Volunteer Management In The Next Decade

Karl Wilding continues our tenth anniversary blog series with thoughts on how Volunteer Management’s journey to date will shape the next ten years.

In the ten years since AVM was established, much has changed in the world around us that has impacted upon volunteering and therefore volunteer management. Some of this surprised us: a financial crisis, a decade of economic stagnation and social tensions, albeit punctuated by the highlight of volunteering during London 2012, and more recently the decision to leave the European Union. Some changes we saw coming: the demographic pressures and changing social attitudes of an ageing, more diverse and more atomised society. What we probably didn’t see was how quickly these changes would come about and the pressure they would place on our communities and the services we use. We probably also didn’t see how the opportunities that digital technology would deliver, or some of the social fractures it would deepen. Building bridges between communities of place and interest is more vital than ever, a tension that saw volunteer management hit (for the first time?) the front pages of our national newspapers recently.

We live in interesting times. It seems to me that these wider social, demographic and economic changes will continue to shape and reshape volunteering over the next decade, though only the most foolhardy venture to make predictions these days. What therefore might AVM members want to mull over as shaping the next 10 years?

For me, the slow burn of demographic change will reshape volunteering and how we think about how we work with those who want to engage in the communities (note the plural) around them. Public services are already being refashioned so as to involve service users more in their delivery. Boundaries between paid and unpaid staff will blur as we try and cope with pressures from a growing, but ageing, population. Note also the less flexible labour markets that many argue will result from the decision to leave the European Union.

Informal volunteering, such as acts of neighbourliness, especially seem important as reducing demand is seen as a way of helping public services better cope. The Royal Voluntary Service’s increased focus on social action might be indicative of the way forward here. Do we need to (re)think volunteer managers as convenors, catalysts, shapers of people who want to get involved in their communities? If so, is it a radical rethink or an evolution of change already afoot? Either way, it will be more important than ever that we build and strengthen the bonds of community. More people helping people.

But it’s about more than just individuals doing good things: bringing people together so that they are more than the sum of their parts, working out how best to involve businesses who feel a responsibility to the community, and working out how to work alongside our public services are all part of the emerging landscape. We’ve learnt over the last decade that volunteers don’t always just appear spontaneously; or even when they do, good organisation and infrastructure enables volunteers to make a bigger impact.

Effective, impactful volunteering needs good infrastructure and networks. As government and business become more interested in social action, the case for investment in volunteer management might become more apparent, based on experience. In turn this will inevitably lead to more thinking about value for money, greater calls for management information, and more data collection. That has to be a good thing, but for some it might be the less attractive side of continued professionalization. If that leads to less of the ‘let’s sprinkle some volunteers on the problem’ type thinking, then a more data-driven approach is OK by me.

The topic of data leads to a discussion of digital (aka #techforgood) and how that might shape the future of volunteering. This is the most difficult to call: AVM’s ten year anniversary coincides with the device that pretty much kicked off the smartphone revolution, the iPhone. Could anyone seriously have predicted the impact that would have on pretty much every aspect of life? Current trends might suggest an ever-more efficient brokering of people who want to get involved with opportunities that fit (based on the data that your phone now collects about you); more emphasis on place and opportunities based on where someone happens to be; and more mopping up of small bits of spare time as the smartphone facilitates activities such as mentoring, remotely. Finally, tech blogs are currently awash with discussions of AI and machine learning. I can’t even begin to understand how these will shape volunteer management – they will – but in terms of volunteering itself, volunteers are already helping machines to learn how to recognise patterns that have a social outcome, such as this project around slavery. A brave new world indeed.

Volunteer management will not stay static in the next decade. Nor should it. I look forward to AVM leading the discussion around what the brave new world of volunteer management could, and might, look like.

 

Karl Wilding speaks and writes widely on issues facing the voluntary sector. Karl is Director of Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO, a trustee of both Creating the Future and St Albans CVS, and an advisor to Charity Bank.

Winning in Volunteer Management: How Sports & Non-Profits can Learn Together

21 September, at The Crypt, Christ Church, Spitalfields

This event is looking at how we can work more closely together. Click here for more information or to book a place.

Prior to the 2012 London Olympics, the government asked sporting organisations what they knew about volunteering, and they asked volunteering organisations what they knew about sport. Both answers were the same: “Virtually nothing!”

Yet sports volunteering accounts for 22% of the UK total – more than any other sector. (This information came out at our last event on 27 July)

Many charities organise sports-style fundraising events, such as walks or runs or cycle rides, but is there cooperation with sports organisations in the preparation or administration of these events?

Surely the time is ripe for sports and non-sports volunteer managers to get together and start to work together: to share experiences and challenges and successes.

This event will hear from presenters with experience of both sports and other non-profit and charity organisations, from research professors working in collaboration with sports organisations across the world and from the London 2012 Legacy charity: Join In. There will also be the usual networking opportunities and the chance to voice your own opinions.

Speakers will include: Jenny Betteridge, Sport England; Chantelle Scherer, Join In; Dr. Fiona Reid, SRVN / Glasgow University; Dr. Lindsay Findlay-King, SRVN / Northumbria University; Alex Beaumont, LTA -British Tennis; Kerry Marland, England Athletics.

Click here for more information or to book a place.                                                            

Every Journey Had A Beginning

Continuing our series of blogs celebrating AVM’s tenth anniversary, Rob Jackson reflects on his memories of the time leading up to the creation of AVM.

Joe Saxton recently shared his thoughts about what the next ten years might hold in store for AVM so I thought it might be nice to travel back in time to the birth of the Association.

AVM had its genesis in regular networking meetings John Ramsey and I used to organise (as volunteers) for volunteer managers. After the demise of the National Volunteer Managers Forum the only networking opportunity that remained was a closed group, which neither John nor I were a part of. We didn’t begrudge the group existing but did think that something should be available to any Volunteer Manager that wanted to take part.

The group met at various locations across London and, on one occasion, close to Old Street roundabout, the group hosted a visit from Australian colleague Andy Fryar. Andy had agreed to come and share his wisdom with us whilst visiting the UK on business. During the resulting discussion Andy challenged us to follow the lead of our Australian colleagues who were busy founding AAMoV, AVM’s cousin ‘down under’.

That meeting and that discussion gave birth to the idea that became AVM. To this day Andy rightly considers himself the midwife that helped deliver AVM.

Not long after that I started a new job at Volunteering England. My employer deemed it a conflict of interest for me to take up my new role and be involved in AVM and so I stepped back, leaving John to carry the baby to term, so to speak.

I take absolutely no credit at all for creating AVM. I was just one voice in a room that helped initiate the idea. John Ramsey deserves all the plaudits for making the idea a reality, along with all those early board members. It is thanks to their hard work, their risk taking (something Volunteer Managers aren’t always naturals at) and their commitment to our field that, ten years later, we have the Association of Volunteer Managers.

AVM isn’t perfect but, do you know what? Neither are volunteers and volunteering. We are much better off now with AVM in existence than we were twenty-three-years-ago when I started in this profession.

AVM is the sum of all of us. It succeeds when we all get involved, when we all commit to our field, when we all take action, when, as the theme for this year’s International Volunteer Manager Day states, we all take steps to ‘Be The Voice’ for volunteer leadership and management.

I can’t leave this article there, though. The last word should go my my friend John Ramsey. John’s death in 2014 left AVM and the profession of Volunteer Management weaker. Thankfully we have some of his wisdom preserved in his writing, so I end on one of my friend’s quotes, something we should all remember every day:

I will never tire of saying this: Volunteer management is about respecting our volunteers sufficiently that we properly invest in them to maximise their engagement and participation, and ensure the very best outcomes for our beneficiaries.

Bookings Now Open for AVM 2017: The Annual Conference

We’re pleased to announce that bookings for AVM 2017: The Annual Conference are now open.

Book your place now.

As an AVM member you already receive a 50% discount on your conference booking but why not enjoy more with the early bird discount. We only have a limited number of these tickets available.

As a non-member you can still enjoy early bird discount, but we only have a limited number of these tickets available.

Don’t leave it too long to book your place and why would you want to when you see what a fantastic line-up we have planned:

Keynote speakers this year are:
Julie Bentley, CEO of Girlguiding
Vicky Browning, CEO of Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
James Probert, Director of Strategy and Impact, City Year UK

Seminars this year include:
• Change is not a journey
• Measuring Impact
• Using data and benchmarks to drive volunteering up the agenda
• Embracing the age of opportunity – involving younger and older volunteers
• Corporate volunteering from the third sector perspective
• Creativity and meaning in volunteer reward and recognition
• Influential Leadership: Gaining Commitment, Getting Results
• GIVERS – Nudging People to Volunteer

You shouldn’t just hear it from us how great the conference is. Carly Benton, Volunteer Development Officer at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, shares her experience of being a first-timer at the AVM Conference in 2016 and why you shouldn’t miss out:

“For me there is nothing more valuable than meeting like-minded peers to challenge my thinking.  There will always be areas for improvement and barriers to overcome in the world of volunteering. This is why the AVM Conference is the perfect place for volunteer managers to come together with a shared understanding, to not only to develop your skillset and keep up to date with current trends, but also to reassure you you’re not in it alone!”

We look forward to seeing you at the Volunteer Management event of the year!

AVM Conference Team

 

Other L&D events:

Meaningful Engagement Begins with Recruitment, 27 July, 10 am – 4 pm

Click here to secure members’ rates.

Addressing the challenge of securing fully motivated and engaged, long-term volunteers. Should this begin with a recruitment strategy focussed on engagement? We consider a range of approaches from large and small organisations, and specialist advisers.

Notice of Extraordinary General Meeting: 13 July 2017

Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) will be holding an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) at the following time and location:

6pm, Thursday 13 July 2017
The Royal British Legion (Head Office), 199 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1AA

The business to be discussed is a change in the articles of incorporation of AVM.

A series of changes is proposed, and can be downloaded using the links below.

  • Proposed changes marked-up on current articles

Please note that as these documents are stored on Google Drive you may encounter restrictions if accessing them from a corporate network.

(Please note that these documents are no longer available for download)

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 Welcomes Lords’ Recommendations On Charities

AVM has welcomed the key recommendation around supporting volunteer management in ‘Stronger charities for a stronger society’, the new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities.

The report contains the recommendation:

We propose that funders should provide more resources for volunteer managers so that charities can make the best possible use of the generous contribution of their volunteers and support their efforts.

The recommendation is based on a submission from the Association of Volunteer Managers responding to the Select Committee’s call for evidence last year. This was bolstered by the committee’s own evidence gathering when they visited local charities who talked about their needs when involving volunteers in their work.

Debbie Usiskin, Chair of AVM, said: “We are over the moon at this news. Communicating the value and need for volunteer management as a recognised discipline is at the core of what AVM was set up to achieve. Having such high-profile confirmation of this is very welcome.”

AVM member Sheila Norris echoed these words: “Working in a local volunteer centre, I see first hand the impact that investing in volunteer management can have. I’m pleased that this new report recognises the resources needed to make volunteering happen.”

The committee’s own comments on the recommendation were: “Funders need to be more receptive to requests for resources for volunteer managers and co-ordinators, especially where charities are able to demonstrate a strong potential volunteer base. We recommend that Government guidance on public sector grants and contracts is amended to reflect this and set a standard for other funders.”

Work with AVM as our Learning & Development Officer

AVM are looking for a Learning & Development Officer to join the team.

The main objective of the role will be to plan, manage, market and deliver a schedule of high quality learning and development events/activities with the purpose of creating significant revenue, growing our membership and promoting AVM’s reputation and profile.

This role would suit someone with significant experience of designing and co-ordinating learning events, alongside event management experience and attention to detail. Existing experience within the voluntary sector or a professional membership body would be a bonus. Detailed role profile and person specification are available on our CharityJob listing.

The salary offered for this post is £26,500pa.

The deadline for applications is Noon on Friday 24 March 2017.

Interviews will be held during week commencing Monday 3 April 2017.

Application is via CV and cover letter sent to Fiona Wallace through our CharityJob listing.

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.