to invest in and support volunteer management. We’ve also become increasingly pro-active in responding to media reports that impact on volunteering and volunteer management.

We’ve influenced and continue to influence the development of volunteer management. We sat on the review group for the Management of Volunteers National Occupational Standards. We sat on the steering group for the Institute of Volunteering Research’s ‘Management matters’ We advised the Office of the Third Sector on their guidance on CRB checks for volunteers. We led the campaign to clarify childcare expenses within the National Minimum Wage consultation. We currently sit on the Commission on the Future of Volunteering’s Action Group on Skills and Empowerment for Volunteer Managers.

We created the innovative Volunteer Managers’ wiki. The wiki sits between the UKVPMs message board and Volunteering England’s good practice bank to ensure the vibrant discussion, evolution and application of good practice in our field is captured and collated. It is the first of its kind in the world and thanks must go to Patrick Daniels, one of the AVM directors who is the inspiration behind it.

And finally, we’ve developed the most comprehensive collection of vacancies for volunteer managers.

Looking forward

We are very proud of what we’ve achieved but know there is so much more to do.

As we look ahead I believe we have five challenges facing us.

Firstly, we have to keep volunteer managers at the heart of the policy agenda.

Nationally we are slowly winning the argument that safe, effective and sustainable volunteering depends on properly resourced and supported volunteer management. We can see this from the Commission on the Future of Volunteering’s ‘Manifesto for Change’, Baroness Neuberger’s paper on volunteering in health and social care and the Office of the Third Sector’s commitment to training volunteer managers.

However, we are still only touching the surface. Volunteering organisations themselves have much to do to put their own houses in order. How many public services and charities would collapse without volunteers? And yet, in all honesty, how far up the list of priorities is volunteer management for many of them?

The 2012 Olympics will be the most high profile volunteering programme this country has seen and will directly and indirectly impact every one of us. If it is to be successful volunteer management has to be at the heart of it. I hope it will use and learn from the vast expertise we already have in England.

Secondly we need to better develop our understanding of volunteer management as a profession. I know some people say it is not a profession, that it is merely an extension of people management. I sympathise with that view but it doesn’t recognise the practicalities of the world we live in.

Aside from the distinct differences, to most, managing people means managing paid staff. Managing volunteers has always been tacked on to that, and that is precisely why volunteer management has not received the recognition it deserves.

But if we are a profession we need to understand what that means. The opportunities, and the impact. Would it help establish a career in volunteer management? Would it mean some form of accreditation, or even compulsory accreditation? These are some of the questions we need to tackle.

Thirdly we need to tackle the fragmentation of our field. We know that volunteer management encompasses a wide variety of roles, that organisationally it can and does sit within a number of different departments and teams. This fragmentation is another reason why volunteer management has traditionally lacked recognition and respect. It’s also difficult for a new volunteer manager to know where to go for help and support. We need to tidy up this support. Make it clear and obvious where they can go, whether it’s accessing local support networks, national support or online information.

Fourthly, we need to develop better services for members. We are a membership organisations, so quite rightly members want a bang for their buck.

With the rise of volunteer management on the policy agenda, we have worked had to ensure volunteer managers were not left out of the debate. This meant, though, not being able to put as much time into developing member services as we had intended. Although, this was the right decision we have had to rely on the goodwill and trust of members. We now need to do more; to understand what members want and what and how we can deliver.

And finally we need to engage and involve our members better and more effectively. AVM is entirely run by volunteers. The more members who get involved and contributes, the more we can achieve. We, as the Board, have the responsibility to ensure members are given the means and opportunities to get involved. But members also have a responsibility to understand the need for them to contribute; that the sum of our whole is so much greater than the sum of our parts.

Elections

Thank you to all the candidates who put their names forward. When we were setting up AVM we wanted three-quarters of the board to be elected by members from the membership to ensure there was a strong link of accountability between the board and the membership.

However, that accountability only works if the elections are contested rather than non-contested so, for me, that will always be measure as to how thriving and dynamic AVM truly is.

The three members elected to the board are Tracey Mealing, Alan Murray and Debbie Usiskin.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Caroline Loden who is stepping down from the board. Caroline was involved with the setting up of AVM from the very beginning and put in a lot of work in those early days to ensure AVM didn’t just remain a pipe dream.

Our Accounts

Our income for the year was £4,304. This consisted of a £1500 grant from the NCVO Workforce Hub, to whom we are particularly grateful, and the remainder came in membership fees and bank interest. Our expenditure was £1,184.

We resolved to carry forward a healthy balance from our first year as we knew we would be much better informed in our second year as to the direction AVM needed to head, and therefore may need the funds to support that. We are therefore carrying forward £3120.

As I mentioned earlier AVM is entirely volunteer-run, so a special thank-you should go to all our volunteers. Using the national average wage their contribution equates to almost £23,000. Which signifies how important volunteers are to our Association.

Conclusion

And finally I’d like to go back to why we set up AVM in the first place.

We set it up because no other organisation was able to give us the support we needed; because for too long we had complained about the problems but done nothing about the solutions; and because if volunteer managers didn’t support themselves why should we expect other people to do it for us?

For me, AVM is about that three things. Its about ensuring that we are stronger together than alone. Its about ensuring that together we can make a difference. But ultimately AVM is about volunteers. Ensuring every volunteer has the right training, has the right support and has the right management, so that the time, energy and skills they give are not wasted.

But, sadly too often they are wasted. And that’s not just an indictment of the volunteering sector it’s an indictment of volunteer managers.

Because if we’re not prepared to stand up together for volunteers, who else will?

  • John Ramsey, Chair
  • Association of Volunteer Managers
  • 23rd September 2008

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