Get your tickets for AVM’s 2021 Annual Conference 2021

October Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st, 10:00 – 13:00 | Tickets from £40

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AVM’s annual conference for volunteer managers is back and online on Zoom Wed 20 & Thu 21 October 2021.

The AVM conference is always a highlight in our year. Even though we say so ourselves we believe it is the premier event in the UK for volunteer managers, leaders and heads of volunteering. 

We aim to bring together some of the best speakers from our sector. People who are at the forefront of volunteer management and thought-leadership, and those from outside of volunteer management, who will challenge and provoke us to think differently.

The 2021 conference will be held across two days – Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 October, 10 am to 1pm. Each day will feature a keynote speaker with Q&A, along with workshops to choose from on a variety of themes (seven on Wednesday 20th and six on Thursday 21st), plus Working with Emotions in Volunteering Toolkit (Day 1) and a Live Panel Session (Day 2).

For 2021 we are again holding a virtual conference on Zoom. Find out how to make the most of AVM events on Zoom.

Find out more and how to book your ticket


Agenda

Day 1: Wednesday 20 October

  • 09:30 Our virtual doors open for registration and (optional) pre-conference networking
    Join AVM and other delegates for informal networking in Zoom, ahead of our Conference.
  • 10:00 Conference opens with a welcome from Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM
  • 10:10 Keynote: ‘Shaping the Future of Volunteering post Covid19: How we can embed volunteering in our communities’, Matt Hyde OBE – Chief Executive, The Scout Association
    Matt will give a 20 minute keynote speech, followed by a 20 Q&A, with questions facilitated by Ruth Leonard.
  • 11:00 Break and move to your workshops
    An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break, before you move to your chosen workshop.
    All workshops will be running in different Zooms and you will need to leave the main Zoom and join your workshop’s Zoom link.
  • 11:20 Workshops start (details below)
    Each workshop will be in a separate Zoom meeting, hosted by a member of the AVM Board and an AVM conference volunteer.
    Please book one workshop choice per day.
  • 12:05 Break and come back to main Zoom for 12:25pm
    An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break after your workshop, before you re-join the main Zoom.
  • 12:25 Plenary session: Launch of the ‘Working with Emotions in Volunteering Toolkit’
    This live session will include time for questions.
  • 12:55 Closing remarks
  • 13:00 Conference closes
  • 14:30 – 15:30: Networking
    Join us on Zoom to network and share with your peers. The Wednesday session has been moved from earlier advertised.

Day 2: Thursday 21 October

  • 09:30 Our virtual doors open for registration and (optional) pre-conference networking
    Join AVM and other delegates for informal networking in Zoom, ahead of the event.
  • 10:00 Conference opens with a welcome from Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM
  • 10:10 Keynote: ‘Renaissance or regression? The five themes that are going to dominate volunteering management after the pandemic’, Joe Saxton – Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy and its founder
    Joe will give a 20 minute keynote speech, followed by a 20 Q&A, with questions facilitated by Ruth Leonard.
  • 11:00 Break and move to your workshops
    An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break, before you move to your chosen workshop.
    All workshops will be running in different Zooms and you will need to leave the main Zoom and join your workshop’s Zoom link.
  • 11:20 Workshops start (details below)
    Each workshop will be in a separate Zoom meeting, hosted by a member of the AVM Board and an AVM conference volunteer.
    Please book one workshop choice per day.
  • 12:05 Break and come back to main Zoom for 12:25pm
    An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break after your workshop, before you re-join the main Zoom.
  • 12:25 Live panel session
    The live panel session will be your opportunity to ask your questions of our expert panel members (tbc).
  • 12:55 Closing remarks
  • 13:00 Conference closes
  • 14:30 – 15:30: Networking
    Join us on Zoom to network and share with your peers.

Workshops

  • Workshop A: Volunteering Management in the Digital Space, Carly Bell, Volunteering Manager, Media Trust & Rob Janke, Marketing & CRM Manager, Media Trust
  • FULL. Wednesday 20th only. Workshop B: Making the Volunteer Experience Inclusive, Jarina Choudhury (She/They), Strategic Volunteering Lead, NCVO & Amy McGarvey (She/They), Research Manager, NCVO
  • Workshop C: How to genuinely engage your audiences: an introduction to co-production, Jo Keller, Head of Volunteering, RNIB
  • Workshop D: Assessing impact in challenging times, Shehnaaz Latif, Associate, NCVO
  • Workshop E: Investing in Volunteers – UK standards for volunteer involving organisations, Korina Tsioni (She/Her), Volunteering Quality and Resources Officer, WCVA – on behalf of the UK IiV Operations group
  • Thursday 21st only. Workshop F: “What have student volunteers ever done for us?!” – bursting myths and stereotypes, Mariana Vieira da Rocha, National Chair, UK Student Volunteering Network and Volunteering and Civic Engagement Manager, University of West London, and David Coles, Volunteer Centre Manager, London School of Economics
  • Thursday 21st only. Workshop G: Befriending: maintaining quality and impact when you move online, Anne-Marie Zaritsky, Head of Volunteering, Mencap

Networking

When it comes to networking, we know that nothing quite beats being face to face in person. However, as many of us have become accustomed to, online face to face isn’t a bad second choice. We will be using a Zoom meeting to enable you to chat with other leaders of volunteering from across a variety of sectors and organisations during this conference.

This year we will be offering networking a variety of networking opportunities:

  • Join us and other delegates for a Zoom networking call each afternoon, to discuss what you’ve learnt from the conference with your peers. We’ll be running these sessions at 4pm on Wednesday 20th October, and 2:30pm on Thursday 21st October.
  • Join us in a private group on Voluntary Voice for all conference attendees to join. The group will open the week before the conference, and will give you the opportunity to network with other delegates ahead of time.
  • Sign up to AVM Conference Connect when you register, and grow your professional network. If you sign up we will randomly match you with another delegate, and connect you over email once the conference is over, so you can connect over a virtual (or real life, if you’re near enough) cuppa. 

Find out more and how to book your ticket


Pricing

AVM members are eligible for a member discount on our Conference. Please select this at the checkout.

PricingStandard priceAVM members’ discounted price
Both days (early bird)£130£70
One day (early bird)£70£40
Both days £160£80
One day£90£50

We are ticketing through TicketTailor as our website is in the process of being upgraded.

If you’re not an AVM member, you can join AVM today to access your discount for this, and future events – including our annual conference in October – as well as other benefits of AVM membership, including:

  • Exclusive member-only events, including AVM’s business book club
  • A back catalogue of selected past event recordings 
  • AVM Connect, our random facilitated networking, where we connect you to expand your networks
  • AVM’s mentoring programme

Join AVM today to take control of your professional development.

Don’t delay: this event has limited places, so sign up today!

Find out more and how to book your ticket

Terms and conditions of ticket sales

Payment and cancellation terms

Payment must be made by the date of the event.

If you require an invoice, please ensure you book your place a minimum of two weeks before the start date of the event. After that we will only accept payment by credit card or PayPal.

Want to pay by credit card but can’t pay now? No problem! You can pay against an invoice by credit card (or PayPal): we will send you a link to do so.

As you follow the online booking process – select the payment option at checkout “Request invoice”. If you need us to add a payment reference or purchase order number to the invoice – just add it in the “Additional information” section when confirming your billing details at checkout.

You’ll receive your invoice by email once we have accepted your booking. You can pay for your ticket by BACS or online with a credit or debit card. Please note we no longer accept payment by cheque.

We will check your membership status at time of booking. If you are not a current member – or have not applied for membership – you will be re-invoiced at the non-member rate.

We know things happen and that sometimes you can’t come to an event. If you are unable to come, you can pass your ticket on to a colleague, but if they are not an AVM member they will need to join AVM. If they don’t, they will be charged at the non-member rate.

If you have to cancel, please let us know by email.

  • Cancellations received more than 20 days before the start of the event – before or on 30th September – regardless of date booked, will incur a 25% cancellation charge, whether the place has been paid for or not,
  • Cancellations received 19–0 days before the start of the event – on or after 1st October – regardless of date booked, will incur a 100% cancellation charge, whether the place has been paid for or not.

AVM will not accept liability for people unable to attend due to circumstances outside our control, such as travel disruption, work commitments, illness, or other personal commitments.

Where circumstances force AVM to cancel an event, the liability of AVM shall be limited to a refund of any fees paid for tickets to that particular event. AVM is not liable for any consequential loss, such as travel costs you may incur.

L&D organisational package holders are limited to 10 tickets per organisation for AVM’s annual conference. If you would like to make a bulk order, please get in touch [email protected]

Buying for colleagues?

If you are buying tickets for colleagues you can only buy tickets at the member rate for them if they are currently members. We reserve the right to re-issue an invoice at the non-member rate if they are not a member.

Join AVM now

You can join AVM online now to qualify for your event discount. As long as your application is submitted, you can purchase tickets for our events at the member rate. You will need to complete your membership payment, otherwise you will be liable for the non-member price for the event.

Disclaimers

Whilst the programme is correct at time of going to press, AVM reserves the right to change details of an event without notice. Alterations may occasionally be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

Views expressed by speakers are their own. AVM disclaims any liability for advice given, or views expressed, by any speaker at the event or in any documentation provided to delegates.

By attending AVM’s conference on Zoom, your profile information, including your name and profile picture, may be visible to other attendees. Your name and email address will also be visible to AVM, the account owner and host when you buy your ticket and register on Zoom.

Your name, job title and organisation will be shared as a delegate list on a conference private web page, to facilitate networking. This will only be made available to those who have access to the event page: AVM staff and volunteers, event delegates, speakers and conference sponsors.

If you do not want your details in the list, please let us know at least three weeks in advance of the event. This delegate list should not be used for sales to our delegates, either during or after the event.

Buy tickets for Association of Volunteer Managers

AVM Masterclass – Co-production: how to involve volunteers in planning and decision making

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A masterclass session on involving volunteers in planning and decision making through co-production

Thursday 30th September 2021 | 1:30 – 4:00 pm | Tickets from £40 (Member-rate tickets available)

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Are you trying to involve volunteers in strategic planning and decision-making so they feel more invested in the organisation and its future direction?

Volunteers have a wealth of ideas, skills and experience to bring to the table and they have already shown their commitment to your organisation. Would you like to understand how to ensure their voices and opinions are heard while setting clear boundaries and managing expectations? Do you want to know how to create a safe and brave space suitable for volunteers, operational staff and senior managers to tackle strategic planning cohesively?

Well, look no further, this is the event for you!

We’ve invited a co-production professional, and the experts by experience (volunteers) she works alongside, to share their experience of engaging volunteers in strategic planning and decision making. Our speakers will deliver a powerful masterclass, sharing tips on how to involve volunteers in big picture thinking within your organisation.

They will share the MS Society co-production toolkit filled with ideas and resources that you can utilise in your own organisation. There will be the chance to take part in action learning sets in order to put some of the learning into action and consider how you might take forward the ideas and suggestions put forward during the masterclass.

You’ll have the opportunity to network with other volunteer managers as well as reflect and plan what you’ll do next to embed co-production into your volunteering strategy.

At this event you will:

  • hear from a co-production expert about how you can implement co-production into your organisation
  • hear from experts by experience (volunteers) involved in co-production
  • learn about the MS Society’s co-production toolkit and how to implement it
  • participate in an interactive learning session to discover how you could embed co-production within your organisation

As this is a masterclass, we will be limiting to 30 participants, so don’t delay, sign up today.

Agenda

This is a half day event, starting at 1:30 pm, and will be on Zoom (read our Zoom tips for getting the best out of online events). There will be opportunities to ask our speakers questions, and discuss the topic in small groups.

  • 1:30 pm    Networking, introductions and welcome
  • 1:40 pm    Masterclass
  • 2:40 pm    Q&A
  • 3 pm         Break
  • 3:15 pm   Interactive learning session (facilitated in small groups)
  • 3:55 pm   Wrap up and closing remarks
  • 4 pm        Event ends, optional networking for those who wish to stay on

Don’t delay: this event has limited places, so sign up today! Ticket prices: £60 non-members, £40 AVM members

Book your ticket today

About our speaker

Jess Mansel, Senior Engagement Officer, MS Society

Jess Mansel is the Senior Engagement, Involvement and Empowerment Officer at the MS Society UK. She works with the MS Society Experts by Experience network, an online group who share their first-hand experiences of MS. The Experts by Experience network works alongside Jess and her colleagues across the UK to shape and design the services their community needs. Jess works with the MS community to make sure their work reflects all of the community’s experiences and ideas, and she is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion.

Making this event accessible

Captions will be enabled on Zoom, for those who require them.

If you need support to access this event, please let us know when you book. If you have any questions ahead of booking, please do get in touch.

Discount for AVM members

AVM members are eligible for a discount on the event ticket price. Please check your latest members’ email for your discount code. To access your discount, please add the code into the Coupon code section before you check out.

If you’re not an AVM member, you can join AVM today to access your discount to this, and future public events – including our annual conference in October, as well as other benefits of AVM membership, including:

  • Exclusive member-only events, including AVM’s business book club
  • A back catalogue of selected past events
  • AVM Connect, our random matching, connecting you to expand your networks
  • AVM’s mentoring programme

Join AVM today to take control of your professional development and access your discount to this event.


Terms and conditions of ticket sales

See our full terms and conditions below.

You can pay by credit card or request an invoice at the checkout.

Please familiarise yourselves with our cancellation policy, and payment terms below. We do require payment to be made before the event.

We know things happen and that sometimes you can’t come to an event. If you are unable to come, please let us know in advance, as you may be able to pass your ticket on to a colleague. If your colleague is not an AVM member they will need to join AVM, or we will invoice the non-member rate difference.

The agenda is correct at time of publication. AVM will contact you about any significant changes in advance of the event.

AVM will not accept liability for any ability to attend this event due to technical issues with a delegate’s equipment. If technical difficulties prevent AVM from hosting this event, we will endeavour to reschedule the conference to another date, and a full or partial refund will be offered if the new date is unsuitable.

Book your ticket today

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more and register your place for this session. 

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)

Being More Pirate: reflections on AVM’s 2019 conference

I have now finished my second month as an Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London). However, I have been working with volunteers for the best part of 4 years in different shapes and forms. Most of my experience has been stewarding groups of volunteers, and in the last year it has taken a more strategic turn.  The most exciting thing about starting at UCL is joining their campaign ‘It’s All Academic’, and being able to contribute to achieving 250,000 alumni volunteer hours. No small feat; so when I was asked if I would like to go to the AVM conference I jumped at the opportunity! The morning of the conference was a busy one. Having not attended an AVM conference I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite knowing a few friendly faces from the volunteering world. While stuck in tube delays Twitter soon diminished any doubts I had, I saw lots of tweets from other volunteer managers who were sharing gifs about their journeys and needing coffee. On arrival I enjoyed maybe a few too many pastries, and had a look around the various stalls. One of my first observations was just how many people from different organisations who were all here for volunteers! All the main stage presentations and panel talks where excellent; however my particular favourite was ‘Be More Pirate’. Alex Barker told us about the golden age of pirates, which was absolutely fascinating, and not just because I am a history nerd! Alex discussed how volunteers can play a pivotal role in challenging and reshaping systems. She drew comparisons between people who are considered do-it-yourselfers, side hustlers, and the Golden Age Pirates. As a new starter in a brand new role this was certainly food for thought! I also thoroughly enjoyed Amira Tharani’s impact and evaluation workshop. Amira’s workshop gave me great insight on where to start when evaluating a project area or programme in such an interactive way. I came out of the workshop armed with new ideas and resources to make those ideas a reality.  Going forward, I am excited to get further involved in AVM and learn everything I can from the fantastic network!

Hannah Kinghorn is Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London)

My experience of the AVM Back to School Event

Having worked with volunteers for the past four years, I was long overdue attending an AVM event! Although I have been to various other volunteer manager meetings, I was very excited to attend the AVM Back to School event in September.

I had been in my new role at NCT for just three weeks, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn, feel inspired, and come away with plenty of new ideas. It was also quite an intimidating prospect; but my fears were quickly assuaged by the group of friendly people that I met on arriving at the London School of Economics meeting space.

One of the main reasons I love working with volunteers is personal relationships. This is something emphasised by Mariana Rocha and David Coles (Volunteering & Civic Engagement Manager at the University of West London and Volunteer Centre Manager at LSE respectively). They spoke about how the key to volunteer motivation and retention is spending time on the ground with volunteers, recognition of their achievement, and personalising communication – talking to volunteers about themselves and their interests, not just their volunteering! As someone who loves a natter over a cup of tea and biscuits, general chit-chat is something I often try to incorporate into my communications with volunteers.

Our next speaker, Lauren Hogan, Volunteering Projects Officer at Turn2us, gave me lots of food for thought about using the wealth of ‘lived experience’ that our volunteers at NCT have. Celebrating lived experience and knowledge means you are able to offer consumers a more authentic and relatable service, which is invaluable!

Next up was Sarah Latto, Volunteer Development Manager at Shelter Scotland. I found her talk absolutely inspiring. The way Shelter involves volunteers in their decision making is such an incredible demonstration of inclusivity and valuing volunteer input. A really interesting idea that I took away for the day was removing as many barriers as possible to volunteering with your organisation. Are reference checks essential? Do volunteers have to complete an application form, or could a phone call do the job? Making small changes could open up your volunteering opportunities to a whole new community that you weren’t previously able to reach.

At NCT, we meet a similar challenge to many other organisations, which is building up these personal relationships when you’re working with a team of thousands of volunteers! Melanie Merrill, Volunteering Programme Manager for Quality at Macmillan Cancer Support, stressed the importance of creating a high quality volunteering experience, which comes from having meaningful interaction and support from the organisation. I felt inspired to continue making sure that every interaction I have with a volunteer has a personal touch, and doesn’t feel like a corporate or formal interaction. Knowing that you’ve helped a volunteer to feel supported or to carry out their role more confidently makes it all worthwhile!

One final thing I took away that I’d like to share is this quote – “feeling connected lies at the core of the volunteer journey”, ‘Time Well Spent’, NCVO, 2019

Emily Poulter is Volunteer Support Officer at National Childbirth Trust, working in Bristol to support the large team of volunteers at NCT, who support parents across the UK.  Previous to her role with NCT, Emily supervised the Visitor Experience Volunteers at the SS Great Britain, as well as helping to oversee the volunteering programme.  Like many volunteer managers, Emily stumbled upon a job which involved working with volunteers, whilst searching for jobs within the heritage sector following her History degree. She soon realised that volunteer management was where she wanted to be.

Because you’re worth it! Managing flexible volunteering and risk

When I first saw the email advertising the ‘Risk Factor’ event, the subject line, ‘⚠ Can you manage risk and flexible volunteering at the same time? ⚠’, asked a question that I had been grappling with for months. I didn’t hesitate in booking, despite the minor consideration of an 800 mile round trip!

Helen Johnston, Museum of London Archaeology, presents her ‘Risky business’ session

We’re not alone in this balancing act

Like many organisations, we are investigating how best to respond to volunteers’ increasing demand for more flexible or episodic volunteering. I suspect Shelter Scotland are not alone in finding it difficult to balance our formalised risk and safeguarding procedures with more informal volunteering. We’re reviewing our flexible role to make it more inclusive and volunteer led, but it’s proving difficult to ensure that such a flexible commitment is sustainable when we need to invest so much time in recruitment and training. It’s a bit of a catch 22!

As such, I was really looking forward to the event on the 21st May. I didn’t flinch when my alarm went off at 5.45am for my 7.30 train from Edinburgh to London, and even the 1.5 hour delay to my train didn’t dampen my spirits!


Sketch note from delegate at Risk factor event – Alison Faraday, British Red Cross

A sustainable flow of volunteers

I rushed in the door with two minutes to spare, having gulped down a bag of roasted peanuts and an apple for my lunch, and immediately got into the networking with other lovely volunteer managers. The event started soon afterwards, and we were introduced to Helen Johnston from the Thames Discovery Programme. Her presentation was really interesting, and definitely gave me lots of food for thought. She has about 750 volunteers who support archaeological exploration on the banks of the Thames in a really flexible model for participation.

I was interested to hear how they are able to keep the model sustainable given that it is such a skilled role with no minimum commitment required. This is likely, in part, because they charge for training, but also because they have a very pragmatic approach to risk. Indeed, she told the story of her volunteers who successfully dealt with finding an unexploded World War II bomb, without the need for her involvement.

As well as providing in depth training, they have developed a culture of safety by holding briefings at the start of each session and placing a lot of trust in their volunteers to make sensible judgements about risks they encounter. I think this emphasis on trust in volunteers is perhaps something that all of us large national organisations could learn from.

Catherine Bartlett, NCT, presents her ‘How to stay in control when managing risk’ session

Risk versus objective reward

Secondly, Daniel Ingram from AVM led a discussion about risk appetite. My key takeaway point from this was that risk should not be assessed in isolation, but rather in line with the impact they would make in helping us achieve our objectives. If the activity is likely to be of significant benefit, perhaps it is worth the risk?

Next up, Catherine Bartlett from NCT told us about a volunteer led project with significant risks but also significant positive impact. Yet again, we were hearing about the balance between potential risk and actual benefits. Catherine, as a former barrister, highlighted the need to really take time to evaluate and understand your risks. Building detailed evidence to support your assessments will help to instil trust with colleagues and reassure the most risk averse!

Netflix, Pinot Grigio and chocolate raisins – because you’re worth it

Because you’re worth it

My trip to London for the AVM Risk Factor event was definitely worth the risk! It gave me lots of food for thought regarding our approach to risk in Shelter Scotland, and highlighted to me the value of two quite different approaches. I also had a far less eventful journey home too – Netflix, Pinot Grigio, chocolate raisins and six pages of notes to ponder!

Sarah Latto is the Volunteer Development Manager for Shelter Scotland and Co-Chair of the Scottish Volunteering Forum

I didn’t expect to learn this about influencing change

It’s really important to me that the value of volunteers is recognised across
The Brain Tumour Charity, and that both volunteers and the staff who support them have a great experience.

Within my relatively short time in post, I’ve learnt that positive change often requires support for volunteer engagement across teams and at all levels. So when I spotted an email about an upcoming AVM event focusing on ‘successfully influencing change’, it got my attention.

At the event we heard from Charlotte Witteridge, Head of Volunteering at The Myton Hospices and Clare Burgess, CEO of Surrey Coalition of Disabled People. Both shared the way they had wielded influence in order to embed volunteering more deeply in the culture of their organisations.

For them, building a case for support and thinking strategically about the changes that were needed was really important. But even more crucial was their ability to bring people along on that journey. Below I’ve parceled their advice on doing just that into three top tips:

  1. Be reliable and interested
  2. Focus on the things you can change
  3. Know your allies

1. Be reliable and interested

1Doing what you say you’ll do (which includes saying no), and making a point to learn something new outside of your work remit each day, will engender trust among key stakeholders. By building your personal brand, people are more likely to believe in your ideas and in your ability to make those ideas a success.

2. Focus on the things you can change

Don’t spend time focusing on your ‘circle of concern’ – the things which challenge you but you can’t do anything about. Instead, think proactively about your ‘circle of influence’. If you do this you’ll become more effective at making change and increase what you’re able to influence.

3. Know your allies

Work out who it is you need to influence, and how you can get on their radar. This isn’t always about targeting those who hold important job titles. By building strong connections across and outside of your organisation you may identify people who can break down a barrier for you.

To get decision-makers on side, think about how each person needs information delivered to them. Some people are most interested in facts, some finances and some in stories.

I came away from the event with lots to think about, some action points and overall feeling more confident about influencing within my organisation. But having had a bit of time to reflect, my main learning from the day was perhaps a more surprising one.

I didn’t expect to learn this

I know that I’m not alone in finding conferences and events like these a daunting prospect. Part of the reason, I think, is that many of us feel that we have little of value to share. Day-to-day, we’re not doing anything radical or out of the ordinary.

We (volunteer managers) are quick to be self-critical and to focus on the areas that aren’t going right, but I learnt something valuable from everyone I spoke to at the event. During group discussions, people shared lessons learnt through experience – lessons that will undoubtedly save others time and heartache in the future.

My key takeaway

By sharing what your organisation is doing well at events like these, it encourages others to take small steps to improve their practice, which will in turn improve the experience for volunteers in their organisation. And our willingness to speak about these positive things, with colleagues, with other volunteer managers, or with potential volunteers, will make us better influencers too.

Most of the positive, proactive changes that you’ll make during your time as a volunteer manager will not be brand new concepts, but that doesn’t make them uninteresting, or less valid. What you see as your bread and butter, the areas where your organisation is succeeding, are probably the very same areas that others are struggling to crack.

We should shout about these positive things more. I know I certainly will.


Amie is the Volunteer Development Manager for The Brain Tumour Charity.

Learn more. Our upcoming events can help your professional development and boost your volunteer management career 📈

Flexible volunteer management when there’s a risk it could all go boom!

At AVM’s Risk factor event Helen Johnston shared how she established a flexible volunteering model while successfully managing the risks that archaeological fieldwork can dig up.

It’s Crimbo Limbo, the gap between Christmas and New Year, I’m on the sofa under a blanket, contemplating another rummage through the Quality Street tin to see if there’s any of the good ones left, idly scrolling through Facebook. And then, there it is, one of my worst-case scenarios: a photo of one of our volunteers flanked by two police officers (all smiling thankfully!), and the next one, a close-up of what looks like a rusty bit of scaffolding pole. I know immediately what it is and why the police are involved; it’s unexploded ordnance, left over from one of the World War bombing campaigns. Chocolate forgotten, I shake off my sofa-haze to find out what’s happened and make sure everyone’s safe.


Unexploded WWII incendiary bomb we found on the Southbank under the Millenium Bridge in 2016 – Photo by Nathalie Cohen

At Thames Discovery Programme, we run a flexible volunteering programme to monitor and record vulnerable archaeology on the Thames’ foreshore, the area which is revealed at low tide. As well as running fieldwork coordinated centrally, we have groups of volunteers who organise themselves to regularly monitor particular sites on the river. But the foreshore is not a safe environment, and there are many risks that need to be considered when working there.

On that lazy Saturday afternoon, a couple of our volunteers decides to make a last-minute visit to Fulham, the site of an ancient river crossing, to check on the interesting prehistoric archaeology there which is under threat from erosion. It’s matchday, and fans are streaming through the nearby park for a Fulham Palace home game. As the tide begins to come in, the volunteers are making their way back to the steps when they notice something that, thanks to their training, they immediately recognise as potentially an unexploded bomb.

Unexploded ordnance is not an uncommon find on the Thames; London was heavily bombed in World War 1 and World War 2, and the river wall was deliberately targeted to try to flood the city. At Thames Discovery Programme we come across possible ordnance every year or two, and so our volunteer training includes what to do if you find a bomb.


Thames Discovery Programme volunteers marking out a bomb crater on the Isle of Dogs –  Photo by Nathalie Cohen

In this case our volunteers do all the right things, they leave it where they found it, call the Police and move away from the area. When the Police arrive, there’s a bit of discussion about whether it’s a rusty aerosol can before they make the decision to call in the bomb squad. The river is cordoned off, the last of the football fans are kept out of the area, and the device, which is identified as a WW1 incendiary bomb, is safely removed to be disposed of somewhere a long way away. By the time I find out about the incident on Facebook that evening, it’s all over, and everyone involved is back home. I check in with the volunteers over email to make sure they’re all ok, finding things like this can be unnerving. They were fine and they’d already sent us a full account of what happened, including pictures!

Helen Johnston has over 15 years experience of creating and delivering volunteering programmes. Her current portfolio of work includes leading an archaeological volunteering project and supporting small charities.


Recordings and presentations from previous AVM events are available in the members’ area of the AVM website.

Love thy neighbour…

Carol Carbine, Trainer / Facilitator / Consultant at Carol Carbine Consulting , shared a range of resources at AVM’s Ways to wellbeing and productivity for volunteer managers in 2019, to help you better look after yourself so you can better look after others.

Passion led us here

I was recently discussing with a friend the complex demands we volunteering professionals find ourselves under, I am sure you will be familiar with some or all of these.

  • Juggling the various aspects of our day to day roles whilst trying to keep abreast of changing trends
  • Attempting to meet the many and diverse needs of the volunteers that we support
  • Finding new, creative and collaborative ways to engage people in our mission
  • Trying to secure support and/or funding for our work

Like many people outside the profession she was surprised by these insights and genuinely interested to know how I managed to make time for myself, my family, and look after my own wellbeing in the midst of all of this. I confessed that the latter had somewhat lapsed towards the end of last year and that I was aiming to get back on track. I also admitted it is an ongoing challenge for me and many people I know in our area of work.

She smiled knowingly and said what you need to remember is ‘Love thy neighbour’.

No, not the rather cringe worthy 70s sitcom but the second commandment* ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. I was rather puzzled as to the relevance of her comment so I asked her to explain how this would help. She said very simply, if I am supposed to love my neighbour the same way I love myself, then I need to do a good job of loving me. I need to take good care of myself – eat well, sleep well, exercise, and rest and recharge my batteries when needed. For me, whether you’re religious or not this makes a whole lot of sense.

If I do a rubbish job of loving myself how I can possibly do a good job of loving and looking after others?

We hear a lot in the media about volunteering being a positive force for mental health and wellbeing but less about the challenges for people supporting and leading volunteers in an increasingly complex environment.

There are some enlightened companies that are now enabling their employees to stay healthy and supporting them to move through challenges when they occur. New initiatives include mental health first aiders, adjustments for women experiencing the menopause and more equitable sharing of parental duties, to name but a few.

So whilst we know that volunteer management has an additional layer of emotional complexity, thanks to the University of Leicester researchers and the National Trust, it still feels like the voluntary sector is lagging behind. We may have great awareness and good intentions but it’s the small simple actions on the ground, which can make a huge difference that seem to be missing.

  • Are we genuinely encouraging a culture where we talk about not just the practical but the emotional demands of the work we do?
  • Do we talk with colleagues about good self care, maintaining our resilience and making time for this to happen?
  • Is it ok to admit you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ask for support, and if you do what response will you get?

Good self-care starts with the individual but if we are consistently working in an environment where eating on the move, skipping breaks, staying late and where going above and beyond is the norm then the underlying message is that self-care isn’t a priority no matter what the policy statement says.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I do want to open up the conversation……

  • What are you doing this year to take care of yourself? – (I‘m learning to Zentangle)
  • How are you and your team looking out for each other?
  • What one small thing could your organisation do to support and empower you to love yourself just a little bit more?

*Bible – Mark 12:29-31 | Torah – Leviticus 19:18 | Qur’an – Surah 24:22


Food for thought, discussion and debate by Carol Carbine
www.carolcarbine.consulting
[email protected]
@carolcarbine