Networking tips for AVM events

Networking… you might love it, you may hate it, or you might fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But however you feel about it, it can be really useful for your professional development. And with conference only a week away, I wanted to share some tips on preparing to make the most of the networking time at conference. I’ve crowd sourced some of these ideas through Twitter, which I highly recommend as a great way to start networking.

Do your research

Is there someone you’ve wanted to meet for a while? There are a couple of ways you can find out who is going, ahead of conference.

Eventbrite shares first name and organisation of participants, so you can check out in advance if they are going, and look out for them on the day. 

If you’re on Twitter and not already following @AVMTweets (why not?) do so. People are already starting to chat about conference. You can always ask who is going to start a conversation. Or maybe someone you chat to regularly on Twitter is going to be there? Every year I get to meet people I’ve met on Twitter at conference.

This year’s hashtag is #AVM2018 so do include this in any tweets about the conference.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

Prepare

This year I’ve been working with my mentor on a number of areas of professional and personal development. One of which has been to be more effective at networking, as I am really not very comfortable with small talk. 

Part of my mentoring ‘homework’ has included preparing ahead of events like conference, or other AVM events. Things I’ve planned include something I’ve read that’s relevant to the event, or a key project I’m working on, and this has meant I’ve found I’m now less anxious before events.

I’ve also been thinking about questions to ask others at events. Is there something tricky I’m working on at the moment? I can ask someone if they’ve had to do something similar and how they handled it.
I’ve also been working on building my courage to talk to speakers at events, or someone whose work I admire. I still find it rather daunting to talk to the ‘experts’ from the stage, but I’m getting there! I just have to remind myself they’re a person like me.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

A simple greeting

Starting a conversation can feel really daunting, particularly if you’re not particularly comfortable with small talk. If you’re not very confident approaching people you’ve not met before, look for someone you know – or at least have met before, even if it was earlier in the event – who is talking to someone you don’t. This can often feel less daunting.

But what if you’ve come on your own and not met anyone yet? Never fear, the weather is bound to be unexpected for the season, someone’s travel to conference was probably eventful, and if all else fails, my old failsafe is “food/ coffee/ biscuits* look good/ bad/ awful*” (*delete as applicable), something I ALWAYS have an informed opinion about (don’t worry, the refreshments have always been great at conference!).

But once you’ve got past that first chat about food, and suddenly realise you’ve not actually introduced yourself, you can learn a simple networking greeting by remembering Inigo Montoya. Inigo’s most famous greeting can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Polite greeting: “Hello.”
  2. Name: “My name is Inigo Montoya.”
  3. Relevant personal link: “You killed my father.”
  4. Manage expectations: “Prepare to die.”

And there you have it, a simple networking greeting: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And don’t worry: nobody at conference is expecting an elevator pitch from you. Where you’re from and what your role is is a great relevant personal link.

Try: Hi, I’m Jo and I’m a Volunteer Manager at Organisation X. Is this your first time at an AVM conference?

Thanks to Annabel Smith for sourcing the image.

A comfortable exit

When we’re at events we often want to meet more people, but sometimes our nerves can mean we find it hard to exit a conversation, either resulting in feeling we’ve overstayed our welcome, or rude when we leave. Don’t worry: most people won’t think you’re rude if you leave the conversation. And you don’t need to use comfort break as an uncomfortable exit excuse. A polite thank you and goodbye will be sufficient. 

Try: Steve, it was really a pleasure speaking with you. I’m going to take a look at some of the other exhibits here, but if I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.

Following up with contacts

Strengthening your networks is a great advantage of AVM events. If you think that you’d find it useful to follow up with someone, ask for their business card, or let them know you’ll plan to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Try: I had a great time talking with you about X and I’d love to follow up with you later? Do you have a business card, or can I connect with you on LinkedIn, as it would be great to keep in touch?

Facilitating your networking

We know striking up a conversation with someone you’ve not met before doesn’t come easy to everyone, including volunteer managers. So this year we’ve again planned ways to help facilitate your networking experience. We’ll have discussion prompts on the walls, networking tables over lunch to discuss a variety of topics, and plenty of breaks for a cuppa and a chat.

We’ve also booked a space after conference so that those who are able to stay on can have a drink, and carry on some of the great discussions that were started during the day.

Hope to see you at conference!

Find out more

Volunteers’ Week: Saying thanks

Originally posted on the NCVO website.

Saying thanks

Whether we’ll admit it or not, we all love to receive a genuine ‘thank you’ for something we have done. There is something that makes even the most cynical of us (guilty as charged) at least feel a little warmth inside us. Even if we don’t always show it.

And it’s for that reason that Volunteers’ Week exists: to publically and collectively get together one week in the year and say thank you to the millions of volunteers across the UK.

Volunteers’ Week doesn’t mean you need to save all your thank you’s for this week (after all, as a dog is for life not just for Christmas, volunteer recognition is for every week, not just Volunteers’ Week). Rather its aim is to amplify and magnify that recognition, and to celebrate all the awesome stuff volunteers are doing. And in the age of social media: to get it trending on Twitter!

This year, NCVO and AVM decided we’d try out a Twitter chat for volunteer managers to talk about saying thanks to volunteers. Using #SayingThanks, this was an opportunity for volunteer managers to ask questions and share how best to thank volunteers. It’s the first time we’ve ever done a Twitter chat, so we were a bit nervous, but it was great to see people joining in, answering and asking questions. You can see the Moment on Twitter.

Cultivate an attitude for gratitude

What really struck me during the chat was how passionate volunteer managers are about thanking and recognising volunteers. But how some struggle to get the rest of the organisation to feel the same way. I’m not surprised by this: when AVM surveyed volunteer managers for International Volunteer Managers’ Day 2017 we found one of the biggest challenges was lack of buy-in from their organisation for volunteering. This is something AVM wants to work on with NCVO and the rest of the sector, to try and empower volunteer managers to bring about a culture of volunteering in their organisations.

The chat also confirmed what I long suspected: volunteering runs on a cuppa and cake! Food has always been a way of bringing people together and celebrating, across all cultures and countries. I don’t think we’re going to see an end to the celebratory tea any time soon.

Two slices of cake

So what did we learn from during the chat? Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you about how to thank and recognise the valuable contributions volunteers make every day and night.

Don’t go overboard

I once heard of a group of volunteers who asked what terrible change an organisation was going to bring in, because so many members of staff thanked them during Volunteers’ Week. What a sad reflection on the organisation’s attitude to recognising volunteers. While Volunteers’ Week is a great time to specifically thank volunteers more formally, regular thanks should be part of everyone’s everyday interactions with volunteers.

Keep it regular

Volunteers are part of the team and should be treated as such. Making thanks at the end of a shift part of how you engage with volunteers is as valuable as an annual party. Remember to share thanks genuinely, regularly and as soon as you can. Don’t save it all up for an annual Volunteers’ Week event. When you get feedback about an individual volunteer, share it with them immediately.

Make it personal

We all know the volunteers who have their collection of length of service pin badges, or who will be interviewed for local press at the drop of a hat. But what about the volunteer who’d rather not get up in front of a room full of people? There is no ‘one-size fits all’ way to thank a volunteer. When it comes to those extra special thank you’s when someone has gone above and beyond expectations, make it personal to them. After all, nobody wants to be the volunteer manager who gives a bunch of flowers to a volunteer who has hayfever!

Shout about it

That doesn’t mean you need to drag every volunteer who does a great job on a stage to shake hands with the local Mayor (though, if they’d like that, bring it on!). There are other ways you can shout about what volunteers. Social media and local press are a great way to spread the message. But equally, let the rest of the team know too. After all, you know what difference volunteers are making, but do your colleagues in Finance or IT know?

Share the love

Share the thanks you get from clients who’ve been helped by volunteers. (Yes, you can do this, even with GDPR, just make sure you know how can you do this!) You can put a copy of a letter on a noticeboard, or include snippets in your volunteer newsletter or email. It’s far more powerful to share thanks in the words of the person who is giving it.

Share the goodies

Almost everyone loves some branded goodies. You can also make it useful if you think about what volunteers need. Do they have to carry around paperwork? How about a branded bag. Do they travel a lot? Then a travelcard wallet is a great idea. You could always ask a local business to fund it if it’s not something you would normally produce. Or see if you can give them early access to the latest fundraising goodies. If it’s really good, you could always pull names from a hat!.

These are just a few things I’ve picked up from talking with other volunteer managers. We’d love to continue this conversation on Twitter so please share your questions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions using #SayingThanks.

Building bridges: volunteering research and practice workshop

joint event logsWe are pleased to invite you to a workshop on volunteering research and practice, co-hosted by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, Association of Volunteer Managers and the Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies and supported by NCVO, on the 7th June 2018, 10:30-15:30, London.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together volunteer managers and researchers to strengthen collaborative working. We will share thoughts on: the state of the existing evidence base for volunteering; how research is used in volunteering management; and priorities for future research. The workshop will include brief presentations from some of the leaders in volunteering research and practice, but the emphasis will be on collaborative working through group discussions.

This is a free event but places are limited to one per organisation, and you must register to attend.

You can see the programme further details and register at Eventbrite.

Where does volunteer management belong? Tell AVM your views

AVM has been invited to be part of a conversation on 20th June with the Central London branch of CIPD about where the Volunteer Management function sits within organisations.

If you’re based in a team other than the People or HR directorate and you would be interested in sharing your experience about this long-standing debate, please get in touch with Ruth, AVM’s Chair.

This should be an interesting conversation, so watch this space for more information following the event.

Join the AVM Membership Team!

The Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) is an independent membership body that aims to support, represent and champion people in volunteer management across the UK. It has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers and has been growing for over a decade.

Our membership now stands at over 400 people across various fields, disciplines and sectors. Joining us ensures that those who manage volunteers are part of an active network of volunteer management professionals across the country, where they can give and receive support, exchange ideas and learn from each other.

Through AVM, volunteer managers have the chance to join together, speak with a louder voice, and influence volunteer management policy makers and funders.

AVM also runs a vibrant programme of learning events throughout the year, as well as our popular annual conference. In addition to the excellent discounts members on these events, all have the opportunity to contribute to or to lead various elements, enabling them to develop their leadership skills and strengthen their reputation within the volunteer management sector.

So, we are proud of the services we offer our members.

However, we also know we could do a lot to improve things. We think many members might not be fully aware of the range of benefits we offer, and we suspect our members have needs that AVM is not meeting.

Our Membership Sub-committee is made up of three Board Members and our Membership Administrator. We would like to invite our members to join us, to help us improve our services, and ultimately, the support and leadership available for volunteer managers across the UK.

We are recruiting to three volunteer roles, all of whom would form part of our Membership team. These roles are as follows:

  • Membership Development Officer
  • Membership Services Evaluation Officer (X2)
  • Membership Benchmarking Officer

All of these roles will be managed and supported by the AVM Director leading Membership services – Angela Wilson. 

If you would like to find out a bit more about any of the roles, you can contact Angela at: [email protected]

The closing date for applications is 27 April 2018.


Membership Benchmarking Officer

Membership Development Officer

Membership Evaluation Officer X2

If you would like to apply any of these roles please complete the form.

 

Diversity event: Are you willing to be uncomfortable?

By Keeley Mooney 
AVM member; Volunteer Development Officer, Royal British Legion
Discover the five fantastic videos from this event after reading this blog

Like a secret rabbit warren, Hanbury Hall appeared through the little coffee shop that sold divine smelling coffee and delicious looking cakes.

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The stage is set . What would you ask at our diversity event?

With such a large scope, “Diversity in Volunteering and how to attract different demographics”, I wasn’t too sure how this day would go. However it met all my expectations and more.

First off Bryan Precious from Age UK quickly put in to perspective the long term benefit for supporting older volunteers. Explaining that by 2030 there could be more than 1 million people over 65 volunteering in the UK.

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“We need to consider the needs of older volunteers, this process needs to be continuous” – Bryan,

But Bryan made clear that  it is essential to continuously consider the needs of older volunteers when recruiting, managing and creating a clear leaving pathway. Age UK can help you understand how to do this better via their Later Life facts and stats report – found here.

We then had a truly inspirational speaker from Age UK Camden on how to attract LGBT volunteers. Geraldine McCarthy shared both her personal experience and learning from a project called Opening Doors London. The way this presentation was received in the room showed it didn’t just impact me but many others as well.

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Geraldine is sharing a personal story of how her passion and desire created a space to volunteer in, and how her own volunteer motivations changed with life experience

Geraldine’s talk has led me to consider forming a representative group of volunteers that advocates for the needs of people from different backgrounds. That’s just one of the ideas I took away that could help influence how diverse needs are integrated into the development of volunteering projects.

Jenny Betteridge from Sport England followed Geraldine. Sport England work with many other sport organisations and saw over 6.7 million people volunteer in sport at least twice a year in 2017. Volunteering in sport can include coaching, a committee position, being a referee and much more. Jenny was honest about the challenges they face, with one third of sports volunteers considering quitting or reducing the amount they volunteer in the next 12 months.

Since this event I’ve been working my way through the Sport England resources page. The research can help many different sectors and I’d recommend having a look through!

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“The why is important throughout your journey” Jenny Betteridge, Are you sharing the reasons why diversity is important to your cause?

Next up was Matilda Wallis, from SS. Great Britain, a visitor attraction in Bristol. The work that Matilda and her team has been doing with local schools, colleges and universities has a lot of potential. They are collaborating  by designing mutually beneficial volunteer roles. The roles need to be flexible as young volunteers often wish to make a shorter commitment.

We ended with Charlotte Handel and Rupal Karia who job share the Head of Volunteering role at Hackney Volunteer Centre. This was a chance to look at the practical ways a charity can support different people to volunteer. The presentation made me realise that by creating a one-size-fits-all volunteer application process we limit who will apply for a role, even if it is something that is of interest to them.

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Would you adapt your roles like have done?

For me, the key message from the day was the need to step out of our comfort zone if we want to recruit people from different demographics.  So are you willing to be uncomfortable? Will you ask a completely different demographic their honest opinion about your current processes and roles? What have you got to lose?

The five fantastic Diversity event presentations from February are exclusively available to AVM members, using the password in the latest AVM event email, by visiting: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/member-support/talks-and-events-archive/

View the next AVM Learning & Development Days you can attend: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/association-of-volunteer-managers-4550611853 

Encourage, Support, Improve: Effective use of Rewards and Recognition

Volunteers need to feel valued and appreciated, and an effective programme for reward and recognition can achieve so much more. Join us on 15 May 2018, at Hanbury Hall,  London E1 6QR, to learn what others are doing and get some inspiration for your own programme.

Click here to book a place.

This L&D event will look at examples of effective reward and recognition programmes from organisations such as: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home; Age UK Camden and British Red Cross. There will also be presentations from: Team Kinetic, looking at using data to assess rewards and incentives; Value You, explaining their free discount card and gift voucher programme for volunteers, and a Committee member from the Queens Award for Voluntary Service, giving some insight into this most prestigious form of recognition.

Recognising volunteer’s efforts and dedication clearly shows that they are supported by their organisation and helps to encourage and motivate. Volunteers who are satisfied and well-motivated are more likely to improve and progress, which in turn leads to a more productive volunteer team. Modern volunteers are often keen to improve CVs or UCAS applications by displaying skills and experience gained from volunteering. Such volunteers may be more responsive to certificates or other visible awards.

There are many different ways to recognise and reward volunteers, and each organisation needs to develop a programme that suits its resources and it’s volunteers’ needs. This event brings together a range of presenters and delegates from organisations of all sizes, to compare and contrast different approaches to this vital issue. There will also be group discussions and networking opportunities.

Click here for full information or to book a place.

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Reward and Recognition: Encourage; Support; Improve! 

15 May, Hanbury Hall, London      E1 6QR.

Click here to book.

 

 

There are also still tickets available for:

Time is Money: Investing in Volunteer time drives income. 24 April, London.  Click here.

New approaches to involving and engaging volunteers. 12 June, Bristol.   Click here

 

AVM Mentoring Scheme

With over 400 members and growing fast, the AVM network consists of a wealth of talented people with excellent skills and experience in the field of volunteer management and leadership. We know AVM members are often keen to learn from others and develop their skills and careers. To this end, AVM has great hopes of facilitating an exciting new mentoring scheme amongst its membership.

We hope that members will be able to develop their leadership and mentoring skills through volunteering as mentors for others, as well as gaining vicarious satisfaction through seeing others progress. We also hope that members will be able to learn from others and achieve their own personal development and career goals by signing up as a ‘mentee’.

We’re still in the early stages of planning this scheme. We have developed a project plan, and some of the tools we’ll need to make it work, such as registration forms. We’ve got to the stage where we have an idea what the scheme might look like.

So now we need your help. If you are an AVM member and:

  • have ideas about what might make this scheme a success, and/ or
  • would be happy to help us test our tools/ resources and feedback, and/ or
  • are interested in signing up as a mentor or a mentee

we would love to hear from you! Please leave us your details here, and we’ll get back to you.

Alternatively, if you have questions, you can message us directly. The AVM Directors leading the development of this scheme are Angela Wilson and Jo Gibney.

Not an AVM Member, but still interested? That’s great! We expect that we’ll only have capacity to offer this scheme to members, but if we know there is appetite from outside our membership we can explore ways of extending it. Leave us your thoughts here. Alternatively, you can always sign up as a member!