Opportunity knocks?

“Tonight, Opportunity Knocks for…” Volunteer Managers.

What I hear you all cry are you mad! Well bear with me for a minute and hear me out. The country is in the midst of one of the biggest economic downturns in living memory and yet it may just be the opportunity of a lifetime for all of us who manage volunteers and one we need to grab hold of.

Many of our organisations are making cut backs and looking at ways to save money or certainly do more with less. When I hear people talking about doing more with less my eyes light up and I see an opportunity to talk to people about volunteers and the contribution they can make to an organisation. Doing so I don’t believe devalues volunteers. I’m not proud, I don’t mind if someone wants to engage with volunteers because they feel it is a good thing to do in their bones, or the current economic downturn has simply forced them to rethink how they deliver that project or piece of work. Both are opportunities for the astute volunteer manager to see an opportunity and take it forward.

Let me just stop at this point and make it clear, I am not condoning volunteers replacing paid staff, but I am saying anything that gets people talking to me as a volunteer manager about how volunteers can help them in their work has to be a good thing. I don’t know about those of you reading this article but for me half the battle I have as a volunteer manager is getting to talk to people about how volunteers can help and assist them in their role and their value. Doing that face to face sell of just how great volunteers are and what a difference they can make is the conversation I live to have.

It’s down to us to take this opportunity forward. Currently it might be argued our job has never been easier, lots more people out there with highly specialist skills are looking to get involved in volunteering. Volunteer manager Nirvana surely. Well yes up to a point. For this to work what it needs is professional and specialist volunteer management to make it all happen. Without this management to ensure we get the right volunteer in the right role and let’s be honest on occasions saying ‘No’ to some potential volunteers, it just won’t work. What we want is our organisations, and staff in them, wondering why they never considering involving volunteers before.

One other opportunity the current situation presents is the chance to see how organisations value volunteer management and volunteering. Now is the time organisations that understand and value volunteers and volunteer management will be ensuring these areas continue to have the funds they need to operate. Anything other than this tells you quite simply that the organisation neither values nor understands what is needed to deliver an effective or rewarding volunteering programme.

“And I mean that most sincerely, folks.”

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