2020 AGM and Update from the Board of Directors

A recording of our 2020 AGM and the associated documents are now available in the members’ area of the website.

As agreed at the AGM, all our fully elected board directors have had their terms extended by one year; Ruth Leonard’s term was extended by two years and both Rachel Ball and Tom Ball were co-opted for a further two years

At our November board meeting, the directors approved the Co-option of Jo Keller and Andy Broomhead until the 2021 AGM.  Both Jo and Andy have been involved with AVM in the previous 24 months and we look forward to working with them further.

Also at the same board meeting, the Directors voted in Shaun Delaney as Company Secretary. Rachel Ball has now stepped down from this role but will remain on the board, focusing on business development.

All of these changes have been reflected on our website.

We are looking forward to seeing what this newly structured board can achieve and wish those in new roles all the best for this new adventure together.

An Open Letter to Senior Managers and Boards from leaders of volunteering

Download the letter

Recent events have shown what we in the charity and not-for-profit sector know to be true – that volunteering and community engagement is and remains a universally strong spirit. People, without being asked to step in, are coming forward to give their time and share their skills, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support; ultimately creating a sense of resilience and strength.  

But in order to support these initiatives and enable people to contribute effectively it is vital to think about how to develop and provide the relevant set up. Evidence on collective efficacy has shown that without the appropriate infrastructure and support to co-ordinate efforts and offers of help, community action can dissipate rather than proliferate. 

A key element of this infrastructure I would argue is having well trained and well supported people to provide the volunteer management. We are all familiar with the well-deserved accolade of volunteers to our organisations – and indeed the sector as a whole; but in order to enable volunteers to offer the greatest value we need to recognise that Volunteer Managers matter as well.  

Keeping a balance between efficient, supportive volunteer opportunities with a responsive and adaptable relationship, carries right though a volunteer journey. Volunteers need to be supported once they’re involved; in a way that is meaningful to them and meets their changing needs. At this time, this has extended into supporting volunteers who have been asked to temporarily stop their role and thinking about how we can re-engage them. Organisations which involve volunteers need to reflect on the importance of putting resources into their volunteering interventions, including equipping those who work with our volunteers. 

At a time when all organisations including charities are facing threat to their income, the value and impact which volunteers bring, extending the reach and resources and developing services and interventions which resonate within the community, really matters. As Joe Saxton from nfpSynergy said in a recent blog, “volunteers…could be at the heart of the shift” of making sure things get done.

If we are going to effectively build on the interest in volunteering which has come through this pandemic, and not lose the positives of the agile and flexible way that people have been able to get involved, organisations need to think widely and creatively about how they engage those who want to give their time – and in order to do this strategically they will need to keep the investment in volunteer management.

This is why a group made up of AVM, the Association of Voluntary Service Managers (AVSM), Heritage Volunteering Group (HVG), the Scottish Volunteering Forum and Volunteer Now have come together, convened by Rob Jackson and building on a similar alliance in the States, involving Betsy McFarland from Adisa, to write an open letter to leaders of organisations which involve volunteers  – to let them know the importance of having those who understand and lead on volunteer management at the table when discussing the future.

This is the first time we’ve worked together in this way as an alliance and I’m so proud that AVM has been part of that and hope we can bring our networks together in the future, so thanks for Rob for making that happen.

I’d like to thank Rob and Betsy who joined us at the launch of the letter and shared their thoughts and experience.

I’m proud that AVM has taken part in this important piece of work and to have been able to work across our organisations, and please do get in touch to feedback and let us know how you’d like us to promote this and support you to get the message out.

Download the letter

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

Collaborating for Volunteers’ Week 2020

AVM, facilitated by Andy Broomhead (Diabetes UK), hosted 38 organisations for an information and networking session on Volunteers Week 2020. The group heard from Sarah Merrington, deputising for Tiger de Souza, on the plans for this year’s coordinated response to Volunteers Week in England. Sarah ran through the plans for the week and how organisations could get behind the coordinated response, by aligning their messaging and activity where they can. Participants then broke out into groups to discuss what they were doing for the week and how it might link to the national response. 

A recording of Sarah’s presentation is available below.

In summary the main activities will be:

  • Shared press release on day 1 to announce the Volunteers Week 2020 and our intentions, sent by all of us in a synchronised way (template to be provided)
  • Shared joint Volunteers Week 2020 video promoted through social media by all organisations on day 1
  • Use of daily ‘themes’ so we do our external pushes through the week in a joined up way to maximise media interest and gain most coverage. These are:
    • Monday – Listening & Support
    • Tuesday – Health & Well-being 
    • Wednesday – Fundraising for the causes we care about
    • Thursday – COVID-19 response and informal community civic action
    • Friday – Nature & the Outdoors
    • Saturday – Art & Culture
    • Sunday – Sport & Leisure
  • Continuation of the Australian #waveforvolunteers social media campaign, by encouraging as many as possible to take a photo of themselves saying thank you to volunteers in this way – something you can be doing on the day that makes most sense to your organisation
  • Make a big effort on Thursday to recognise the volunteers who are helping out in an informal way who don’t normally get acknowledged through Volunteers Week
  • Link to the Big Virtual Lunch on 6/7th June any opportunities organisations have for their volunteers coming together virtually:  https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/thebiglunchhomepage
  • Final synchronised press release on 8th June focusing on volunteering to support us coming out of the pandemic linked to the #nevermoreneeded campaign 

A full messaging toolkit will be available from Friday 22nd May which will include information about how you link up to each element, template press releases, hashtags and key messages. To receive this and be a part of this fantastic movement of over 60 organisations coming together to promote as one voice the vital role volunteers play in supporting society, email [email protected] and join the ‘Voluncheers Planning Group’ on Voluntary Voice.

For AVM members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Volunteers Week is being coordinated by Volunteer ScotlandWCVA and Volunteer Now.

Resources for Volunteers’ Week 2020

Themes from Covid-19 networking calls

AVM has hosted a number of networking calls to discuss and share how people working with volunteers are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. As similar themes and suggestions have emerged across all calls, we have pulled these together with  links and resources generously shared by those on the calls. We have loosely grouped these into parts of the volunteer journey.

If you would like to add resources or suggestions to this resource, please get in touch.

Please check back for updated information.

Page last updated: 17 April 2020. 

Supporting volunteers during lockdown

This was a big concern across all calls, particularly where a volunteer manager was, or was expecting to be, furloughed.

With staff capacity also reduced, there is a need to balance volunteer recruitment against supporting existing volunteers. In some cases organisations are not recruiting because they don’t have the capacity to do both. Volunteer supervision can still take place, by phone or online, one-on-one, or in a group. And if not in place, volunteers can provide peer support to other volunteers as a new role.

Some organisations have new ‘Home Volunteering’ policies, and have updated safeguarding policies and procedures to reflect the change in supervision (where remote/ virtual volunteer roles are new).

Organisations are using a mix of platforms to keep in touch with volunteers, including Workplace by Facebook, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Skype. On a previous call, one organisation shared they had a conference call service from their local phone coop. A number of organisations are setting up volunteers with organisational Zoom/ Teams/ Skype accounts. Others are providing volunteers with support to set up their own. Drop in online ‘coffee mornings’ were frequently mentioned. 

It was suggested that using existing platforms people are familiar with will help, though one organisation mentioned that a volunteer had developed how to guides for using new tech that have been shared with volunteers, and another is doing short online surgeries for tech support. Make them easy to read with plenty of screenshots.

Protecting our privacy when on video calls came up a few times, with suggestions of a guide for volunteers – and staff – who are not used to this. Suggestions of things to include in a guide: making sure other household members know you’re on a call (children, half-dressed partners, others who would not like to be in shot); making sure you don’t have personal stuff in the background you wouldn’t be happy for colleagues, clients or other volunteers to see; virtual backgrounds (don’t work for everyone); ensuring you understand and use the privacy features for the system you are using; how to change your name on the screen; reminding people who phone in that their phone number will be visible.

For volunteers who are not comfortable with online communication methods, The Phone Coop offer a conference call system. Or you could arrange regular phone calls as a way to connect, which can be done by staff or set up volunteer buddies.

Some expressed concerns about setting up WhatsApp groups for volunteers, where phone numbers are then shared. Making it optional and ensuring that anyone who signs up knows their phone number will be shared with the rest of the group should mitigate this, but speak to your Data Protection Officer if you have concerns. This can also apply for Facebook groups for volunteers.

Blurt have some useful resources about mental health and well-being during the pandemic on their website.

Some of you are giving existing volunteers the opportunity to pause their volunteering, not putting pressure on people to feel that they need to continue as normal – because nothing is normal right now. 

Recruitment,induction and training

Those of you still recruiting are looking to hold video or phone interviews. There is some nervousness – not necessarily from volunteer managers – about safeguarding when moving to online recruitment and not meeting volunteers face-to-face, particularly in roles which are supporting vulnerable people. Key to addressing this is not to drop your standards when recruiting on video, and don’t settle for just telephone: video allows you to see the person you’re interviewing. Some of you have been reinforcing with colleagues that our frameworks and standards don’t disappear overnight and that they do know what they need to do, but we’re able to help them do it differently if they need it.

If you need documents signed, there are various websites or apps that let you do that. Docusign was recommended, but there are others available. 

There is a fast track DBS service only for Covid-19 eligible roles in England and Wales. You can check role eligibility on the DBS website.

Disclosure Scotland are prioritising checks for coronavirus response roles needed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Details about Access NI checks can be found on their website.

DBS have amended their ID checking guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of you are rolling new training to volunteers around empathy, having open conversations, as well as around boundaries.

Training is being delivered online, with webinars and other online modules. In some cases this is only for existing volunteers, but some are developing online training for new volunteers.

If you’re not recruiting, it was suggested that signposting potential volunteers to places where they can volunteer at the moment, but also keeping them on a list to get back to once you start recruiting again. 

Moving volunteering opportunities virtually

Many people on the calls you reported that volunteering was stopping while social distancing is in place. Where possible, people are moving roles virtually, or redeploying volunteers into roles that can be done from home. Some organisations are still recruiting. Charities providing direct support to individuals are seeing an increasing number of people needing support, but additionally volunteers may need more support.

Letter writing came up fairly frequently,  particularly as a way of connecting with people who are now isolated (in some cases additional to telephone calls).

For young people in hospices/ homes, virtual storytelling (by existing volunteers) was a suggestion of a new role.

Moving befriending or mentoring to a phone-based or online service is a common theme for many. In a previous networking call, Zoom had been recommended for online befriending, as it is possible to set up the calls without sharing volunteers’ personal information. Others have developed guidelines explaining how volunteers can protect their personal information, as organisations cannot provide all volunteers with a phone.

Asking volunteers to share social media content or key messages with friends/family is an easy microvolunteering role that can be done virtually.

Asking staff and volunteers to think about what tasks could be done virtually that aren’t being done. Research was a good example, as was signposting to information in local community Facebook groups. For example, health charities might be seeing misinformation spreading about the impact of coronavirus on the health issue.

Ask volunteers and service users what they want/ need, and what could be done virtually.

Where roles involve more detailed one-to-one casework, staff should trial with service users first, to ensure volunteers are prepared for the extra emotions of the current situation, which is not specifically their role.

Making sure to complete or update role risk assessments to reflect the role is remote.

Jayne Cravens has written a blog “NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW” which is worth a read.

Volunteer recognition and Volunteers’ Week

With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, we wanted to discuss how you can continue to celebrate volunteers whilst many will still be in isolation. There was also a wider discussion about general volunteer recognition.

Awards and recognition events

  • Reviewing annual awards and ceremonies. In particular looking at how to get groups of volunteers nominated, rather than individuals, to recognise that a key driver is that volunteering is a sociable activity
  • Pre-recorded videos from trustees for award winners
  • Exploring live-streaming awards ceremonies or pre-recording winner announcements
  • Sharing stories of the winners through comms channels
  • Engaging with award winners virtually instead, through sending them t-shirts, certificates in the post – they will then take selfies and we can collage together to have a virtual group picture. 

Use of social media/online connection tools

  • Volunteer to do social media takeover
  • Social media campaigns to tag the organisation and person with their thanks for informal recognition
  • Social media to raise the profile of volunteers and showcase the diversity of volunteering.
  • Asking volunteers to send in selfie videos to share on social media
  • Using Slack or other channels to have online forum interactions and discussions around certain topics
  • Using Volunteer Management Software to engage existing volunteers online through really great content themed around sharing, thanking and recognising
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Using Facebook to encourage volunteers to connect and to share ideas about how they are managing their wellbeing. Trying to encourage volunteers to share videos, recipes, art and craft they have done.
  • Sending out emails and letters to all volunteers encouraging them to access our Volunteer ‘intranet’. We’ve had a mixed response so far but continue to monitor as the weeks go on – adding new videos/activities to the portal.

Saying thank you in different ways

  • Pre-recorded webcasts or podcasts with thank you messages to volunteers
  • Asking teams to make short videos to say why they love volunteers, and edit into a longer video.
  • Video of colleagues to talk about their work with volunteers – internal profile raising of volunteering
  • Mini thank-a-thon: getting CEO & senior staff to call or write to volunteers during Volunteers’ Week
  • Personalised video messages from the Chair or Trustees saying thank you
  • Connecting every staff member with a volunteer and getting them to sending thank you cards, messages, forget-me-not seeds, pin badges etc. in the post
  • Asking participants of vol-led groups or recipients of volunteer time to complete the sentence: “I ❤️ my volunteer because…” The vol’s were so flattered and unaware of the impact they had on individuals, easily done digitally. Montage of comments was a huge lift for vol’s! really personal feedback.

Live virtual opportunities

  • Cross fertilising knowledge with another external partner – each deliver a webinar around an area of expertise and open to volunteers in both organisations
  • Virtual meetings (using the variety of systems that have been mentioned) instead of face-to-face meetings
  • Online volunteer-based game show!
  • Using Zoom (or other) for live training volunteers in different skills.
  • Weekly virtual quiz – staff and volunteers or volunteers only. Can also help to raise funds too that our staff and volunteers are getting involved in.
    Setting up a Q&A for volunteers, on Zoom with the CEO.

Creative

  • Weekly activity/challenge – set volunteers challenge or activity once a week and ask them to post or send in photos/comments and then release these (montage) the following week
  • Running online shops where charity shops have closed. Volunteers who are creative can make items to sell online, e.g. cards, artwork, blankets.
  • Asking volunteers to check clothing banks on their daily walks.

Connecting people

  • Buddy schemes
  • Randomised coffee trials
  • Digital pen pals
  • Staff messages to volunteers – I am still here, this is my role, this is how I can support you in this time, contact me by…
  • Start a longer mentoring relationship scheme
  • Weekly Zoom coffee meet ups with volunteers.

Asking volunteers

  • Ask volunteers how they’d like you to keep in touch and what they’d like you to do, including if they are happy to have another volunteer keep in touch with them (and also ask volunteers if they’d like to provide support).
  • Also ask volunteers what needs they have while they are isolating, and signpost or help where appropriate.
  • Surveying volunteers – what are their ideas about connecting, thanking and recognising in this time. What do they want to see?

Other

  • Changing email signatures to reflect Volunteers’ Week and say thank you.
  • Reminder that Volunteers’ Week should be highlighting groups of volunteers as well as individuals.
  • Building case study portfolios – what does volunteering mean to you and how has this current crisis changed this or changed your role (collecting now and releasing gradually throughout the year)
  • Supporting groups to undertake forward planning and how to build in their own recognition and connection between their volunteers in a proactive way
  • Spotlight story every month – short blog or interview showcasing a group or a volunteer
  • Have shared a live Google Doc with ways to overcome loneliness and isolation virtually
  • Get in touch with local colleges to offer local distance learning opportunities to volunteers.

Telephone and online support – for clients and/ or volunteers

A number of calls discussed on how to move face-to-face support roles to online or telephone. As well as supporting clients/ beneficiaries, discussions also included the best ways to support volunteers who had been stood down.

Befriending Networks have useful resources for converting face-to-face befriending or mentoring to telephone support. 

Zoom was recommended as a good tool for setting up befriending or mentoring call, as they can be set up by the volunteer manager/ service manager, and protect the volunteers’ personal details. If a volunteer wants to use their personal phone (because many organisations cannot provide them with mobile phones), it was felt important to let volunteers know how to protect their phone number.

Some care homes/ hospices/ hospitals are asking people to donate redundant communication devices (smartphones, ipads) or asking people to donate redundant devices, as many residents don’t have access to them.

Longer-term impacts

There are obviously some concerns about the unknowns, and when things will become ‘normal’ again, and how this might impact volunteer retention where you’ve had to close down volunteering programmes, as well volunteer recruitment in the future.

Concerns about how to re-engage volunteers whose roles our outdoors were raised, particularly where they have been reluctant to stand down in the first place. These concerns come from how this fits with the government’s plan for ending lockdown, in order to minimise another high, second wave of the virus.

While some organisations are developing short-term volunteer roles for the duration of the pandemic crisis,others hope to continue virtual roles beyond. 

A few of you mentioned you are already seeing opportunities where you can simplify some processes in the long-term. As it has been proven this can be done in a crisis, there is a good case for reducing some red tape in processes once social distancing is over. Asking the question “what did we drop to make it easier to volunteer during the crisis” makes it easier to ask “so why do we need to still do it?”

How a virtual cuppa could expand your network

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”

Michele Jennae

AVM members often tell us that networking with other volunteer managers is one of the reasons they join and re-join AVM each year. But we also hear many of you say you find it a challenge to find the time to expand your networks.

AVM has been looking at how we can help members expand their networks and increase connections. This month (January 2020) we are launching Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs), which we hope will help members expand their networks. If successful, we hope to run these again.

What’s a Randomised Coffee Trial?

Developed by Nesta, we first heard about RCTs through NHS Horizons School for Change (read more about them), but they are happening in organisations around the world.

So what are they? They are a simple but powerful way of randomly connecting you with another AVM member to have a conversation. Conversations are a great way to connect and learn from other people. And the great thing about a Randomise Coffee Trial is that you can do these virtually, and the conversation topic isn’t prescribed: you can talk about whatever you want.

“Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.”

Seth Godin
How can you get involved?

If you are interested in pairing up for a RCT, you need to be an AVM member (find out more). All you need to do is complete this simple form by 31 January 2020. In early February we will randomly match you with a partner, and introduce you to each other by email. (If you want to meet someone who is near you, please select your location and we will try to make that match.) 

It’s then over to you to arrange a phone call, a Skype/ Zoom call, a face-to-face meeting: whatever works best for you both. There’s no obligation on you beyond the conversation: it can be a one-off conversation, or the start of something more (we hope it will be the latter).

What should you talk about?

These conversations aren’t prescriptive, you can talk about whatever you want. You can them to find out about one another, your respective job roles, what you are working on now, your challenges or successes: whatever you want!

The most important thing is to be curious, and approach these conversations as a chance to learn more. 

Will they happen again?

In March we’ll ask participants for feedback, to find out what benefits people gained from their conversations. If successful, we’ll aim to run them for AVM members again.


Order your cuppa today (members only)

Change the Tune this International Volunteer Managers Day

Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM, holds up an IVM Day pledge which says "I'll 'Change the Tune' by connecting leaders of volunteering"

For me, the power of volunteering is people seeing a need in their community using their own strengths and assets to address it and make a difference. Even more excitingly – and importantly – one of the assets which groups of individuals from disparate backgrounds bring is alternative thinking and cognitive diversity to approaching an issue, which can help lead to new opportunities and solutions.

Yet frequently when volunteering – and therefore the volunteer management infrastructure to support this – is discussed, the tone turns towards transactional. Volunteers are there to fill gaps identified by an existing organisation, and role descriptions to describe the precise requirements. In order to encourage flexibility, organisations suggest splitting the current proscribed activities, so elements can be done by different volunteers, and take into account their individual motivations.

So, what would volunteering look like if organisations gave the ability to develop the solution to volunteers? What if they worked with people wanting to gift their time, skills and experience to shape these activities?

How could leaders of volunteering create an infrastructure to enable this, and what are the skills that volunteer managers would lean on and develop to maintain?

Volunteering needs to be meaningful, and meet an organisation’s strategic objectives, but I don’t think these need to be contradictory. Involving people who are not embedded within an echo chamber of employment, and therefore have the intellectual freedom to present alternative options, creates possibilities which an institution may not have been able to see.

Changing the tune

There are a couple of ways leaders of volunteering can change the tune. The first is to recognise the importance of volunteer management in creating an effective way for supporting and enabling volunteers. The second is to empower and give confidence to people who involve volunteers, to embed flexibility into the infrastructure that allows volunteers to create their own gift.

The current melody of volunteer management is to package our volunteer roles as offers and products, and then market these to our volunteer ‘customers’ to join the human resource ‘workforce’. How exciting would it be to riff on the leifmotif of co-creating and using our skills of working with volunteers to co-develop the solutions?

I love Margaret Mead’s quote:

“never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I believe volunteer management provides the essential organisation that enables ‘thoughtful, committed citizens’ to achieve their ends, and prevents the energy dissipating. The vision of AVM reflects this: Connecting leaders of volunteers to make change happen together.

This year, join us to celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day by:

Ruth

Ruth Leonard, Chair of Association of Volunteer Managers


International Volunteer Managers Day takes place annually on 5th November, and is an opportunity to celebrate the profession of volunteer leadership. Find out more on the IVM Day website.

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

Appointment of Head of Business Development

I am pleased to be able to announce the appointment of Jo Gibney to AVM’s first strategic level staff role, Head of Business Development, starting 1st August 2019.

Last year we launched our strategic vision, of connecting leaders of volunteering to make change happen together. In order to do that we realised it was time to develop the fulltime support necessary for ensuring that we can continue to engage with our members and be here to meet the changing needs of the profession.

This means creating a robust business model and effective infrastructure to ensure the essential operational work can continue alongside the strategic future development.

Jo has been a member of the board for nearly two years, where she led on communications and also helped to cement key partnerships. Her background in volunteer management gives her clear understanding in the needs of our members and this is augmented by her knowledge of membership organisations and operational management of events, planning and stakeholder engagement.

I’m looking forward to working with Jo more closely to position AVM for future growth and development, as we enter our teenager years – and to be able to continue to work with our members and partners in order to make our vision a reality.

Ruth
Ruth Leonard
Chair of Association of Volunteer Managers

Notes for Editors

The Association of Volunteer Managers is an independent membership body that supports, represents and champions people in volunteer management in the UK regardless of field, discipline or sector. 

We were launched on 5th June 2007.

Our income comes from membership fees and ticket sales which we invest back into our work directly supporting those in volunteer management.

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.

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 publicly 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.

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.

Jo Gibney is an AVM Board member, and Volunteer Development Officer at The Royal British Legion.