Finding a mentor…like going to the movies?

Movie-popcornBy Angela Wilson, AVM Director.

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.

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

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.

Read about what we’re planning.

AVM Mentoring Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Retail Volunteering Event: Investing in volunteer time drives income.

24  April 2018 at the Crypt, London E1 6LY,  10:30 – 4:30

Click here to book.

Many charities run retail operations with varying degrees of volunteer involvement, but the Charity Retail Association (CRA) has identified a shortage of suitable volunteers and the importance of good volunteer management as key issues facing their members at this time.  With a huge and diverse array of volunteers, charity retailers face both unique and universal challenges.

This event will bring together a wealth of experience from both volunteering and retail. Hosted by Angela Wilson, Senior Advisor, Volunteering & Community Development at Barnardo’s, with Rob Jackson of Rob Jackson Consulting, Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of CRA, Liz Reed, Volunteering Business Partner at Blue Cross and Roy Clark, Director for Retail and Trading at Barnardo’s.

The event will look at how modern retail volunteers may be very different from the traditional image, and how retail volunteer managers need to understand the complex motives and aspirations of their volunteers in order to build the most productive relationships. From volunteers looking to improve their employability, to those combating social isolation, the range of expectations must be matched by an equally in-depth and engaging volunteer offer.

We will hear some examples of organisations responding to these challenges in innovative ways and how a successful approach can result in efficient and productive retail operations.

Balancing Time And Dollar

Time is money -Investing in volunteer time drives income

For more information or to book – Click here.

24 April 2018, the Crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields, London E1 6LY

Manchester, here we come!

Volunteering for All: Measuring the health and well-being benefits

15 March 2018 at The Whitworth  Click here to book

By popular demand, AVM will this year be running three L&D events outside the capital. The first of these will be in Manchester at the Whitworth Gallery and we are pleased to announce special reduced ticket prices for this event, to celebrate a new era of AVM events nationwide. This has been made possible in part due to the support of the gallery itself and Manchester University.

This event will look at two key issues of volunteering: Firstly, measuring the well-being impacts of volunteering and how it can benefit everyone involved: the volunteers; programme leaders; the organisation and the clients. Secondly, diversity in volunteering, including attracting and working with younger volunteers and a look at volunteering in ethnic minorities and low socio-economic groups.

It will showcase some innovative programmes from Manchester and the North West, as well as addressing universal aspects of volunteer management which are relevant for all.

We are particularly pleased to be releasing the results of two different reports on volunteer behaviour: Jump Projects’ “New look at ethnic minority and low socio-economic volunteering in the UK” and the Audience Agency’s report on the health and well-being benefits of volunteering at Kirklees Museum and Galleries.

An exceptional line up of presentations will include: Emma Horridge of Manchester University and Lee Ashworth of Imperial War Museum; Wendy Hunwick-Brown of Ripon Museum; Will Watt of GIVERS / Jump Projects; Beccy Bracey and Jenny Salton of Kirklees Museum and Galleries with Catherine Bradley of The Audience Agency.

Finally there will be a very special workshop session hosted by volunteers from various volunteer programmes in the Manchester area, allowing them to express their opinions of the strengths and weaknesses of these programmes and of the teams running them: How do volunteers see volunteer management?

The day will include table discussions and networking opportunities.

Click here for full agenda or to book.


AVM’s Volunteering for all: Measuring the well-being benefits.           15 March 2018, Manchester, The Whitworth


Exploring Digital Technology for volunteer management. An L&D event.

5 December, 10:30 – 4:30, Arlington Conference Centre. Click here to book.

Sponsored by Better Impact.

Rob Jackson will host the second in our series of Embracing Digital events. In response to member feedback, this L&D event will address a range of digital tools that can assist volunteer managers and benefit organisations. From CRM and database management systems to webinars and e-learning tools, we will consider some of the most effective and economic digital technology available.

Whether you are considering which digital technology could best help the ongoing development of your volunteer programme, or whether you are already implementing your chosen solution, this event will be ideal. Both a showcase for digital possibilities and a forum for discussion.

This is an all day event, with presentations from specialists as well as organisations that are currently using and experimenting with digital technology. Attendees are invited to share their own experiences and opinions and get fully involved with round table discussions and  interactive activities.

Presenters include: Rob Jackson; Tony Goodrow of Better Impact; Daisy Charlton of Macmillan Cancer Support; Ed Shrager of Alzheimer’s UK; Jonathon Henwood of RNIB; and live by satellite from America, Jayne Cravens

network-358062_960_720-2.jpg   Click here for full agenda or to book

Exploring Digital Technology for volunteer management, an AVM L&D event, is sponsored by Better Impact.

Better Impact Click here for Better Impact website

The Community Life Survey 2017: Are volunteering levels dropping, or is the real issue about how we count and define volunteering?

The Community Life Survey: What is volunteering and how do we count it? An L&D event

16 November, 1- 5pm at Voluntary Action Islington (VAI), N1 9JP. Click here.

The Community Life Survey is presented as the government’s overview of volunteering nationwide, but is there universal agreement on what volunteering actually is and how best to measure it? If you want to incorporate data in your own reports, what’s the best data to use and the most effective way to present it?

This L&D event will give the government’s Lead Researcher, Olivia Christophersen, the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind the government survey, explain the change in methodology and present her interpretation of the results. She will explain what the government is aiming to measure, how it defines the parameters of volunteering and how and why they have progressively switched to online questionnaires.

Cian Murphy, Head of Data Science at nfpSynergy, will present an alternative perspective on measuring volunteering, drawing on more than 15 years of collecting relevant data. As well as presenting trends and analysis, he will consider the challenges in determining what constitutes volunteering, and why such varied conclusions result.

Finally, Veronique Jochum, Head of Research at NCVO, will deliver a presentation on how these survey results are used to improve understanding of how people get involved in volunteering, transitioning from past behaviour to future decision making and engagement. She will discuss various publications that utilise the survey results, including NCVOs latest: ‘Getting involved: How people make a difference’

As always, there will be networking and discussion, with opportunities for everyone to get involved and share their own experiences, challenges and opinions.

Click here for more details or to book your place.


The Community Life Survey: What is volunteering, and how do we count it? 16 November, London N1 9JP

Volunteer Impact: An AVM Learning & Development Day

Book HERE.

Venue:  Better Bankside | Bankside Community Centre | 18 Great Guildford Street | London | SE1 0FD

Date: Wednesday 19 April 2017

Timings: Registration will open at 10:00 with presentations beginning at 10:30. The event will close at 15:30.

This learning day looks at how we measure the contribution that volunteers make to an organisation.

If you struggle to capture the contribution volunteers make, or need ideas to get buy-in from senior leaders and the wider team for the importance and need to involve volunteers, this session is for you.

Speakers on the day will include:

  • Alan Murray, RSPB
    Alan will look at the variety of metrics used at The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) over the years, and highlight what has worked and why.
  • Bryan Precious, Age UK
    Bryan’s presentation will cover some of the different strategies used by the Age UK Volunteering Team to measure the contribution of volunteers across this varied network of charities and how this information’s been used to get buy in from senior management.
  • Clare Harris & Tim Walters – Agenda Consulting
    Clare and Tim will look at the impact of volunteering on both the organisation and on the volunteers themselves, drawing on insights from Agenda’s volunteer survey work and Volunteers Count study.

Please note: Light refreshments will be provided throughout the day but lunch will not be, instead delegates are encouraged to bring their own or to purchase it from food vendors close to the venue.

Book your space HERE NOW

Not a member? Why not join AVM and save on the cost of your ticket?  YOU CAN JOIN 

Simply complete the paperwork and send us a cheque and then pop back here and book on as a member – what could be easier? No need to wait for confirmation of membership.

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.

Introduction to Volunteer Management: An AVM Learning & Development Day

Book HERE.

Venue:  Better Bankside | Bankside Community Centre | 18 Great Guildford Street | London | SE1 0FD

Date: Thursday 9 March 2017

Timings: Registration will open at 10:15 with presentations beginning at 10:30. The event will close at 13:30.


Volunteer management gives us the opportunity to work in an enjoyable environment, with truly inspiring and dedicated people. But how do we take the first steps into this world?

This workshop is aimed at those who are new to volunteer management and will explore what it means to be a volunteer manager in a range of different contexts, whether as a volunteer in a small organisation or a paid member of staff in a large national. You’ll have the chance to reflect on how to engage the right volunteers, if you should retain them and, if so, how and who you need to have as your allies in order to make your volunteer programme a success.

This 3 hour workshop will give an overview of current best practice, as well as expert tips, the chance to ask questions and an opportunity to meet others starting out in volunteer management.

This workshop is facilitated and delivered by Chris Reed, Head of Volunteering at Barnardo’s. Chris has led volunteer functions in major UK charities and worked in volunteering infrastructure for over a decade.

Please note: Light refreshments will be provided throughout the day but lunch will not be, instead delegates are encouraged to bring their own or to purchase it from food vendors close to the venue.

Book your space HERE NOW

Not a member? Why not join AVM and save on the cost of your ticket?  YOU CAN JOIN 

Simply complete the paperwork and send us a cheque and then pop back here and book on as a member – what could be easier? No need to wait for confirmation of membership.