Ten years ago today, a group of volunteer managers launched a body that aimed to champion the role of the volunteer manager in building a thriving volunteer involving organisation. Inspired by the desire to bring people together to network and share best practice, as well as demonstrate the impact of volunteer management, AVM was born.
I was one of those people.
My personal starting point in this journey was being at a meeting of the National Volunteer Managers Forum and thinking ‘what’s so special about managing volunteers – they’re just people?’
I’ve now come full circle and have realised how complex managing volunteers is. I’ve realised that people bring themselves to volunteering in a way that’s very different from their job. When ‘just doing a job’ a person will offer one side of themselves, but when volunteering they bring their full self.
What this means is that people managing volunteers need to learn how to read people and go through that process. When bringing their full selves to the party, people will bring an emotional history which makes a real difference in the way they can behave. Volunteer managers can sometimes find that a challenge. We need to be able to demonstrate respect for a volunteer’s experience, whilst also ensuring volunteers recognise the boundaries in their role – it’s a real juggling act.
For organisations providing services it may be difficult to remember that colleagues and volunteers may also be – or have been – service users. In fact this is very likely for volunteers.
Volunteers can help bridge the gap between service users and the wider organisation, helping overcome the feeling of ‘us and them’. Volunteers bring in the experience and emotional history, which may be too painful for staff to deal with.
Having been there at the beginning, I wanted to bring these perspectives and learnings to a wider audience, to find peers to share them with and talk about them.
I am proud that we have developed and grown this voice, and this space to share it, and have a mature, dedicated organisation a decade later.
These ten years have represented a great deal of effort, but I hope you’ll agree that, today, AVM provides the information, support and sharing that ensures volunteer managers can effectively enable volunteers to share their skills in a way that gives the most impact.
To all of you that have come with us on this journey, for however long, thank you for bringing out the magic of volunteering.
Debbie Usiskin is Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers .