Is the merger the answer to all our volunteer management ills?

Having read Rob Jackson’s analysis of the potential merger between VE and NCVO, I wanted to look a little deeper what it could mean for volunteer management.

Looking back over the last few years we have seen some strides in how VM has developed: the revised NOS for VMs, the development of the apprenticeships, the Volunteer Management funding, the work done by Voluntary Action Warrington, the AVM conferences, the increased number of blogs and channels for debates (ivo being one of them) etc.

BUT volunteer management is still in an extremely fragile state. Only this morning I was talking to a colleague about a network meeting we attended yesterday. Just a few years ago the room would have been packed out with over 20 VMs. Yesterday there was just eight with another about to leave. Whilst the funding cuts are hitting everybody it does feel that volunteer management is being hit more then most, perversely at a time when volunteering is being looked to as one of the solutions.

For me the key issue, the one we have still yet to crack, is what we all know: key decision-makers do no ‘get’ volunteer management. And when I say key decision-makers I mean the chairs, the trustees, and the chief executives. Whilst it might be nice to have government say the right thing, frankly volunteer management is nothing to do with them (and Nick Hurd has said as much). It’s for organisations to respect and support their volunteers by properly investing in their management.

So how can they be influenced?

Firstly, by influencing upwards, by demonstrating how volunteer management is improving the organisation’s work. And VE produced their Influencing Up – A Guide to Gaining Executive Support for Volunteering and Volunteer Management to help with that. But of course, in reality, unless senior management is receptive at the outset then this is incredibly difficult and frustrating.

Secondly, by influencing funders and commissioners to recognise that any grant or contract that involves volunteering must be properly budgeted to include effective volunteer management.

And thirdly, by influencing downwards, by having sector bodies speaking directly to their members, to their chairs, the trustees, and the chief executives, to show that volunteer management should be an integral part of any organisation that involves volunteers.

And this is where the potential merger holds the key. Rob rightly pointed out that volunteer management has been one of the less developed areas of VE’s work. But even it was, in all honesty, they do not have the clout that NCVO has. There is real potential here that the new NCVO can influence funders and commissioners, trustee networks and ACEVO to get them to buy into volunteer management.

But that means the new NCVO themselves need to buy into volunteer management, to put volunteer management at the centre of the debate. Whilst it’s a bit melodramatic to say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, if the merger does go through then now is the time to start planning, to start influencing the development of volunteer management within the new organisation. There is a real opportunity here to create that step-change that volunteer management desperately needs.

There are many players out there who have a role to play in this – AVM, NAVSM, the fledgling VM Movement, VA Warrington, to name but a few. But also each of us whose organisations are members of VE and/or NCVO need to play our part as vocal members.

The question is do we have the will to do it?

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Post by John Ramsey

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