A change in the volunteer management wind?

Two very interesting developments over the last week – one high profile and one under the radar…

Yesterday we had the Prime Minister’s proclamation that petty bureaucracy needs to be mullered in the pursuit of the celebration of life.

But last week there was the publication of a paper in Voluntary Sector Review where the authors, Stevens and Hill state “researchers and policy makers have begun to wake up to the dangers of inappropriate levels of formalisation in volunteer management.”

The paper suggests that there appears to be an increasing realisation that the ‘gold standard’ of volunteer management practices (e.g. the NOS and IiV) have become a little inflexible for current society if applied at the expense of informality, diversity and flexibility.

Their paper champions the role played by ‘volunteer’ volunteer managers (who wouldn’t actually describe themselves as ‘volunteer managers’). Their key conclusions in this respect were:

  • The high level of skills and experience of volunteer managers in volunteer-led organisations should be acknowledged
  • There needs to be a wider recognition that attempts to colonise this part of the sector with formal practices may be inappropriate and misguided
  • A ‘do no harm’ principle should always guide interactions in this context.

So that’s the research bit – now have a look what Cameron said yesterday, with the concept ‘volunteer organising’ replacing ‘street party’…quite an interesting reflection.


“This is ridiculous. These pen pushers and busybodies are completely wrong. They have no right to stop you from organising some volunteering. I am telling you if you want to organise some volunteering, you go ahead and do it.

This is a chance for all of us to come together and be the difference our country needs and that people’s passion to be that difference might surprise them.

We have done our bit by ripping up red tape and many organisations have done the same. To those organisations that are asking small groups of volunteers for licences, insurance and other bureaucracy my message is clear: Don’t interfere, don’t get in the way and don’t make problems where there are none. Let people get on and be the difference in their communities.

And my message to everyone who wants to organise some volunteering is: I will be and I want you to go ahead too.

The truth is that this is a great chance for communities to come together. So go on, bring on the volunteering and let’s make this a moment to remember for everyone.”


OK, so he was actually talking about street parties, but still essentially voluntary effort promoting community cohesion.

The lesson of these 2 developments appears to be that volunteer management has to be applied in a mature and strategic way, and if it merely celebrates standards irrespective of context it will become irrelevant and out-dated – be circumvented and unlikely to be funded.

One thought on “A change in the volunteer management wind?

  1. The snag is that it doesn’t necessarily remove the potential risk of the volunteers organising the event (or whatever) being liable – possibly criminally liable in certain circumstances – if someone is injured.I think there needs to be some kind of re-evaluation of who is liable for accidental personal injuries sustained in situations which are not materially different from things normal people do at home.Charity shops are an excellent example. I can quite see why “parent” charities are nervous about volunteer-run shops, but charities whose shops are all volunteer run are not actually having to sweep out the corpses every week.http://www.crewechronicle.co.uk/crewe-news/local-crewe-news/2011/03/02/audlem-charity-shop-forced-to-shut-over-health-and-safety-concerns-96135-28258161/http://www.crewechronicle.co.uk/crewe-news/local-crewe-news/2011/04/01/audlem-charity-shop-to-re-open-after-enforced-closure-96135-28443367/ 

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