Do you feel like it would be great to talk more with other volunteer leaders?

We know from our member’s feedback that volunteer managers often feel like they are the only one who gets what they are going through, and that coming together with other volunteer managers is always an opportunity to share ideas, concerns and mutual support.

A request for peer support is often one of the first things we hear when volunteer managers are asked what they want to get from membership of groups like AVM, the Voluntary Voice platform, and talking to members at the AVM Conference.

To set the ball rolling we shall launch our first peer support session on will be on Zoom Monday 12th of July at 4.30pm. This session will be hosted by AVM Director Neil Monk.

This meeting is open to all AVM members. Future events will be planned by location (to hopefully enable future meet-ups in person), and also by sector (so watch this space).

Find out more and register your place for this session. 

Build your confidence in 2021: become a mentor

Is 2021 the year you could make a difference to another volunteer manager?

AVM’s mentoring programme is seeking more members to join us as mentors. If you have experience of leading volunteers, then to be a mentor you may not need as much experience as you think.

What you do need is to have had that experience of taking on a volunteer leadership role, and having the confidence to support another to tackle their learning curve. You are probably still learning yourself (who isn’t?) every day, but know how demanding the role of volunteer management can be and have worked out how to meet many of those demands.

Helping another person can be a hugely rewarding experience for mentors, as well as mentees. We often find that our mentors learn as much as their mentees through the mentoring experiences, and helps them gain confidence.

If you’re already a mentor, why not encourage someone to sign up as a mentor, and give them that confidence boost?

Find out more

One of our current mentors has shared their experience how being a mentor has helped them as much as it has helped their mentee. Read why they signed up to be a mentor.

AVM Director Neil Monk shares his thoughts on why you don’t need as much experience as you might think you do to be a mentor. Read his blog now.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a volunteer manager, you can find out more, and sign up today.

The mentoring programme is only available to AVM members. Find out more about AVM membership.

How being a mentor gives me insight

“Mentoring…gives me an insight into the challenges faced in the sector today.”
AVM mentor, 2020
Neil Monk is Peer Support Project Officer at Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services, and a Director of AVM

I recall my early forays into leading volunteers. I was already on some steep learning curves, starting new initiatives in campaigning as well as building a project to support orphaned children in Uganda from scratch. This all needed volunteers (I was one myself). I had gone to this with little thought
that leading volunteers would be another steep learning curve in itself, a whole new job description.

I look back now and realise how much I could have gained from support, advice and encouragement from someone who had experience and knowledge of why, and how, volunteer management is very much a skill in itself.

So, giving back when you can is a large part of what the whole volunteer sector is about. It’s great for me to be in touch with a new volunteer manager. While my mentee is looking to gain support from someone with years of experience this can also be a two way experience. Mentoring someone else, in my case with someone new to working with volunteers, puts me back I touch with the initial stages of leading volunteers, and gives me an insight into the challenges faced in the sector today.

Becoming a volunteer mentor

So, what do I need to have to become a volunteer mentor? I think that the answer here is that, along as you do have experience of leading volunteers, you may not need as much as experience as you think. If you feel that you have been on that sharp initial learning curve (and, of course, still learning every day) and have lessons learned that can be passed on then mentoring well be a way that you can pass on your experience in a way that not only supports another volunteer manager, but supports the whole sector of volunteer management, as this strengthens the line of support within a specific job description framework.


If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a volunteer manager, you can find out more, and sign up today.

The mentoring programme is available to AVM members. Find out more about AVM membership.

How being a mentor helps me help others

“It soon became apparent that my experience could help someone else!”
AVM mentor, 2020
A guest blog by Hazel Kelly, Volunteering Consultant at The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

I’ve been in the volunteering sector for over 20 years, but putting my application in to be an AVM mentor started me thinking about what I had to offer.

I haven’t had much strategic experience, or a huge amount of experience managing staff, projects or budgets. So, what skills did I have that could maybe help support a fellow volunteer manager? And why did I think I could be a good mentor?

The first thing I knew was that I was a good listener. I had had a varied experience working in small, medium and national charities, and still have that passion and determination to enable more people to volunteer and make sure they are supported appropriately. Working on the ground, day in day out problems, managing busy workloads and dealing with challenges to do with recruitment, managing and training not only volunteers but colleagues. Not a bad start I thought!

I was ‘matched’ with my mentee – and we had our first zoom call to get to know each other, what she needed help and support with and whether I would be of use.

It soon became apparent that my experience could help someone else! We talked about time management, the forever non ending list of things to do, challenges of some staff and volunteers attitudes and behaviours. All things that most of us who have been in the game a while has had lots of dealings with. I’m not there with the answers, a magic pill to make things work better. I’m there to bounce ideas off, make suggestions, to plant seeds of a different way to look at things and mostly to provide that space – to think!

I am excited to watch my mentee grow, especially in confidence, and try new things. To look after herself and not check her emails when off work! Learning to time manage and getting more structure to her day benefitting her efficiency and positivity. My feedback from her so far ‘Our conversation led to an idea ……………………….Thanks for your lovely positive input’.

I love our monthly catch ups. It’s not a huge amount of time to find and the benefits, such as giving something back, being a positive influence, sharing good practice and learning from each other is a really rewarding thing to be part of.


If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a volunteer manager, you can find out more, and sign up today.

The mentoring programme is available to AVM members. Find out more about AVM membership.

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

Angela Wilson is an AVM Director, and Head of Volunteering at MS Society.

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.

Find out more about AVM’s mentoring scheme

AVM members can join our mentoring scheme, either as a mentee or mentor. Find out more about the scheme and sign up.

If you’d like to be a mentor and are not currently an AVM member, find out how to join AVM.

Evaluation of AVM’s pilot mentoring scheme

AVM’s pilot mentoring scheme

In January 2019, AVM launched a six-month pilot mentoring scheme. The hope was that AVM members would be able to support each other in their professional development, to problem solve, and to further develop the volunteer management profession.

Run entirely online, the scheme was accessible to mentors and mentees from all over the UK. 12 mentors and 12 mentors signed up to the scheme, and there were 10 successful matches. The scheme was advertised in Jan 2019, and ran from February – August 2019.

Read our evaluation report for a full summary of the pilot.

Thanks to everyone who made this happen

Many AVM members have assisted in the development of this scheme. Liz Wigelsworth, Branch and Volunteer Development Manager, CIPD, and Jo Keller, RNIB, considered what AVM members said they wanted from the scheme, and have described the type of mentoring offered by AVM as:

“Mentoring at AVM involves a more experienced volunteer management professional sharing knowledge and supporting a less experienced individual with their career and personal development. The purpose of the relationship is to support the mentee to make a positive change and reach their goals e.g. to develop their leadership and influencing skills and/or progress their career. Mentoring at AVM is also mutually beneficial as it allows the mentor to develop their skills and gain the satisfaction of supporting others.”

Find out more about AVM’s mentoring scheme

AVM members can join our mentoring scheme, either as a mentee or mentor. Find out more about the scheme and sign up.

If you’d like to be a mentor and are not currently an AVM member, find out how to join AVM.

Mentoring: Who do you think you are?

By Claire Knight Tweet to @bumblebore69
AVM member and mentoring scheme participant; Strategic Partnership Manager, Macmillan Cancer Support

When I was a child, this phrase was imbued with meaning far beyond its words.  What the adult saying it really meant was “you, young lady, are too big for your boots”.  It was intended to cut me down to size… the proper size, not the size I thought I was in that moment.  Which clearly, in their opinion, was TOO BIG.

I have recently changed jobs, and four weeks in I have found myself reflecting on where I am today.  It’s exciting. I am learning. I am contributing. But also, I feel unsure of what I am doing…was I too big for my boots when I put myself up for this job?  It doesn’t matter where we are on any ladder, being outside of our comfort zone is quite simply, uncomfortable.

The truth is, as we develop in our careers (and in our lives outside of work too), we evolve and build on who we are.  We don’t always know what we have in us until we put ourselves out there and try. We certainly don’t know what we will achieve in the future, or who we will become.  What’s important is to bravely step out of the comfort zone in the first place. The really great thing is that we can help ourselves and we can look to others for help too.

One such source of help is a mentor, someone who is more experienced, or “bigger”, we could say, than we are.  We know that they won’t laugh us out of the room. They can help us navigate our own learning through trial and error.  And the experience and perspective they have can provide priceless insight into our own situations.

Perhaps a less appreciated source of development is to become a mentor.

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I have had the privilege of being a mentor for two people in the past few years.  I’ll be honest, initially I wasn’t sure I had the skills or experience to do what it takes. In my head, a mentor was someone who had earned the right to be on that pedestal…a “bigger” person than me. But I like to think I made a difference to my mentees’ development in the time I supported them.  They have both moved on in their careers, that’s for sure.

Importantly, I learnt from the experience too.

I deepened my understanding of two specialised job roles; this broader perspective later proved helpful in securing a more senior position. I discovered who in my organisation could use their technical knowledge to help my team; this prompted me to experiment, measure and improve our web content. I improved my questioning technique to result in richer conversations; this helped me improve my line management skills and resulted in greater development for my own team.  I began to appreciate the ways my professional and personal experiences could be useful to others; this built my self awareness and confidence. Finally, on a personal level, I enjoyed getting to know two interesting, talented individuals.

In short, I am convinced that being a mentor helped me to develop in new ways, be better at my own job and ultimately to progress in my career.

The pilot mentoring scheme being developed now by the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) is looking for people to become mentors. This exciting opportunity involves a matching process to help pair mentees with mentors, and comes with guidance, support and the chance to network with other mentors too.

If I can share my mentoring experience with you, I would suggest it is not about being “bigger”, older or earning more. It is about having an enquiring mind and a fresh perspective. This could come from a simple difference such as being in another team, area of work, or position in a hierarchy.  If you are looking to progress your career, consider being a mentor. You would learn as much by giving as by receiving, I promise you. So go on….give it a go.

Simply tell us who you think you are and we’ll take it from there!

AVM members can sign up to become a mentor.

If you’d like to be a mentor and are not currently an AVM member, find out how to join AVM.

Finding a mentor…like going to the movies?

Blog by AVM Director Angela Wilson.

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

Find out more about AVM’s mentoring scheme

AVM members can join our mentoring scheme, either as a mentee or mentor. Find out more about the scheme and sign up.

If you’d like to be a mentor and are not currently an AVM member, find out how to join AVM.

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.