Continuing our series of blogs celebrating AVM’s tenth anniversary, Joe Saxton offers his ‘top ten’ of how volunteering will change in the next decade.
AVM is ten years old. It’s a huge achievement for any start-up organisation to get this far. Much has changed in the world of volunteering in the last ten years, but the need for AVM is greater than ever. The world of volunteering will go on changing over the next 10 years. So here are my 10 predictions for how volunteering will change, what the best volunteer managers will be doing, and how AVM will need to react.
1. The potential for volunteering will go on growing. Whether its volunteers in schools, welcoming refugees, campaigning against government cuts, or helping neighbours, we haven’t begun to reach saturation in the ways that volunteering can change society.
2. Baby boomers are going to hit peak volunteering potential. The generation born in the years 1946-1964 are just hitting retirement in volume and the potential for them to volunteer is huge. But they need to be treated right.
3. With a little help from charities, youth volunteering will mature to help young people move seamlessly into volunteering during their working lives. Volunteers are for life, not just for young people.
4. Volunteer managers will have specialisms just like fundraisers do. There are over 15 types of fundraising expertise. Expect volunteering management to become more and more specialist as it matures, just as fundraising has.
5. Supporter-centred management will be where the best volunteer managers steal a march on competitors. We already see fundraising and communications and marketing working much more closely together. The best organisations will look at how supporters want to engage and manage their needs holistically whether they want to give, volunteer, campaign or use services.
6. We still don’t know how to encourage neighbourliness or manage it or see it as part of volunteering nearly enough. As much as we want people to volunteer in charity shops and more formal ways, we want people to give time to neighbourhood. This is an example of the specialisms that are needed (see point 4).
7. The most far-sighted charities will invest in volunteer recruitment the way they do donor recruitment. Typically they may invest several hundred pounds in donor recruitment and the total budget may amount to millions of pounds in the biggest charities. I wonder how many volunteer managers even have a recruitment budget.
8. Intertwining specific audiences by demographics (eg working parents) and product (eg micro-volunteering) will be the breakfast of volunteering champions. In other words, the best organisations will understand exactly who their volunteers are, or could be, and create the volunteering products to encourage, entice and engage them ever more into giving their time.
9. AVM needs to gear up to change to make the most of volunteering. A decade after launch it still has just one member of staff (while CharityComms launched at the same time has nearly 10 staff). AVM needs to grasp the potential of the years ahead with passion, energy and enthusiasm.
10. And one of the ways that AVM can make the most of its potential is a name change. Its current name is like a millstone round its neck, partly because the name is usually shortened, and partly because it isn’t just ‘volunteer managers’ who do volunteer management. It can be people with a bundle of responsibilities. AVM as a name ghettoises the organisation and holds it back.
This guest blog is by Joe Saxton, Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy and its founder. Joe co-founded and chaired CharityComms, and has been chair of the Institute of Fundraising and People & Planet. Joe blogs in a personal capacity.

Comments (3)

Great article Joe, thank you. Much of what you write I agree with. I’m just not sure about the last point, changing the AVM name. One one level I don’t disagree, the name isn’t ideal and was certainly fitter for purpose ten years ago when we were deciding what to call the new body. And you’re right, not everyone who manages volunteers is a Volunteer Manager. But not everyone who raises money is a Fundraiser in the professional sense. Perhaps a name change will make more sense when the importance of volunteers and those who lead, organise and manage them is better understood and more central to the way organisation operate? Perhaps what I am saying is the point you make is a fair one, but perhaps the time isn’t right now but later in the coming ten years.

“we haven’t begun to reach saturation in the ways that volunteering can change society.” YES!!! I think I’m going to put this in a blog (with credit to you).
“Volunteer managers will have specialisms just like fundraisers do.” YES. In fact, it’s already happening.
“Intertwining specific audiences by demographics (eg working parents) and product (eg micro-volunteering) will be the breakfast of volunteering champions” YES. A million times yes. It’s why Susan Ellis and I called our book The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook – it’s time to STOP segregating the talk about how to work with volunteers online into a separate book or workshop, and overdue to talk about it in any volunteer workshop, book or discussion, whether the book is focused on recruitment, recognition, support, group volunteering, senior volunteering, teen volunteering, whatever.

I agree about investing in volunteer recruitment and in volunteer managers becoming more specialised and the analogy with fundraising. However fundraising benefits from an Institute of Fundraising to support professional development and I’ve long since thought this is overdue for volunteer management. It would give all of us working in the sector better recognition, a clearer career path and also give volunteering as a function greater respect in charity board rooms. We’re far from amateur as a discipline but the lack of accepted frameworks, structure and certification isn’t always perceived as a plus from colleagues in other departments. My organisation did achieve Investing in Volunteers in 2014 but this has not delivered all we hoped, perhaps because it’s optional…

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