Want to “change the tune” of your volunteer management career? Consider mentoring.

International Volunteer Managers Day is coming (5 November) and this years’ theme is ‘change the tune’. As a Director (volunteer) at the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), the achievement I’m most proud of was setting-up and piloting a mentoring scheme for volunteer managers. I think many mentors and mentees ‘changed their tune’ through participating, so I’m taking this opportunity to tell you a bit about it…

What did the scheme look like?

We launched the scheme in January 2019. Twenty AVM members volunteered, half of them as mentors, half as mentees. The scheme took place entirely online, enabling volunteer managers all over the UK to participate. We delivered webinars introducing the scheme and ran an online “speed-networking” event through Zoom. Then we set up a Slack group, helping the group to break the ice and get to know each other.

Mentors and mentees self-matched, and although some reported this bit as being a little tricky (one mentee described the feeling as being like a teenager trying to get a teacher to like her..!) on the whole, the self-matching approach was well received, with comments including:

“I felt it was really important for the mentors/ mentees to match themselves, and in fact more so for the mentees to seek out what they are looking for. A bit like the Bumble dating app, its putting the ‘power’ of the relationship where it needs to be, for them its with women, for us its with the mentees.” – Jenny Betteridge, Strategic Lead Volunteering, Sport England (mentor)

Did mentoring change anyone’s’ tune?

Generally, feedback was really positive, from both mentors and mentees. 100% of survey participants said they were extremely or very satisfied with the scheme, and all said they would recommend it to others. The majority of participants said the scheme had helped them to progress in their career, and several of the mentees said having a mentor had helped them to find a new role:

“My mentor helped build my confidence, drive and motivation to find a new role” – Mentee, anonymous

“I was transitioning in to line-management at the time of the scheme and I would say this mentor relationship had a direct (and positive) impact on how I approached this…” – Calleigh-Marie Lawrence, Volunteer Support Executive, The Charity for Civil Servants (mentee)

Almost all mentors and mentees said they felt being part of this scheme had created a sense of being part of a strong volunteer management community of practice, or a place for mutual learning:

“My experience has been totally positive. My mentor has vastly more experience than me in Volunteer Management but we both have the same challenges.” – David Little, Volunteer Coordinator at Carlisle Carers (mentee)

“the ‘mentor/mentee’ relationship can and should switch – plenty to be learned down what can be a two-way street” – Shaun Crummey, Head of Volunteering, Absolutely Cultured (mentor)

…and both mentors and mentees said participating in the scheme had improved their leadership and management skills:

“It was a huge learning curve in what it means to be a manager…I learned a lot about my strengths” – Mentee, anonymous

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor. I got to work with someone whose experience gave me new insights into the current workplace. Their challenges made me think in new ways about the best way to support them as they found their own solutions. I’d definitely do it again and would encourage others to mentor a colleague as well.” – Rob Jackson, Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd (mentor)

Benefits also extended to employers, with one mentor commenting:

“My employer is supportive and mentoring meetings have been part of my working hours. Certainly viewed as part of my CPD.” – Damian Sherwood-Johnson, Volunteer Development Coordinator, Sistema Scotland (mentor)

The scheme ran for six months, and although AVM’s involvement has now ended, many of the pairs have continued their relationship. That’s one of the great things about mentoring – it often out-lasts schemes or jobs.

So, I think mentoring is a great way to change your volunteer management tune, both for mentors and mentees. I speak from personal experience too: in setting up this scheme I’ve found my own mentor, and I also mentor another volunteer manager. I find both relationships incredibly valuable.

AVM has changed its tune too: although providing a mentoring scheme has been a goal of AVM’s for a long time, now, we’ve turned that goal into reality.  We’ve also got better at delivering services online/ avoiding the London-focus – watch this space for much more of that.

So, if you are a volunteer manager and you want to change your tune, give mentoring a go! AVM plans to develop the scheme in 2020. It’s open to all AVM members. If you’d like to participate, you can register your interest on our website.

Angela Wilson is a former Director at the Association of Volunteer Managers and Head of Volunteering at MS Society. Follow her on Twitter: @Angelawilson__

This post originally appeared on Inside Government’s website.

Big up a Volunteer Manager on International Volunteer Managers Day, 5 November 2019!

I’ve now finished my term as Director for the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM). It’s been one of the most rewarding volunteering experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll tell you why…

I was elected as Director just after I’d returned from a years’ maternity leave. I was feeling rusty, shattered, and, honestly, quite lacking in confidence.

But as any volunteer manager worth their salt knows: volunteering can help with all of that!

In my role as Director at AVM I was surrounded by a wonderful network of other volunteer managers – the other Directors and other AVM members. My people! They held me up, energised me, helped me realise where my strengths were, and gave me a great volunteering role where I could make a difference to the lives of other volunteer managers, which of course, made me feel great.

The other Directors at AVM feel the same – we all gain so much strength, knowledge and confidence from our fellow volunteer managers.

So, on International Volunteer Managers Day, we would like to take the opportunity to big each other up and give a little recognition and thanks to all the great volunteer managers that we know are out there.

Get ready on Twitter…and use the hash tag: #BigUpVM – let’s all tell another volunteer manager we know that we appreciate them, and big them up.

Angela Wilson is a former Director at the Association of Volunteer Managers and Head of Volunteering at MS Society. Follow her on Twitter: @Angelawilson__

Finding a mentor…like going to the movies?

Soon after I joined the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) Board of Directors, the Chair, Ruth Leonard, rang me up to ask what I wanted to get out of volunteering, what was it that motivated me? I said I hoped to learn from the diverse experience of other AVM members: I wanted to progress in my career, and so it would be great to learn from others how they had gone about developing theirs. We then got to talking about mentoring, and how it would be wonderful if AVM could set up a scheme where members could learn from each other, much as I was describing.  Top volunteer management marks to Ruth: she had identified my own motivation, and matched it with a strategic aim of AVMs. Thus it was agreed I would lead the setting up of AVMs mentoring scheme, and use the learning for the search for my own mentor to inform and facilitate the project. Great! I was excited to get going. But where to begin?

Fortunately, I was not alone: fellow Director Jo Gibney agreed to join forces with me. So, we met, drank coffee, and did a lot of brainstorming. Jo also wanted to find a mentor…so we started by thinking about what we wanted to get out of it. Discussing it helped us to think through our aims, which made it easier to consider who might be a good person to help me to achieve those aims.Reading up on it, I found out that the mentoring relationship works best when there’s a high level of trust between both parties, and this is most likely to occur when the mentee chooses their own mentor. It should be someone with whom you are not too familiar (e.g. a friend) as you are unlikely to really be challenged in your thinking or to learn very much. Also the experience gap is important: if it is “too narrow, mentor and mentee will have little to talk about. If it is too great, the mentors experience will be increasingly irrelevant to the mentee” (Clutterbuck, D. 2014).

Where would I find such a person? And how would I make the approach? I felt quite awkward about the whole thing, it reminded me of the bashfulness I felt when I was in my late teens, about to ask a guy if he wanted to go to the movies! So it took me a while to work up the courage…

After a fair bit of umming and ahhing, I took a deep breath, and called a colleague I really respected in the volunteer management field, who had experience within the area I wanted to move into. It was great to catch up with him, and talk through some of my aims and hopes. In the end I sort of blurted it out – “would you have any interest in mentoring me…of course no worries at all if you can’t…” [in my head: “EEEEEEEEEK!”] sadly, this colleague had just changed jobs himself, and just didn’t have the time right now. Oh. Oh well, not to worry. I didn’t take it personally. Onwards!

There was one other person I knew who I’d thought for some time, would make a wonderful mentor, but I’d never plucked up the courage to ask. She was talented and very experienced, and probably very busy. I didn’t think I had much chance, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway – nothing ventured and all that. And she said yes! I was more delighted than when the guy agreed to go to the movies with me. Having someone I really respected agree to invest their time in ME seemed incredibly generous: I was very grateful.

Meanwhile, Jo and I have been busy working up our ideas for the AVM Mentoring Scheme. We’ve been learning from others, designing registration forms and a project plan for how it all might work. We hope that the scheme will make it much easier for mentors and mentees to find each other and pair up.

Since just last week, 29 people have approached AVM to say they’d like to sign up as a mentor, mentee, or both…so we’re well on the way to making it easier (and a bit less like asking someone to go to the movies?!) for members who want to find mentors. We want to bring people together, both in person and online, and facilitate links between people in similar geographic areas. But those are just some of our ideas.

Expressions of interest are currently closed.

We are really keen to hear from AVM members who would be happy to help us shape the scheme and test out the tools (such as the registration forms) that we’ve developed. If you’re interested in getting involved, please do leave us your details here – we’ll get back to you.

Edited 16.03.2018

The power of listening…and of new boots

brown bootsBy: Angela Wilson, AVM Director

Returning to work following maternity leave, I realised I NEEDED to go shopping. I’d worn the same cosy, baggy jeans for several months, with my baby happily wiping her nose on whichever of my bobbly jumpers I was wearing that day.

The trouble was, it had been months since I’d bought myself new clothes, and I’d forgotten how to shop! Fashion had moved on and as I stared at the strange, oversized, bat-winged type coats, I realised I had no idea what I was doing, and felt rather lost and intimidated about the whole thing. Back-up was needed. I called my mates Lucy and Jos, and pleaded for them to help me step out of my mum-garb into a confident new look.

I knew I needed boots. Who doesn’t need boots. But which ones? Never one for stiletto’s, I like my feet firmly on the ground. But I’m also five foot three, so a couple of extra inches would be good. My hand hovered over a pair of brown, leather boots with a chunky two inch heel. Argh – there was that indecision again…would they look good? Now, Lucy and Jos aren’t afraid to say boo to a goose. They’re bolshy, opinionated, wonderful women who will tell you exactly what they think, which was exactly what I’d hoped for from them. However, on this occasion, they didn’t.

“What do you think, Ange?” asked Jos.

Slightly perturbed, I looked at my reflection and asked myself that question. Did I like the boots? Yes, I did…a lot. Confirming as much, Josie’s face broke out into a big smile, and she told me she thought they looked great too. Hurrah! They were a great first purchase.
Later on, enjoying my buyers-high, I mulled over the day. I was feeling much more confident about what I wanted and realised I didn’t need to wear enormous bat-winged coats to look good, I just needed to have confidence in the clothes I liked, and to choose clothes that made me feel good. Jos had helped me to remember this. And she’d done it in a really important way.

Instead of dictating to me what she thought looked good, she’d listened, and waited for me to find the answer in myself. If she hadn’t done that, I’d have ended up looking like a daft version of her (she’s far taller than me and a completely different body shape) and I wouldn’t have regained confidence in my own ability to find lovely clothes.

That, for me, was an important lesson. People often have the answers to their problems inside themselves, and only they can effectively overcome their challenges and find their own solutions. Other people telling them what to do simply won’t work, as what’s right for one, is not for another. When others can really listen, and help you to find those answers yourself, it can be a very powerful experience.

It’s the same in a mentoring relationship.

Great mentors respect their mentees and help them to find their own solutions: “to do the role well requires a capacity to hold back and allow people to learn for themselves” (Clutterbuck, D. 2014).

The Association of Volunteer Managers is setting up its own mentoring scheme, in the hopes of unleashing some of the powerful volunteer management skills, experience and knowledge that exists amongst our membership, helping to develop listening and leadership skills amongst mentors, and helping to progress the careers and personal development goals of mentees.

We would like members to help us to shape it and to road-test some of the early stage tools we’ve developed. If you think you would be interested in learning more about mentoring and participating in the scheme, and would be willing to help us to make it into a success, we would love to hear from you. Please leave your details here, and we’ll get back in touch.

Expressions of interest are currently closed.

Read about what we’re planning.