A new year is inevitably a time when we look forward, normally with more hope than trepidation. 2009 of course promises to be different – in charity parlance, a year of ‘challenges’ for all of us.

But let’s start with some of the more exciting events that will affect us. Firstly OTS hopefully will be shortly releasing details regarding their £4mil investment in volunteer management. Although this has been much delayed since its announcement last year, AVM has been assured the Govt is still committed to this and represents a real breakthrough in how volunteer management is viewed.

Of course, £4mil does not compare to the amount invested in, say, young people volunteering and equally whatever plans they have will never meet everyone’s approval but it’s fair to say that even 5 years ago the thought of £4mil being invested directly for VMs would have been outlandish.

Secondly the work of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering Action Groups will be coming to an end. I think one of the succeses of the work so far is how it has brought together players from across the sectors – the challenge for all of us involved in volunteering is to take forward what comes out of the Action Groups, build on it and not simply disappear back into our collective caves.

Thirdly, there is the revision of the National Occupational Standards on Volunteer Management. Strictly of course this happened last year although a new introductory guide will be coming out this year. The NOS were always very useful but in truth highly indigestible. The new format makes them much more user-friendly and should provide us with a tool to establish the skills and competences of a good volunteer manager, and enable organisations to properly value the role of volunteer manager.

Which leads me nicely on to what we as volunteer managers need to be doing.

Volunteering will have a crucial role to play in our society over the next couple of years – eg by meeting the demand for services and as a route for people to re-train and re-gain confidence having been made redundant. However, as charity income drops there will be internal jostling as funding decisions are made and the fear is that volunteer managers may be in the firing line as the work we do is not universally recognised.

I think there are three things that we as volunteer managers need to be doing:

Firstly, ensure our volunteer programmes have the flexibility and robustness to meet the upcoming challenges by re-looking at policies and practices and possibly the culture of the organisation.

Secondly measure the impact of your volunteering. Can you prove to your trustee board/funder the value of funding your volunteering programme, the impact on clients, themselves and the wider community? As a starting point have a look at the Volunteer Impact Assessment Toolkit by Institute for Volunteering Research.

And thirdly, measure the impact of your own volunteer management. The question you may be asked is what value do you add to the volunteering programme. AVM has some generic stats around the value of volunteer management but can you measure the impact on your own organisation? Maybe you can look at a correlation between volunteer numbers/hours and the introduction of a volunteer manager. Or identify areas that would not have been picked up without a volunteer manager eg the old ‘volunteer contract’ that you insisted was removed or the safer screening measures you put in place.

Alternatively you might just want to mention the York CAB case…