AVM loses its founder

John Ramsey speaking at AVM's launch in 2007

John Ramsey speaking at AVM’s launch in 2007

We are sad to announce that our founder, John Ramsey, passed away on Saturday 20th September following a period of illness.

Although his death was not unexpected, the loss is a profound shock to all who knew him. John was a tireless champion of volunteering and volunteer management.

Without his passion, drive and energy the Association of Volunteer Managers would not exist. A great volunteer manager himself, his gift was bringing people together from across the field to build the organisation that we are today.

He was our Chair 2005-09, and continued to be actively involved with AVM. In typical fashion, John volunteered to run a workshop at the upcoming AVM conference in October. He will be sorely missed.

Many of you will have memories to share and tributes to pay. Do please leave your comments here below or email us at info@volunteermanagers.org.uk if you prefer.

We will pass on all messages to his wife and daughter and extended family who can take comfort from the respect that he had within our community.

24 thoughts on “AVM loses its founder

  1. Many years ago, John was on group of volunteer managers who met to discuss trends, ideas and developments that were relevant to our work. Out of this small group of people AVM was created and John was so influential that I would have to credit him with being our founder. He was always a leader, innovator and thinker but also funny, optimistic, cheerful and incredibly positive. He managed to combine a dry, cynical humour with a warm and engaging personality. How many other people manage that?

    I suspect I’m not alone in having John as my “go to” colleague when I was struggling. He took the time to listen, explore and challenge, then he often helped me to look at my problem from a different angle or suggested a fresh approach. I know I’ve benefited from his unique combination of intelligence, insight and experience. What a great man we’ve lost.

    I asked John to present on the value of volunteer management at our upcoming AVM conference and, of course, he agreed and said he was looking forward to it. We all knew about his diagnosis but I didn’t really believe it. He seemed indestructible to me. How could someone so brimming with life be dying?

    Diane, Heidi and John’s family – I can’t imagine how you’re feeling now, but you have lived with and known one of the finest people of his generation. Not many people can say that.

    Steve Gee

  2. I still can’t believe I’m having to write this. I can’t comprehend that my friend and colleague John Ramsey is no longer with us. I’m still expecting an email to suggest we meet for a coffee like we did a few months ago, putting the world to rights, discussing our football teams and having a good laugh in the process. To think I won’t get to do that with John is a profound sadness.

    John and I met many years ago – quite how I can’t remember – and we hit it off right from the get go. We co-moderated UKVPMs together. We formed an open network for any volunteer managers who wanted to meet together. After the demise of the old National Volunteer Managers Forum no such group existed other than with a closed membership. John and I decided that anyone should be able to network with their peers – this was pre-social media remember – and the forum we created went on to become AVM under John’s superb leadership.

    The John I knew was passionate about his family, cycling, Watford FC and volunteer management. He wrote beautifully about the challenges and opportunities facing volunteer managers. He challenged our thinking and challenged us to be better. He inspired us with the way he handled his illness. He was the best of us in so many ways and I am going to miss him terribly.

    Goodbye my friend.

  3. I recall the very first AVM Conference where John shared his personal story about his journey into being a volunteer, his desire for championing volunteering and the personal drive for leading the professionalisation of managers of volunteers. He was engaging, amusing and inspiring. He leaves a great legacy with AVM and he was a great man who definitely lived life to the full with a clear sense of purpose and a bucket load of good humour – for all this (and more) he will be greatly missed by me and, I guess, many of us! Rest in Peace Mr Ramsey.

  4. I first met John in his Student Volunteering UK days. I had just started my first voluntary sector paid job. John was a great source of support. His infectious smile and sense of humour were much appreciated. It was a tough environment to work in, and John was really supportive.

    A few years later we would occasionally bump into each other on our shared commute on the met line. I have always valued John’s insight and expertise. He was a pleasure to work with. Very best wishes to his family and friends.

  5. Ever since I’ve known John he has always been a passionate campaigner for volunteering and volunteer management. Never one to shy away from a difficult debate, I remember many of John’s speeches at Volunteering England, EVDC, NNVIA and other events where he quite rightly challenged his colleagues to both think and act differently in order to improve the lot of volunteer managers across the country.

    I, like so many of us I am sure, will miss John’s wisdom, passion and his fantastic sense of humour! Rest in peace.

  6. i am sadden to hear of John’s passing and give my sympathies to his family and friends. He was a huge support to the Age Uk’s in the North West Volunteer Network. Without fail he made the train journey to Preston to take part in our bi annual meetings bringing with him a wealth of expertise and advice. He had a gentle authoritive manner but with a keen sense of humour. The third sector will miss him and so will we at our meetings for his passion and realism. A man taken too soon, rest in peace John.

  7. This is terribly sad news. We have all lost a colleague, friend and passionate advocate for the profession of volunteer management. My deepest sympathy to John’s family — and that includes the members of AVM.

    I first met John many years ago when in England presenting some long-forgotten workshop. He was invited by my hosts to join us at a social dinner and I remember a long conversation about professional development in our field. He was with St. John Ambulance then and we laughed at his being with an organization 3 times as old as the United States.

    Most recently, Rob Jackson and I invited him to “Anglicize” the chapter on legal issues in volunteer management for the soon-to-be-published UK edition of my book, “From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement” (which Rob is co-authoring). Despite his illness and treatment, John agreed and we will end up honoring him by being the last to publish original material from him. So he was productive — and, I may add, feisty in presenting his views! — to the end.

    Being so far away meant that I did not get to know John personally as well as many of you. But I could see his impact. Rest in peace.

  8. John served with great distinction as a long-standing judge of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. He was meticulous in picking out small points of detail that helped to shape the final verdict on groups of volunteers, and he did so from his formidable, feisty, questioning, campaigning background in the world of volunteering, where his passion and commitment were second to none. Even as his cancer was taking hold he insisted on playing his usual huge part in the judging process. We will miss his wise counsel, but most of all we will miss a charming, determined man who enriched the lives of many, and was quite simply a delight to know.

  9. John Ramsey – Really Inspirational Person

    My eyes are filled with tears so excuse any spelling mistakes.

    Although I had met and networked with John through NVMF it was Susan Ellis who properly put us in touch with one another, recognising that we shared views on the future of volunteer management she felt that we would support and spark one another into getting things moving. I joined the group of people who were meeting to try and get AVM off the ground. It hardly felt like working meetings when they were lead by John, interspersed with tales of family and football and lots and lots of laughter.

    I always knew that I was taking the right direction in my work when John approved of what I was doing, I will miss that voice of reason.

    Both of us idealists and dreamers we shared a vision for the future of volunteer management. John remains our inspiration, for so many reasons and I hope we continue to do him proud.

    Diane, Heidi and the wider family our loss is so small compared to yours but we understand the hole that is left in your lives and I hope that his sense of humour and his irrepressible cheer at the hardest of times (Watford FC springs to mind) see you through this hard time, and gives you a lifetime of joyful memories.

  10. John was a champion in the field of volunteering as recognised by all us volunteer managers who knew him across the country. He has immensely contributed to giving a backbone to the structure of volunteering in the UK. Sadly, I shall miss him.

  11. I’m shocked and saddened to hear about John. I first met him in 2003 when he was running Student Volunteering UK. I’d recently started at the Home Office and he was one of the first sector CEOs I met in my new role. I recall him being welcoming, knowledgeable and extremely passionate about his work, whilst at the same happy to challenge government policy and me at the same time. We sometimes disagreed on issues but I always respected and valued his opinion.

    I was a big admirer of his work with the AVM – indeed I consider him as one of our first ‘out’ entrepreneurs, having identified a need and done something about it to change things. The fact that the AVM is still flourishing is a testament to the passion he inspired in his colleagues to create a movement to make volunteering better for everyone, under the mantra that ‘Good volunteering requires a good volunteer manager.’

    John’s passing is a big loss for our sector but I have no doubt that his work will live on for years to come.

  12. I always found John to be a passionate champion for volunteering. But he championed the cause in a quiet, humorous and person centric way, that was so thought provoking and sometimes challenging.

    As with others, I found his friendly and helpful style very supportive especially when I took over volunteer management at Victim Support. His office was nearby, and we met up several times to compare notes. Above all, John was a thoroughly genuine guy and great company, and I too will miss meeting up with him.

  13. A man who inspired others, including me, without knowing or trying.

    A true leader in the voluntary sector as well as in volunteer management.

    Our paths actually didn’t cross that frequently, save for the usual AVM, VE / NCVO, NNVIA conferences etc, but that didn’t matter one iota. Because John was able to inspire, motivate and inform others not just face to face, but as one of the sector’s pioneering users of social media, sites such as ivo and good old trusty UKVPMs.

    Rest in the very best of peace John.


  14. It’s been a few years since I’ve had any direct contact with John but I was really sad to hear this news. In a previous role I used to see a lot of him at meetings and it was always a real pleasure to catch up and share experiences. Like Nikki I remember the launch event for AVM and John’s speech. I also remember thanking him and other members of the original board for their dedication in getting AVM up and running as it really felt like a group that volunteer managers from all sorts of organisations were crying out for, and in many ways still are. In my current role I do a lot of work comparing my organisations volunteering policies and practice with others. I’d always have whatever organisation John was working with as a place to go as I’d know what they were doing would be quality work.

  15. I didn’t know John personally and get along to fewer events these days. I have been to AVM meetings though and always found them hugely enriching and well worth attending and I recall hearing John speak. I remember too how wise his counsel was and how much I enjoyed and benefited from listening to him. Just want to say my thoughts and love are with everyone who is missing John and my warmest wishes most especially his close family.

  16. John also had an influence on volunteering practice and development outside the UK, particularly in Russia, Ukraine, and the Western Balkan countries. He shared his experience and resources on several occasions in visits to Age Concern and later Age UK projects. His knowledge, good humour and personality engaged people and helped them to develop their organisations and their practice. He had a great capacity to help people find their own solutions without telling them what the “right answer” should be. His input was particularly important in countries where the concept of the voluntary sector is under-developed, and where “volunteering” was often compulsory. Fittingly, he did all this voluntarily, on his own time.

    He was great fun to travel and work with and he will be dreadfully missed.

  17. If there were more people in the world like John what an amazing and beautiful place the world would be……. John Ramsey was my immediate line manager at Age UK for over 6 years. He really was the best boss I ever had. He allowed me to be creative and innovative, giving me wonderful support to set up Age UK’s office volunteer and internship programme from scratch. I was able to discuss anything with him and he shared my frustrations, challenges and successes with so much grace. He always thanked me for what I did and made feel extremely valuable to the team. It was an absolute honour to work for someone so genuine, supportive, funny, cheeky and knowledgeable. I always said to him John “if you ever leave Age UK, I am leaving too”. When I was seconded to another division there was a joke that I needed to cut the umbilical cord due to the knowledge that I really found it hard to have another boss. John Ramsey, my uttermost wonderful past boss, may you rest in beautiful and awesome peace and thank you so much for all your help, guidance and support.

  18. I was shocked and sad to hear of John’s untimely death and my thoughts are with his family. Although we hadn’t been in touch recently I have always been grateful to John for inspiring my early efforts at volunteer management. I met John in 2005 as he was leaving Citizens Advice. He was very generous with his time and resources and gave me his library of materials.

  19. The comments here highlight the impact and contribution John made personally and professionally, to individuals and to the wider VM world. I feel it’s important that his words are remembered, shared and referred to. I couldn’t claim to knowing John on a personal basis, but I always felt as though he was a kindred spirit and I loved chatting with him and connecting with him as he always made me laugh, provided words of support and encouragement, but most of all – he challenged my thinking. John was a true leader in the way he talked, the way he wrote, worked, inspired and showed others how things might be. He was authentic, smart, witty and eloquent. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

  20. I first met John properly many moons ago – he was one of the first people I met from the wider world of volunteer management (before I even really realised there was such a thing). He was a name I recognised from UKVPMs and I realised in a new job that his office wasn’t far away. He straight away agreed to meet up and took time to talk out of his day offering to come over to my office (in characteristic fashion).

    In essence that was John all over. He was one of the most approachable people you could hope to meet, prepared to go the extra mile and give you the time of day. He was a master of the art of giving you his full attention, while at the same time somehow balancing the needs of such a busy life that comes from being so responsive and committed. I remember watching one of John’s presentations with his characteristic humour pointing out how little time we all have after the big things of life are considered (sleeping, eating, travelling from a to b, etc). – and what a big thing it is to ask people to volunteer and spare their time with your project/organisation. Time is precious.

    Now having to say goodbye to John so young, that thought in his presentation seems even more poignant. Time is so precious – and John was one of the most generous people I know with his. He will be hugely missed.

  21. It’s with such fond memories of my colleague, and the team he was a part of, that I wanted to write a few line to make sure he is remembered for all his contributions both in the wide world of volunteering and for Age UK, where his contribution and knowledge was always an inspiration. I knew John for many years and often used his common sense and practical approach to volunteer management as my rhetoric running a range of local services, all underpinned and supported by volunteers. By a twist of many fates I ended being the manager of the team that John joined, following a re-structure, and where I really got to know him. John was a quite man, with a wicked sense of humour and an ability to provide a pithy yet accurate accounts of circumstance and situations that would hold people spell bound… he was a real advocate of working co-operatively with individuals, teams and departments internal and external. He was a wiz at unravelling stats and figures and could write the most convincing account of activities, achievements and resources and often did at short notice and with great skill. He was a team player, resourceful and supportive to colleagues when things were going well but especially at the low points too.
    I know he was really proud of his work achievements and what, as a volunteering involving organisation, Age UK has achieved and will continue to achieve as part of his legacy. And of course John was a family man, new to the role of being a dad, and how unfair it feels that his daughter won’t know the man we all knew as Mr John Ramsey – RIP

  22. I want to express my sadness at hearing this news. It was John’s call to arms on ivo encouraging volunteer managers to become trustees and shape change that inspired me to become a trustee. Two years on and I’m now chair of the board and it is one of the most rewarding things I do. Thank you John. You will be missed.

  23. I was so sad and shocked to hear the news about John. I worked with him for two years at Student Volunteering UK. John was a great person to work with. I will remember him fondly for his witty banter, smiley face and introducing me to Coldplay. A kind and fun colleague. My thoughts are with his family and particularly his wife and daughter.

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