With the promise of a £1m injection into volunteer management training and development, I found myself reflecting on what legacy this will leave on the VM profession.
The availability of this fund represents a significant stage in the journey that volunteer management has travelled to date. On the one hand it is a huge investment when compared to the era when the first paid VM was appointed (allegedly in 1963 at Fulbourne Hospital, where an unspecified number of cloak-clad senior managers huddled around a dimly lit NHS desk-lamp to develop a suitable job-description and recruitment advert). But on the other hand, £1m is not a lot of money. For example, with an estimated 100,000 paid VMs, and a further 100,000 unpaid VMs, it could be argued that ‘sharing the wealth’ requires the OTS to give a fiver to each VM so they can purchase a booklet on managing volunteers (or one copy of ‘Essential Volunteer Management’ by McCurley and Lynch, between two!). It’s not that I’m belittling the impact Steve and Rick have made with this landmark publication, but in reality £1m represents £5 per VM, and as such it could be very easy for the ‘Strand C’ investment to disappear into the volunteer management ether.
So what is the potential legacy for the OTS ‘Strand C’ funding?
From my perspective, there could be 3 key differences that this fund could make:
1. It could help to create a cohort of volunteer managers who are able to both facilitate the contribution that volunteers can make to an organisation’s core purpose, and also communicate this to the organisation’s key decision-makers.
2. It could help to create a cohort of volunteer managers who are able to act as an example and as an inspiration to other VMs by demonstrating good practice and innovation.
3. It could help people who do not see themselves as volunteer managers to recognise this aspect of their role, and embrace appropriate management practices that help to enhance the contribution that volunteers can bring to their situation.
Essentially, whilst on the face of it equitable, I don’t see a ‘fiver-for-all’ making a lasting difference. But if the ‘Strand C’ funding can help to develop people who can promote both the practice and the message of great volunteer management, and also encourage people to recognise and accept that managing volunteers is part of their own role, then volunteer management will be in a much better place.