Presentations from the AVM Conference 2018

Futurology: The UK trends that may impact Volunteering by 2030

Tiger de Souza, Director (Volunteering, Participation & Inclusion), National Trust

Getting past Groundhog Day: Why our leadership needs to change the conversations we’re having about volunteering

Helen Timbrell, People and Organisational Development Consultant

Putting Volunteering at Our Heart: England Athletics Strategy

Chris Jones, CEO, England Athletics

Organisational Values and Volunteering

Anne-Marie Zaritsky, Head of Volunteering, Mencap & Sara Sheard, Deputy People Director, Mencap

Organisational values and volunteers – to be lived, not laminated

Mencap has gone through an organisational wide cultural change in the last few years, including the development of a new set of values. We will share how we have translated these values and new ways of working to both employees and volunteers, discussing our success and challenges along the way, and the impact this has had.

We will share some of the tools we’ve developed, and how values can play a key part in the volunteer journey, from recruitment through to recoginition.

Particpants will then have the opportunity to reflect on their own organisational values; are they relevant to volunteers? Do your volunteers know what they are and why you have them? How do values translate into behaviours? How can working towards a shared set of values impact on culture and strategy? What is the role of the volunteer manager in this?

So you think you want a volunteer management system?

Wendy Halley, (previously Programme Manager – Volunteering Systems & Processes, Save the Children)

What you need to know if you’re thinking of getting a new volunteer database. A non-tech overview of what to consider and prepare before taking your first step.

Spreadsheets and Access databases just don’t cut it anymore. The volunteers of tomorrow, and many of today’s too, want to interact online. The benefits of a good volunteer management system are mind-blowing. How’s seven minutes to get back a reference without doing any work at all?! But there’s a lot more to it than just buying a system. In this workshop we’ll look at the steps you’ll need to go through, the questions you need to ask and the ones you’ll need to answer.

From the initial idea, to the business case and making the arguments internally (often the biggest hurdle), we’ll consider the less obvious issues that you could come up against throughout the entire process from proposal to implementation.

We’ll not be looking at all the solutions on the market but you’ll get information and guidance, from the experience of two implementations, to be more prepared if you choose to go down this exciting route.

Building confidence for volunteers with support needs

Fleur Donnelly-Jackson, Volunteers Manager, and Walney Virgilio, Volunteers Coordinator, Tate Britain & Tate Modern

Develop an understanding of the Social Model of Disability and learn from Tate’s experiences of supporting volunteers with learning difficulties, to become more confident in their volunteering and interacting with the public. Explore how you can make your volunteer opportunities accessible and inclusive, develop a support offer, and make appropriate adaptions. This will be an opportunity to hear about and share good practice/ experiences, and learn about how your organisation could improve opportunities for volunteers with learning disabilities. We will also try out some theatre games, drawn from the theories of Augusto Boal!

Research partnerships- volunteering and academia working together

Geoff Nichols, University of Sheffield and Sports Volunteering Research Network (SVRN) (workshop)

How Volunteer Organisations link with Academic Institutions to achieve Research

The workshop will describe ways in which managers and academics can work together on research. Practical examples will be provided including: student dissertations, student group projects; university funded research; contracted research and guest speakers on courses. The examples illustrate the practical details of setting this up and meeting the needs of the stakeholders: managers, students and academics. The examples will be followed by participants identifying their own research projects and ways they might be delivered. The session will include details of organisations through which academics can be contacted.

Mindfulness and Resilience

Sherie Olmstead, Managing Director, Unicorn Consulting Solutions Ltd (workshop)

Wake Up! The Surprising Truth about What Drives Stress and How We All Can Build Resilience Incorporating one of many techniques: Mindfulness

We will explore a new proven approach for dealing with stress. There is a new approach to dealing with stress and building resilience that a few wise people have known about for a long time; it’s time more people did. You will be introduced to the research of Dr. Derek Roger, one of the world’s leading researchers on stress and resilience. The goal of the session is to convince you that there is no such thing as a stressful job or stressful situation. You will learn “the key” to enduring resilience and learn to do something you probably haven’t fully done for a long time – wake up. We will explore mindfulness as a highly effective technique to helping you stay awake and defining for yourselves a stress-free life.

How to have difficult conversations

Mandy Rutter, Psychologist and Organisational Consultant (workshop)

Difficult conversations are a significant part of managing employees, volunteers and strategies. We often want to avoid such conversations for fear of conflict, but we know that our credibility and performance will be effected if we don’t take our full responsibility. However, we rarely receive training on what to say and how to manage the inevitable emotional fall-out. Whether its challenging time-keeping, safety procedures, prejudice or inappropriate behaviour, this workshop will provide practical guidance on how to manage the conversation. We will explore the psychological processes involved in conflict and offer a model of communication that helps managers to maintain flow and focus during emotionally challenging conversations.

Leadership with impact

Sherie Olmstead, Managing Director, Unicorn Consulting Solutions Ltd (workshop)

Making Leadership Happen

In our fast-changing and interconnected world, organisations feel the need for leadership more than ever. As a result, managers get a lot of advice on how to be more effective leaders. We will explore the challenges leaders face, define what effective leadership is, explore how leaders can improve and look at a targeted approach to lead with impact.

Rethinking the Data We Collect, GDPR and beyond

Tony Goodrow, CEO, Better Impact

The GDPR has forced us to look at data collection in a whole new way. And although it has caused us all a significant amount of new work in our busy lives, I think that in the end, everyone, including Leaders of Volunteers, will be better off for it. This workshop is divided into three segments. The first is taking a look at what the DGPR means in layman’s terms and seeks to demystify it.

The second segment looks a specific examples of how data collection and holding practices called for under GRPR influence overall better practices in volunteer management. These practices will have an effect on workflow efficiencies and an improvement in the volunteer experience.

The third segment is interactive look at what the workshop participants think of various pieces of data collection very common in the volunteer sector. Small groups will discuss how they think specific information should be handled in light of the first and second segments of the workshop and we’ll wrap up each example with a short full group discussion.

How can we get more young people volunteering?

Eddy Hogg, Lecturer at the University of Kent’s Centre for Philanthropy, will be speaking about how organisations can best attract young volunteers from a wide range of social backgrounds at AVM’s Volunteering’s impact on the community on 28 November. 

I write this during #iWillWeek. A week which celebrates young people and the impact they have on the communities and causes they care about. But do all young people have the same opportunities to volunteer? To make a difference to things that matter to them?

Young volunteering approaches

We know that there is a relationship between social class and volunteering. What we don’t know is at what age and why the engagement gap emerges. We need to.

Government policies and the activities of volunteer managers on the ground often seek to encourage young people to volunteer. Policy is focused on widening participation to include under-represented groups. In recent years, National Citizen Service, which includes a ‘social action project’, has come to dominate central government’s youth work spending.

Getting policy and practice right is important. Investing resources effectively in encouraging young people to volunteer is likely to have an impact long beyond youth and young adulthood. If we want people from all backgrounds – not just more advantaged groups – to be able to access the benefits of volunteering, we need to understand how best to do this. For volunteer managers, knowing where best to focus their efforts to harness both short- and long-term volunteering commitment is invaluable.

Our research findings

Research by me and Rob de Vries finds a clear relationship between socio-economic advantage and volunteering by young people, but one that is far from straightforward. During Key Stage 3, when the role of school as a route into volunteering is strong for all socio-economic groups, we find little difference in engagement between young people from different backgrounds.

The role that schools play in encouraging children to volunteer gets smaller in Key Stages 4 and 5, as exam and other pressures loom larger. At this stage community groups and organisations become more significant as a pathway to engagement and socio-economic differences reappear. This matters. The patterns established at this time persist throughout adulthood.

The role of schools

This makes the role of schools – and the organisations who work with schools – vital. They are the most egalitarian way for volunteer managers and volunteer involving organisations to access a range of young people and encourage them to take part in volunteering opportunities. When this is left to community groups and organisations, we see clear class differences in who engages. This is regardless of the best intentions of volunteer managers.

We therefore argue those who seek to get more young people volunteering should focus their energies on working with schools to access and attract young people. The encouragement and support which eliminates significant socio-economic differences in Key Stage 3 should continue throughout young people’s school careers through to age 18.

Post-18

Schools, and the volunteer managers and voluntary organisations who work with them, should also think about how they can encourage and support young people to continue volunteering post-18. This may mean community groups and organisations working in partnership with schools and each other to ensure that young people from all backgrounds – not just the most advantaged socio-economic groups – are aware of and feel comfortable in the kinds of organisations that can support a longer-term commitment to volunteering.

I’m delighted to be sharing my expertise at AVM’s November event, where I’ll be discussing how these recommendations can be put into practice. I hope to see you there, 


Does your success hinge on engaging young people or other communities?

Eddy will be joining AVM on 28 November for Volunteering’s impact on the community. Learn new approaches and be inspired by the positive social impact our five speakers have achieved.

Book now, there’s limited tickets available: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/event/volunteer-organisations-impact-on-the-community/

Networking tips for AVM events

Networking… you might love it, you may hate it, or you might fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But however you feel about it, it can be really useful for your professional development. And with conference only a week away, I wanted to share some tips on preparing to make the most of the networking time at conference. I’ve crowd sourced some of these ideas through Twitter, which I highly recommend as a great way to start networking.

Do your research

Is there someone you’ve wanted to meet for a while? There are a couple of ways you can find out who is going, ahead of conference.

Eventbrite shares first name and organisation of participants, so you can check out in advance if they are going, and look out for them on the day. 

If you’re on Twitter and not already following @AVMTweets (why not?) do so. People are already starting to chat about conference. You can always ask who is going to start a conversation. Or maybe someone you chat to regularly on Twitter is going to be there? Every year I get to meet people I’ve met on Twitter at conference.

This year’s hashtag is #AVM2018 so do include this in any tweets about the conference.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

Prepare

This year I’ve been working with my mentor on a number of areas of professional and personal development. One of which has been to be more effective at networking, as I am really not very comfortable with small talk. 

Part of my mentoring ‘homework’ has included preparing ahead of events like conference, or other AVM events. Things I’ve planned include something I’ve read that’s relevant to the event, or a key project I’m working on, and this has meant I’ve found I’m now less anxious before events.

I’ve also been thinking about questions to ask others at events. Is there something tricky I’m working on at the moment? I can ask someone if they’ve had to do something similar and how they handled it.
I’ve also been working on building my courage to talk to speakers at events, or someone whose work I admire. I still find it rather daunting to talk to the ‘experts’ from the stage, but I’m getting there! I just have to remind myself they’re a person like me.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

A simple greeting

Starting a conversation can feel really daunting, particularly if you’re not particularly comfortable with small talk. If you’re not very confident approaching people you’ve not met before, look for someone you know – or at least have met before, even if it was earlier in the event – who is talking to someone you don’t. This can often feel less daunting.

But what if you’ve come on your own and not met anyone yet? Never fear, the weather is bound to be unexpected for the season, someone’s travel to conference was probably eventful, and if all else fails, my old failsafe is “food/ coffee/ biscuits* look good/ bad/ awful*” (*delete as applicable), something I ALWAYS have an informed opinion about (don’t worry, the refreshments have always been great at conference!).

But once you’ve got past that first chat about food, and suddenly realise you’ve not actually introduced yourself, you can learn a simple networking greeting by remembering Inigo Montoya. Inigo’s most famous greeting can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Polite greeting: “Hello.”
  2. Name: “My name is Inigo Montoya.”
  3. Relevant personal link: “You killed my father.”
  4. Manage expectations: “Prepare to die.”

And there you have it, a simple networking greeting: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And don’t worry: nobody at conference is expecting an elevator pitch from you. Where you’re from and what your role is is a great relevant personal link.

Try: Hi, I’m Jo and I’m a Volunteer Manager at Organisation X. Is this your first time at an AVM conference?

Thanks to Annabel Smith for sourcing the image.

A comfortable exit

When we’re at events we often want to meet more people, but sometimes our nerves can mean we find it hard to exit a conversation, either resulting in feeling we’ve overstayed our welcome, or rude when we leave. Don’t worry: most people won’t think you’re rude if you leave the conversation. And you don’t need to use comfort break as an uncomfortable exit excuse. A polite thank you and goodbye will be sufficient. 

Try: Steve, it was really a pleasure speaking with you. I’m going to take a look at some of the other exhibits here, but if I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.

Following up with contacts

Strengthening your networks is a great advantage of AVM events. If you think that you’d find it useful to follow up with someone, ask for their business card, or let them know you’ll plan to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Try: I had a great time talking with you about X and I’d love to follow up with you later? Do you have a business card, or can I connect with you on LinkedIn, as it would be great to keep in touch?

Facilitating your networking

We know striking up a conversation with someone you’ve not met before doesn’t come easy to everyone, including volunteer managers. So this year we’ve again planned ways to help facilitate your networking experience. We’ll have discussion prompts on the walls, networking tables over lunch to discuss a variety of topics, and plenty of breaks for a cuppa and a chat.

We’ve also booked a space after conference so that those who are able to stay on can have a drink, and carry on some of the great discussions that were started during the day.

Hope to see you at conference!

Find out more

Conference tickets are selling out fast!

Have you got your ticket for the volunteer management event of the year? If not, don’t delay as tickets are selling out fast, and some of the seminars are fully booked.

If you’re still wondering if it’s for you, here are a few reasons why we think you should come to conference!

We have three fantastic keynote speakers:

  • Tiger de Souza, Director (Volunteering, Participation & Inclusion), National Trust. Tiger will be gazing into his volunteer management crystal ball to talk about Futurology: The UK trends that may impact Volunteering by 2030
  • Helen Timbrell, People and Organisational Development Consultant. Helen will be discussing how we can get past Groundhog Day, and why our leadership needs to change the conversations we’re having about volunteering.
  • Chris Jones, CEO, England Athletics. Chris will share how England Athletics have put volunteering at their heart.

We have wide choice of workshops and seminars from sector experts, to suit a wide variety of interests:

  • Mindfulness and Resilience
  • Organisational Values and Volunteering
  • Research partnerships- volunteering and academia working together
  • Rethinking the Data We Collect
  • Leadership Competencies
  • How to have difficult conversations
  • So you think you want a volunteer management system?
  • Building confidence for volunteers with support needs

Your peers recommend conference as a great way to learn, develop and build your networks.

Delegates who attended last year’s conference said:

  • “Really great keynote speakers, individually and good variety across them. Great to have peers in the sector sharing learning in workshops. Always good to hear what others are up to and have a chance to discuss challenges candidly and support each other”
  • “Workshop sessions where we could share ideas and experiences. Friendliness of organisers. Interesting final keynote speaker”
  • “Networking was great, standard of speakers was high, I felt stretched by the discussions”
  • “Networking, exchanging ideas, free range to think outside the box – not always possible in a work context!”

AVM’s annual conference is the industry leading event, bringing together Heads of Volunteering, Directors of Volunteering and Volunteer Managers from the broadest spectrum of volunteer organisations.

View the full conference details and book your tickets.

The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world

Sarah Merrington is Senior Development Manager for CIPD (the professional body for HR), recruiting HR professionals as volunteers to support job seekers and those who want to develop in their careers, and an AVM Volunteer.

conference table and chairs with three large question marks on the table

Even though I have worked in volunteer management for some time, and for several organisations, there is always one thing that has both challenged and impressed me. Local groups of volunteers running community activities for local people. It warms my heart and fills me with hope, to see people giving back to others by running activities that their friends, family, colleagues and community can get involved in.

As someone who has always sung in local choirs or played sport I have definitely benefitted from these great local ‘group’ volunteers – the ones who love the activity or the cause so much they organise things so others can feel the same.

I’ve been there, as a treasurer and an events lead for local groups near me. But now as a volunteering professional it is certainly an area which I struggle to get my head round.

Community volunteers in leadership roles for their local group are a key area of volunteering for many charities and organisations. But how people want to volunteer is changing. Modern-day lifestyles can be challenging for people to find time to get more involved. People tend to move in and out of volunteering rather than wanting to volunteer consistently for an extended period.

So it is increasingly difficult to recruit into traditional committee-based volunteering roles, which can be perceived as too time-consuming, dry or old fashioned. It seems as though many people want to be out there “doing the doing” rather than planning the organisation and undertaking governance to make the “doing” possible. 

In my experience, the main difficulties appear to be finding people to make the commitment, finding younger people and attracting diverse volunteers who better represent the community. In particular, by being unable to recruit younger members, committees remain heavily reliant on an ageing army of volunteers, hugely committed but with little opportunity for fresh ideas or succession planning.

Of course, I am generalising and there also many young, diverse and committed volunteers out there running activities for their community. But they are not attracted to the roles or organisations that I have been working for. And we need to change ourselves and our structures to encourage them to do so.

I have also found that there are issues relating to group structures where volunteers have been engaged for a long time and doing things in a certain way for often many years. There are challenges with encouraging innovation and change and driving different ways of working such as implementing new processes and systems.

How we do keep them engaged, keep them on message and remain compliant with up to date processes and procedures? How do we do this whilst also ensuring their organisational roles are interesting, simple, rewarding and empowering?

Having battled with this for a while and consistently meeting volunteering colleagues in other organisations who feel the same, it was time to do something about it. 

On 2 October, AVM supported by Sport England, will be running a workshop for anyone battling with this topic or with practical ideas and ways of solving some of these issues. This is a new networking session, but it won’t provide you with all the answers. It aims to bring us all together to share ideas, solutions and work out how, as volunteering professionals, we can move forward this common, rewarding but challenging topic.

The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world‘ is an intentionally worded title. Not because we definitely think it is the end, but because we want to prompt a debate and find people who do things differently who we can learn from.

I am excited about the speakers who bring with them a wealth of knowledge in volunteer governance, new ideas on ways local groups can run themselves and good practice in consulting, managing and communicating with local group volunteers.

But primarily it is a chance to network and share experiences with others in similar positions and help move forward conversation in this area together, rather than tackling it individually.

Please join us to engage in this debate, wearing your optimistic, solution-focused shoes!

Find out more or book your place for our event ‘The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world‘, 2 October 2018, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Sport England office, London.

Sarah has over 18 years experience in project, event and volunteer management with her main area of expertise is in managing and delivering projects that promote and engage people in positive health and environmental behaviours. The majority of these have been established to increase communities’ physical activity levels and to improve nutritional habits. She has developed programmes across a range of different settings and population groups within local communities, schools and youth groups, workplaces, general practice and higher education. Volunteers have always been at the heart of her programmes, whether student representatives running sports clubs in universities, community volunteers and activists driving forward local change or members of an organisation looking to give back to their sector. Over the last year she supported Cycling UK to write their new 5-year volunteering strategy and ensure that volunteers were central to their organisation. She is now Senior Development Manager leading on mentoring for CIPD (the professional body for HR), recruiting HR professionals as volunteers to support job seekers and those who want to develop in their careers.

We need to talk – handling emotions and challenging situations with volunteers

Laura Elson is a freelance consultant and a self-confessed volunteering geek. Currently consulting with England Netball and First Tech Challenge UK, Laura has been working in the volunteering sector for 15 years, and is a member of AVM.

I met a brilliant colleague of mine for coffee last week and straight away I could tell something was on her mind. It turned out she was preparing for an incredibly difficult conversation with a volunteer. She’d already taken three or four days to prep, sought advice and still was absolutely dreading it. After 15 years working with volunteers and volunteer managers it’s absolutely still the bit of my job I find the hardest. Lucky for me I’d just been to an AVM event and had some fantastic new tips to share with her!

Volunteers are passionate people determined to make an impact on causes they love. And as volunteer managers we are passionate about volunteers, doing everything we can to support them to feel they are making a difference. As that vital link between organisations and volunteers it often falls to us to have those difficult conversations. And for a group of self-confessed people pleasers it’s really, really tough.

So, it’s no wonder that this event on a hot Tuesday in London was packed with over 50 people looking to learn more. AVM has grown massively since I first joined about ten years ago and it was great to meet and learn from amazing people with one thing in common – we all dread those difficult chats.

Kicking off the day Mandy Rutter gave a fascinating talk and workshop. As a psychologist and consultant specialising in the neuroscience of emotion and conflict Mandy talked us through the science of emotions. When we feel stressed our natural fight or flight response can drag us back into the primitive parts of our brains. She suggests breathing deeply, asking questions, using positive psychology and managing your stress well to boost resilience and stay in the logical parts of our brains.

Next was the ever brilliant Kathryn Palmer-Skillings, London Volunteer Services Manager at Macmillan who shared their approach to volunteer programme design and supporting volunteer managers through challenging situations. Firm boundaries, short volunteer placement periods with a fixed end date, peer support, training and 24 counselling access are built into the project design. This ensures volunteers are supported emotionally from the offset, rather than waiting for a difficult day. Kathryn reminded us being honest and human about what you’re feeling with those around you is powerful and necessary.

Adam Williams from St John Ambulance talked us through their fantastic, bespoke training on handling difficult messages for volunteer managers. The St John approach was simple, well researched and effective. His advice is to prepare, choose the right setting and keep your message ABC (accurate, brief and clear).

Debbie Usiskin and Gilly Fisher from North London Hospice closed the day with a wonderful session and workshop exploring emotional resilience. Increasingly research is exploring the idea that volunteering is a form of emotional labour. One of the most useful takeaways from this session was a kind of self-care bingo asking how frequently we had gone for a walk, taken time for ourselves or made sure we ate regular healthy meals. A quick glance around the room showed that we’re not very good at this. Would these conversations be any easier if we were taking good care of ourselves as well as our volunteers?

Over the years if there’s one thing I’ve picked up it’s s that the best way to handle tricky conversations is to listen to your volunteers when designing projects at the start. At Parkinson’s UK we ensured that all our roles were clear, provided a comprehensive online induction and a brilliant problem-solving policy. At England Netball, we’re about to launch an innovative new strategy that will build a movement to empower women, based on our volunteers’ motivations, preferences and need to achieve not what we need to deploy them to deliver.

Volunteering is emotional and so we can never avoid these conversations altogether but after attending this brilliant #AVMLearn event I feel a lot more confident to manage those tricky conversations with compassion and logic.

I saw my colleague again this week and she was much happier – the learning from the day had been really useful. So the next time you have to have one of those chats do apply some of these ideas and although I’m not promising it won’t still be tough, it might not be as quite as tough as you think.

AVM members can view videos from previous events  once logged into their AVM account. Watch event videos.

Laura Elson is a freelance consultant and a self-confessed volunteering geek. Currently consulting with England Netball and First Tech Challenge UK, Laura has been working in the volunteering sector for 15 years. She designed and scaled up prison based volunteer centres with NCVO, Nesta and Volunteer Centre Leeds, and has led on volunteering at Parkinson’s UK, England Netball and a wide range of charities. She gained qualifications in governance, voluntary sector management and an MSc in Non Profit Marketing from the Centre for Charity Effectiveness where her final project focused on revolutionizing volunteer recruitment techniques. Laura is a member of the Association of Volunteer Managers and the Institute of Fundraising and supports organisations with volunteering strategy and infrastructure, good governance and writing successful funding bids. When she’s not working or volunteering you can find her on a netball court.

Building bridges between volunteering and research

This is a guest post by Shaun Delaney, volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering. This was first posted on the NCVO website

As a volunteer manager, I like my practice to be evidence-based. I think we all do. We’re forever evaluating, surveying, measuring and holding focus groups to make sure we are doing our very best by our volunteers. But as we know, there are some things we could do with knowing a bit more about.

On 7 June, the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and the National Network of Volunteer Involving Agencies (NNVIA) held an event to plan how we can answer these questions – an event which NCVO was thrilled to support and host. This event brought together the researchers, practitioners and everyone in-between to ask ‘how can we better work together to advance volunteering research’. Get the full lowdown from AVM Chair Ruth Leonard’s blog and comments from VSSN’s Jon Dean.

Practitioners tackle the problems, researchers tackle the solutions

The day had a packed agenda. We started by hearing from the researchers and academics. Margaret Harris was quite clear – ‘if there isn’t a problem, why are we spending time on it?’ And I agree. While we perhaps all wonder why milk makes our cereal soggy, there are bigger problems to solve. As busy people with limited resources, let’s focus on the big issues we are facing. As one of our speakers said, ‘it’s not just about academic masturbation’.

This was my first main message of the day: Let’s be clear what problems volunteer managers face, then ask researchers to help us find the answer.

Practitioners and researchers speaking a shared language

After lunch, we heard from volunteering specialists. First up, Rachel Bailey tackling a key question of the day – ‘why don’t academics and volunteer managers work together more?’ Rachel helped us see something that we perhaps hadn’t noticed before.

Volunteer management isn’t an academic profession. You can’t do a GCSE in social action or a Masters in volunteering. In fact, as recent research suggests, volunteer management requires insight and skills in emotional labour – one of the key things that separates volunteer managements from staff management. So naturally, volunteer managers start their careers in people-oriented professions and may not know one end of a researcher form the other.

So my second take-away message: for practitioners and researchers to work better together, we need to better understand each other’s language.

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

We finished the day looking to the future. How can we find the solutions we need, by better working together? We came up with quite a list. But the thing for me that came out was around communication. For any of this to mean anything, we need to have an audience that is receptive to research – and will actually read it! There is stacks of great insight out there. But if it’s impenetrable, it’s just another dusty book on a shelf. People rarely change how they do things after passively reading a single document too so this insight needs to be engaging.

My final piece of learning for the day: Research is great, but finding a way to bring it to life makes it even greater.

For more information, check out the AVM and VSSN blogs.

Building bridges – bringing together volunteer managers and voluntary sector researchers

Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM, reflects on last week’s Building Bridges event.

DfFMbWBX0AADwXJOn the last day of volunteers’ week 2018 I co-chaired with Angela Ellis Paine and Chris Wade, a long overdue day bringing together volunteer managers and voluntary sector researchers to better understand each others’ needs. A joint initiative between AVM, VSSM and NNVIA and kindly hosted by NCVO the day was a structured networking event, informed and challenged by recognised experts in either field – but with the understanding that we are all experts and the answer lies within the group.

After getting to know each other on our tables – and coming up with additions to the volunteers’ week playlist we started looking at what the current state of volunteering research was; hearing from 4 voluntary sector researchers: Howard Davies, Justin Davis-Smith, Margaret Harris and John Mohan.

It was clear that there was already a lot known on the who, why, what and where of volunteering – but less research on the ‘how’; including the role that volunteer management plays in the process. One of the areas which Justin identified as being not researched was that of when volunteering was not appropriate; such as the balance between state and the voluntary movement and where volunteering can’t deliver public benefits.

Perfectly exemplifying the spirit of the day Margaret emphasised that there needed to be collaboration and co-production between researchers and practitioners; as she put it researchers should “avoid binary approaches” and that just as volunteering shows that nothing brings people together as much as sharing problems together research needed to be developed through sharing collaboratively in order to work on projects where we can solve problems together. One of my favourite quotes from her is there is “nothing so practical as a good theory”.

After hearing from our speakers we discussed the issues raised as a group and some of our shared responses included that there was good knowledge in existence but a lot of it was out of date, and from other countries, and it was a challenge to know how we could collect information to update it, especially as there was little investment.

There was also interest in the effects of volunteer management – and managers – on the impact of volunteering and discussion on increasing diversity; including the role of current volunteers in welcoming people from different groups. Thinking about the future and how voluntary organisations didn’t seem to making changes at scale to prepare for it; we felt that it would be useful to have research which would help inform that so as a sector we could know how to remodel the ways we operate in order to engage and remain relevant to those who give their time. It was felt that it would be useful to reach out to other researchers looking at areas that weren’t specifically about the voluntary sector and piggyback on some of that.

The next session was to hear from ‘the practitioners’ and understand to what extent volunteer managers and their organisations engaged with volunteering research. We heard from AVM’s very own Rachael Bayley, Chris Reed, Tiger de Souza and Helen Timbrell.

A really useful base to start the conversation was Rachael’s honest discussion about how the busy volunteer manager who is not based in the theoretical background and doesn’t have time to wade through pages of words could be best supported to access the valuable nuggets of information. This resonated across the audience – whilst those who chose to attend this day were obviously interested in engaging and understanding the latest research it wasn’t very easy to access the relevant information to inform practice.

Tiger trailed an exciting piece of research which National Trust is carrying out on looking at the future and how volunteer managers and organisations need to equip themselves to align to themselves to where we shall be. I’m really pleased that Tiger will be one of our key note speakers at the AVM conference on 18th October, where he shall tell us more about the findings but the initial themes which they are uncovering are: citizenship, automation, nurture and grow, connection, marginalised, control and identity.

Helen challenged us all about the arbitrary split of researchers and volunteer managers – as she succinctly pointed out it – ‘we can all be researchers and all be practitioners’ and I think this emphasised one of the key take aways from the day; we need to be working together more and breaking down these divisions between us in order to answer the questions we want answering about volunteering.

Our table conversations then concentrated on how volunteer managers engaged with research and what barriers there might be to doing so. One of the main reasons to engage with research seemed to be to check that volunteering programme works for beneficiaries and service users, though it was also reflected from a couple of tables that there was a sense of research only happening when there was a crisis. Research was also used to influence upwards or when writing strategy. It was felt that it would be easier for volunteer managers to engage with research if it was available in the right, accessible format though there was also a recognition that as practitioners we see what’s well publicised, visible, easy to digest – we won’t necessarily see a journal paper which contradicts those findings. There was a request to broker link between voluntary organisations which had similar research needs.

Throughout the day we collected thoughts on what questions about volunteering did we want answering; these broke down into 6 themes: volunteer management; volunteers; alternative forms of volunteering; government and infrastructure; impact and the future.  We chose groups based on out interest and started to explore some of the specific areas which would be useful in 3 of them

Volunteer Management

  • Is a lack of a defined career pathway for volunteer managers a problem – for individuals, organisations, volunteers’ experience?
  • Where does volunteering best sit within an organisation to be most effective?
  • What does a good structure which enables volunteering to thrive look like?

Impact

  • Value of gift of time because of not being paid
  • Value of closeness to community – does localism have an impact
  • Focus on experience of beneficiaries – including does their perception of volunteering have an effect

Alternative forms of volunteering

  • Micro volunteering – what’s the evidence around this
  • How do we connect formal and informal volunteering
  • Family friendly volunteering and childcare

Karl Wilding summarised the day by emphasising that dialogue was good and encouraging us to think about what the tools might be in enabling this. He emphasised that we know an awful lot, but the way we’re sharing just isn’t working and that this day was a start to fixing what wasn’t working in the feedback loop between researchers and volunteer managers.  He was clear that this was on both sides, and that volunteer managers needed to be more vocal collectively about what was needed and stop re-inventing the wheel. He encouraged us to think about where research would help us in understanding change and give us insight into how to make decisions; such as transitioning from a civic core model to one of social action.

We all jointly needed to get better at communicating just what this stuff was about to ordinary people – what is the language which people use to describe what they are doing?

Our closing conversation focussed on next steps –  what did the room want to do to follow on from this day?

  • More opportunities to come together in different ways – there has been a lack of interaction between voluntary organisations and academia coming together and AVM, VSSN and NNVIA were thanked at creating this opportunity
  • Repository for people to contact regarding research/commissioning – it was recognised that this could already exist but if so there needed to be improved communication about it
  • NCVO offered to bring together a consortium to hold a Seminar of diversity of volunteering; which would include exploring where current volunteers themselves may be creating an unwelcoming environment
  • In NCVO’s centenary year they could create a regular digest of Government interventions – Voluntary Action Notes
  • AVM to convene a way to consider research priorities for volunteer managers which could be shared to academics via VSSN

It was agreed that Angela, Chris and I would meet to discuss the next steps but it was clear there was an overwhelming desire to continue to build the bridge and AVM, VSSN and NNVIA were committed to ensuring that happened.

Reading list

Rachael Bayley, AVM Board member, shared the following reading list at the event.

The New Alchemy

UK research and a major report on volunteering published in 2015. This report tracks the changes of many things in the world of volunteering, charities and the wider economic, social and political climate and compares from 2005 to 2015.  The report is based on surveying over 500 volunteer managers and carrying out more than 20 in-depth interviews. Written by: NFP Synergy

http://nfpsynergy.net/free-report/new-alchemy

21st Century Volunteer

UK research about volunteer management and volunteering, published in 2005.  This report shows how the current volunteering environment is changing. In particular, it disseminates the ways in which volunteer management will need to develop in order to accommodate the changing external environment. The original report is great and makes valuable points.  It was written in 2005 and the authors in 2015 released a new edition (above).  It draws challenging and though provoking links between the fundraising and the volunteering function in an organisation.  Written by: NFP Synergy and commissioned by the Scout Association

http://nfpsynergy.net/21st-century-volunteer

Bridging The Gap report and subsequent papers

How can we bridge the gap between what Canadians are looking for in volunteering today and how organizations are engaging volunteers? A pan-Canadian research study. The 2010 research gathered practical information for use by volunteer organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers among four specific demographic groups: youth, families, boomers and employer-supported volunteers.  The report was updated with Bridging the Gap II in 2013.  There are also fact sheets, presentations and different version of the report available.

Written by: Volunteer Canada, in partnership with Manulife Financial, Carleton University Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development and Harris/Decima

http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap

http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap-summary-report

Pathways through Participation – What creates and sustains active citizens?

Pathways through Participation is a research project that aimed to improve our understanding of how and why people participate, how their involvement changes over time, and what pathways, exist between different activities. The project ran from 2009 to 2011 in the UK.

Written by: National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve

http://pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk

http://www.pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/09/Pathways-Through-Participation-final-report_Final_20110913.pdf

Future Focus – What will our volunteers be like in five years time?

Published in 2009 this examines how volunteers are changing – who they are, what they do and what they expect – and suggests ways to use this information to retain, recruit and manage volunteers successfully.  Published as part of the Future Focus series, a segment of the stats are England only and some are UK wide.

Written by: The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Charities Evaluation Services (CES).

https://www.ncvo.org.uk/

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/uploadedFiles/NCVO/Publications/Publications_Catalogue/Quality/FF2.pdf

The New Breed – Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century volunteer

Not a report but a great book, available on Amazon.  The authors are father and son and based in the USA. They also have a website with more volunteering information.  A really good text book on volunteer management best practice.  Written by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee.

http://www.volunteerpower.com

London Volunteer Health Check: all fit for 2012?

The study was commissioned with the aim to provide evidence on the nature of volunteering in London, the provision of support for volunteers and the capacity of the local volunteering infrastructure, ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. The report, published in 2009, also includes a view on the state of volunteer management in London.

Written by: Institute for Volunteering Research with Greater London Volunteering and commissioned by the London Development Agency.

http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/london-volunteer-health-check-all-fit-for-2012

http://www.ivr.org.uk/images/stories/Institute-of-Volunteering-Research/Migrated-Resources/Documents/L/LDA_FINAL_report_08_12_08.pdf

 

Research Centres

Institute for Volunteering Research

The Institute for Volunteering Research is an initiative of Volunteering England (recently merged with NCVO) in research partnership with Birkbeck, University of London

http://www.ivr.org.uk/

Third Sector Research Centre

TSRC works to enhance our knowledge of the sector through independent and critical research. We aim to better understand the value of the sector and how this can be maximised.  Hosted at Birmingham University.

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/index.aspx

Cabinet Office

The Community Life Survey has been commissioned by the Cabinet Office to track the latest trends and developments across areas that are key to encouraging social action and empowering communities.

http://communitylife.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/index.html

Further reading

Brodie, Cowling & Nissen, (2009). Understanding participation: A literature review. http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/understanding-participation-a-literature-reviewSummarising previous research done across all forms of volunteering to understand:  historical context; motivations; barriers; benefits and activities.

Brodie, E., Hughes, T., Jochum, V., Miller, S., Ockenden, N., & Warburton, D. (2011). Pathways through participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship? Retrieved from http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/Pathways_through_ParticipationTwo year qual study exploring why people get involved and stay involved with volunteering, from the individuals perspective rather than an organisational perspective like previous research.

Crosby, M. & Elliot, M. Volunteer Journey Process stream. Volunteer Management Framework, Version 1.0.

Gaskin, K. (1999), Valuing volunteers in Europe: A comparative study of the volunteer Investment and Value Audit. http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/valuing-volunteers-in-europe Measures the monetary value of volunteers in eight large voluntary organisations in Netherlands, Denmark and England.

Gaskin, K. (2008) The economics of hospice volunteering, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/the-economics-of-hospice-volunteering -Measures the monetary value of volunteers across three different hospice organisations.

Low, N., Butt, S., Ellis Paine, A. and Davis Smith, J. (2007) Helping Out: A national study of volunteering and charitable giving, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/helping-out-a-national-survey-of-volunteering-and-charitable-giving -Understanding the motivations behind why people formally volunteer, why they stop volunteering and the relationship between giving time and money.

Nazroo, J., & Matthews, K. (2011). The impact of volunteering on wellbeing in later life. http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Reports%20and%20Reviews/the_impact_of_volunteering_on_wellbeing_in_later_life.pdf Compares the wellbeing of older volunteers and older non-volunteers over a two year period.

NCVO (2011). Participation: Trends, facts and figures http://www.ncvo.org.uk/images/documents/policy_and_research/participation/participation_trends_facts_figures.pdfSummarises the trends and demographics of all types of volunteering behaviour.

Paine, A., & Donahue, K. (2008). London volunteering health check: All fit for 2012?

http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/london-volunteer-health-check-all-fit-for-2012 Understand who volunteers in London, what are their motivations and what support they are given, including the infrastructure available.  Multi-method: Secondary analysis of previous research, qual interviews with volunteers and quant analysis of structures currently in place.

Staetsky, L. & Mohan, J. (2011). Individual voluntary participation in the United Kingdom. http://www.bhamlive3.bham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/working-paper-6.pdf Compares the methological differences in the level of volunteering in the UK reported in a number of studies.

Teasdale, S. (2008) In Good Health, Assessing the impact of volunteering in the NHS, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/in-good-health-assessing-the-impact-of-volunteering-in-the-nhs Understanding who volunteers for the NHS, their motivations and the benefits to the organisation and the patients.

TNS BMRB (2013), Giving Time and Money. http://communitylife.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/assets/topic-reports/2012-2013-giving-time-and-money-report.pdf Tracks developments in demographics of formal, informal and social action volunteers, interviewing over 6,000 adults across the UK.

Volunteer Canada, (2012). Bridging the Gap. http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap Understanding Canadian volunteering motivations, needs and benefits by four groups:  youth, family, baby boomers and workplace volunteers.

Volunteer Now (2013). As good as they give: Providing volunteers with the management they deserve.  http://www.volunteernow.co.uk/fs/doc/publications/workbook3-managing-and-motivating-volunteers-2013.pdf

Zurich (2013). http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1208600

Measuring the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering

By Laura Hamilton, Laura Hamilton Consulting  and Gareth Williams, LGBT Foundation
Discover more opportunities to learn about this subject, including the four videos from our Manchester event, at the end of this blog

We were super-excited to be attending AVM’s first learning and development event in Manchester and it was great to see a room packed with volunteer managers from a mix of organisations. Conversations seemed to be flowing right from the start, which we’ll put down to the double whammy of northern friendliness and being in such a beautiful venue.

What prompted us to attend this event? To learn from others’ experience of measuring volunteer wellbeing and to network and make links with volunteer managers from the North.  Gareth is fairly new to volunteer management, so he was really keen to get to know others working in the field.

The event was packed with content; much more than we could possibly cover in this blog. So, rather than give a blow by blow account of the day, we’ve decided to focus on the top 5 things we learned:

1. Look at the whole person
The event kicked off with a fantastic presentation from Emma Horridge and Lee Ashworth; sharing the learning from the “Inspiring Futures: volunteering for wellbeing” (IF) programme.  The programme ran across 10 heritage venues in Greater Manchester and was specifically designed to “support participants into volunteering and away from social and economic isolation”. We were so impressed by this programme and the positive outcomes and progression routes for volunteers.

We particularly liked the fact that the programme recognised the individual nature of progression and their evaluation aimed to look holistically at a person’s life, rather than just focussing on one area of impact. Interestingly, they gathered information from family members and health practitioners, as well as from the volunteers themselves. You can read and hear some of the volunteer stories from the IF programme here and learn more about their evaluation here.  

2. Time and resources matter
Whether it’s taking the time to think through your approach to measuring wellbeing, customising monitoring tools for your own programme, or securing funding to support evaluation, you’re going to need to commit some sort of resource to measuring wellbeing.  Both the IF and Kirklees Museum programmes had involved specialist organisations in the design and delivery their monitoring and evaluation around wellbeing.

Investing time and energy in measuring wellbeing does, however, help you create a powerful case for resourcing volunteering. Using a Social Return on Investment model, the IF programme was able to demonstrate that for every £1 invested in the programme, £3.50 of social and economic value was generated. Kirklees Museum used evidence of the health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering to raise their profile with their Local Authority and build links with both public health and social prescribing.  The event gave us a clear understanding of how evidencing health and wellbeing impacts helps make the case for funding and resources for volunteering.

3. It can be simple or complex
Using a Social Return on Investment model to measure wellbeing seemed like it had been a pretty complex and resource intensive process.  We were also struck by the amount of funding that had clearly been secured to support the evaluation process for the IF project and wondered whether it would be feasible to engage in this type of monitoring and evaluation with less resource available.

Kirklees took a different approach to SROI; using NEF’s “5 ways to wellbeing” as the basis for their evaluation and then undertaking semi-structured interviews with volunteers. This seemed to yield insights into the personal impact of volunteering on wellbeing and, interestingly, they found that direct health benefits were more apparent in longer term volunteers.

For those on a tight budget, there are lots of free resources available:

  • The What Works Wellbeing Centre has loads of resources around wellbeing, including a customisable questionnaire builder.
  • The IF programme website includes a whole section on good practice where they share the learning from their work.

4. Partnerships support progression

Manchester2

We were both inspired by how the IF programme had developed extensive partnerships and how these seemed to support volunteers to develop a wide range of skills and opened the door to new opportunities and progression routes. It was a helpful reminder that we can achieve great things when we work collaboratively and that creating pathways between different organisations and opportunities can be really beneficial.

5. There can be ethical issues
There was some discussion around whether volunteers find questions around wellbeing overly intrusive and whether certain questionnaires and approaches might not be suitable. It highlighted the importance of having a well thought out approach, being clear about why you are gathering information, how it will be used and stored, and being able to communicate this clearly and sensitively to volunteers and ask for their consent. It is also worth thinking through how you might signpost volunteers to other services if the questions you are asking around wellbeing bring up issues around mental health or other aspects of personal wellbeing.

Our final thoughts…
It was great to meet so many people with a passion and appreciation for volunteering and volunteers. The event helped us to build some really good links and opportunities for future partnership work. It was also great to hear the perspectives and voices of volunteers, both in the presentations and during the interactive session at the end of the day.

We also valued the fact that the event included a focus on diversity and a reminder that there is still work to be done in terms of making volunteering (and all the associated health and wellbeing benefits!) accessible to all. Since the event, we’ve been reflecting on how to make volunteering opportunities more inclusive and how to reach out to new groups and demographics.

We look forward to the next AVM event up north next year and to being part of big, strong and diverse network of volunteer managers in the North West!

The four presentations from our March event are available to AVM members, using the password in your latest AVM event email. Visit: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/member-support/talks-and-events-archive/

Be the first to discover our new Learning & Development Days, including the ‘Measuring the health and well-being benefits of volunteering‘ event in London on 9th August:

Emotionally challenging situations for volunteer managers: what to do

Including: emotional resilience, compassion fatigue and having difficult conversations with volunteers.

Join us for this L&D event on 10th July, 2018 at Hanbury Hall, London. Click here to book.

Managing volunteers can be an emotionally challenging experience, for a variety of reasons. We could be called upon to support volunteers in stressful situations, or to deal with uncomfortable situations caused by volunteers. These could be foreseeable or completely unexpected, but either way, are we given the support and guidance needed to cope effectively?

Having difficult conversations with volunteers can encompass everything from saying ‘No’,  to offering support and sympathy in dealing with personal crises. Being properly prepared can significantly reduce the stress involved.

This event brings together some very experienced presenters and practitioners to both discuss these challenging issues and consider some practical guidance. It is relevant to all volunteer leaders and managers and will address a broad range of potential situations, with both seminars and interactive workshops. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to share their own experiences and discuss solutions.

Click here to book.


Other AVM events:

There are still some places left for “New approaches to involving and engaging volunteers, 12 June 2018, BRISTOL.

Click here to book or for further details.


Save the date: 18th October, 2018, AVM Conference.

This year’s conference will be the biggest and best yet! Look out for announcements about speakers and early-bird tickets.