Time for Change: International Volunteer Managers Day 2018

Daniel Ingram, AVM Director, shares his thoughts on what this year’s International Volunteer Managers Day theme means for AVM, and leaders and managers of volunteers.

Pledges shared by delegates at our annual conference in October

Time for change – what does that mean for you? We’re keen to hear about the change you think it is time for, so please take a few minutes to complete our short survey.

This year’s International Volunteer Managers Day call to action has me reflecting on the changes I’ve experienced as a volunteer manager, how AVM is changing, and which changes we need make to develop the profession we love.

AVM’s IVM Day 17 pledge: to be the voice to empower, enable and amplify the voice of all managers of volunteers across the UK

I’ve been involved in volunteer engagement for over 10 years and a member of AVM for five of them. AVM was there when I took my first steps into strategic volunteer management, and it has been there through the ups and downs ever since.

This year change has been challenging. My role was made redundant in February and throughout this period of upheaval AVM members have been the rock I’ve clung on to. Whether that’s sharing their own redundancy story with me, putting me in touch with new opportunities, or just listening. You know who you are, thank you.

AVM pledges to connect leaders of volunteering to make change happen together

This year has also been a time of renewal for AVM. Did you spot our Chair’s blog – ‘Connecting leaders of volunteering to make change happen together’ – about the journey we’ve been on? It’s been an honour to have played a part in developing our new vision and mission with the Board, non-members and members.

They will guide our path, but can we all agree on what comes next? What changes are needed in our great profession?

One thing without doubt is that we can only answer questions like this with true authority by coming together to speak with one very loud persuasive voice!

It’s time for change. Connect with other leaders of volunteers and volunteering and let us know the changes we need to make happen together: complete our short survey now.

Connecting leaders of volunteering to make change happen together

Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM, explain’s AVM’s new vision and strategy.

Empowering people to make a difference in their local communities and bring about change using their skills and assets – this is why I have always been passionate about volunteer management. To effectively facilitate and support initiatives and enable people to contribute effectively we must develop and provide the right structure. This includes well-trained and well-supported volunteer managers .

We are all familiar with the well-deserved accolade of volunteers to our organisation and the wider sector. We know that volunteers can only offer the greatest value and to ensure equity is offered to everyone who wants to give time to us when volunteer managers are working most effectively. Volunteer Managers matter as well. This sums up the ultimate aim of AVM.

Your board has prioritised developing AVM’s new strategy. I was immensely proud to launch it at our recent Annual General Meeting.

Our work began in October 2017 with an away day facilitated by Martin Farrell. Together we explored AVM’s beginnings, the experience of board members and the history of volunteer management as a profession. This demonstrated both the breadth of experience in the room and the powerful recognition that as a board we needed to do more for our members.

We identified three key themes requiring our concentration and focus:

1. Offer
  • Holding events outside London. This echoed our International Volunteer Managers Day 2017 survey. We achieved this in 2018, holding events in Bristol, Manchester and Stirling
  • Mentoring – this scheme is due to be launched early 2019, and will fulfil a very longstanding ambition of AVM
  • Extending our online outreach. Our L&D events are filmed and available to members on our website. We want to further extend our online presence
2. Members:
  • Our members must feel that AVM is their association. We are therefore developing opportunities to allow members to shape AVM
  • We need to better understand what our members require from us. The International Volunteer Managers Day 2017 was just the start of this feedback exercise. The 2018 survey will build on this.
  • We also need to know why some volunteer managers have not become members and address any gaps or barriers.
3. External
  • We will develop partnerships and networks across the sectors so that members are better supported and we can ensure the voice of volunteering is heard.

Our next step was introspective. We examined the context we were operating in. We reviewed our business model, our governance and organisational structure. We considered our achievements and the products and services we offer.

We recognised the need to create sub committees to support the operational elements of AVM. We already had successful conference and events committees but needed more. We’ve created a Business Development Committee and task and finish groups for specific projects including the mentoring scheme.

Our thoughts then turned to the future. We needed to articulate AVM’s core elements and ensure we continued to be relevant for our members over the coming years.

We spent time describing our vision of where AVM should be in 5 and 10 years. This was deliberately aspirational. Responses were both concrete and tangible, and also anarchic and controversial. The picture illustrates one board member’s wish that volunteer management had been something offered as a career when she was at school – and our desire that one day it will be.

We created several options describing our desired future which we then asked our membership to comment on and shape. The 120 responses received clearly demonstrated the interest people had in this conversation – and showed us gaps in the general understanding of AVM’s purpose.

A further and crucial project was to agree the activities necessary for AVM to achieve its vision. We created a MOSCoW grid – activities we Must, Should, Could and Wouldn’t be doing. This has proven invaluable in prioritising our work plan and provided a focus for our energy. I have been laughed at for whipping it out at every opportunity– but am incredibly proud of what we have created together!

The vision launched at our 2018 conference is: Connecting leaders of volunteering to make change happen together

And our accompanying mission statement:
Our mission is to inspire and empower leaders of volunteering.
We are a recognised community of leaders of volunteers, sharing expertise and support. 
We build this through the provision of engagement, resources and advocacy.

The key goals to achieve AVM’s vision and mission are:

  • Developing and growing our offer
  • Building participation and increased relevance to members
  • Developing as a profession
  • Representation and advocacy

It was also important to us that we identified the strategic enablers to complement our goals,

Communicating – We shall develop an effective 2 way communication mechanism for our members including updating our website and digital platforms

Partnerships – We recognise that AVM doesn’t exist in a vacuum and are keen to develop collaborative partnerships and networks across the sectors

Supporting decision making – Developing influencing up tools as advocacy support for volunteer managers advancing their cause in their workplaces

Collaborating with our members – Ensure increased opportunities to become further involved and also volunteer

Evidence based – Develop measurement tools and key performance indicators including for management information purposes

Future-focussed – Develop thought leadership around the future of volunteer management in order to future proof the profession

AVM is developing into a dynamic organisation with its members at its heart. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to become more involved.

Volunteer managers, which for us means anyone who works with volunteers, need to develop their skills and confidence; and AVM exists to support this . We owe it to our volunteers – giving their time, energy and experience – to make this gift as effective as possible. Volunteer management is the platform that enables people giving their time to be engaged, supported and motivated. Ensuring that volunteer management is recognised as a skill and a valued profession is essential for volunteers to continue to flourish and indeed volunteering.

Ruth Leonard is Chair of AVM, and Head of Volunteering Development at Macmillan Cancer Support.

Could you be our new Business Development Manager?

The Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) is an independent membership body that aims to support, represent and champion people in volunteer management in the UK regardless of field, discipline or sector. It has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers.

We’re at an exciting point in our development and are preparing for a period of sustained growth. To be effective, we’re seeking a part time Business Development Manager for a fixed term of 6 months.

The post holder will be expected to lead on and implement AVM’s interim business plan, improve our infrastructure, work alongside the Board to strengthen partnerships and support the development of a five year strategy.

For more information please contact Ruth Leonard (Chair) or Karen Ramnauth.  

How to apply

Send a cover letter and CV to [email protected]

The deadline is midday, Friday 28th September 2018 and interviews will take place on Wednesday 3rd October 2018 in central London. We are looking for a candidate who can start as soon as possible.  

AVM Director 2018 elections open for nominations

UPDATED: Nominations are now closed.

AVM Director elections open for nominations

The 2018 elections to join the board of AVM are now open for nominations.

Any member is eligible to stand for election, and this is your opportunity to help shape and lead the Association of Volunteer Managers as a director.

Find out more by downloading the 2018 AVM election pack. This year we are particularly looking for candidates with skills in finance or marketing.

If you have any questions about being a Director, please contact our Chair, Ruth Leonard via email. For those who are interested in being a Director, you are welcome to attend some of our next Board Meeting on 5th September.

The returning officer for this year’s election is Rachel Ball, AVM Company Secretary. If you have any questions or difficulties you can contact her directly for help or advice.

Please download and complete a nomination form, and email it directly to Rachel Ball.

Nominations close at 6pm, Tuesday 28 August 2018.

Voting will open on 7 September and all eligible voters will receive further information about how to vote by email.

Can you help us decide AVM’s vision?

AVM’s board has reflected on our 10 year journey with you, our members, and begun to build a picture of where our journey must and should go next. For that journey to be successful we need to travel together. Can you help us decide the vision we will all seek to achieve?

We have narrowed down the ideas to three statement options. We would like you to rate each option and share your thoughts on why you gave this rating.

Please complete our short survey.

Recruiting a new treasurer: can AVM count on you?

  • Do you have a head for figures?

  • Want to help AVM thrive and grow?

  • Got time to give to help grow the volunteer management profession?

If this sounds like you – or someone you know – then AVM would like to hear from you! The AVM board is looking to co-opt someone with finance skills and experience to support our current Treasurer, and build capacity for growth.

Initially you will be co-opted until this year’s AGM (at our October conference), with the option of you being co-opted again. This role does not require you to be an AVM member.

If you are interested in the role please see the role description. If you’d like to discuss the role in more detail, please get in touch.

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.

Mentoring: Who do you think you are?

By Claire Knight
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.

Picture1

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!

Edited: expressions of interest are currently closed. 

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.