Ten Years of Championing Volunteer Management

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.

AVM's Thoughts On NCVO's 2017 Letter To The Sector

NCVO has started the year by with an open letter to the voluntary sector which poses many questions around the role of volunteer management. Here AVM Chair Debbie Usiskin responds and offers our thoughts.
Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO, has started the year by publishing an open letter highlighting the part that volunteers can play in building a shared society. More importantly, he makes it clear that we need well supported volunteer managers to help make this happen.
I urge you to read Sir Stuart’s letter and share it within your organisation. He makes the valuable point, very well, that for volunteering to be successful it needs to be adequately resourced; it could spark off a discussion within your organisation about expectations and impacts.
We are attending the NCVO Members’ Assembly in February where we will be contributing to the development of their public policy work. We want to hear from members and make sure that we represent you so let us know what you think following Sir Stuart’s letter.
Of course, we agree with Sir Stuart that this means greater investment in the support that volunteering needs, acknowledging that managing volunteers is harder than managing staff. We look forward to continuing to work closely with NCVO to ensure that volunteering is managed well, and that those who do it are valued.

Thoughts from AVM's new chair

As newly elected chair of AVM, Debbie Usiskin lays out her thoughts on the way forward.
Some of you may already be aware that I was elected Chair of AVM earlier this year. I was one of the founding Directors, gathering together volunteer managers from all sectors to talk about what we would want from a professional association, forming the first board and then launching the organisation..
I have been the Vice Chair since we inaugurated working closely with each of my predecessors to lead us to where we are today. I am pleased to be taking the Chair-ship at this exciting time. Membership is growing to such an extent that we have engaged professional assistance to administer to members. Our events are growing in popularity to such an extent that we have engaged a professional event co-ordinator to put on more and better events – in all parts of the country.
And, at the same time we are in discussion with an increasing range of training providers in relation to skills development for volunteer managers, and in dialogue with academic institutions who are researching many issues around volunteer engagement.
There are opportunities for you as a member to get involved with all of these things – host a networking event, present a piece of work that you have done to your peers, take part in research or represent us at meetings with training providers, for example.
This is OUR association and will grow in the direction that WE take it so please let us know what you are thinking and what you can do to help.
Looking forward to seeing you at a network day or conference soon.