Finding a mentor…like going to the movies?

Movie-popcornBy Angela Wilson, AVM Director.

Soon after I joined the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) Board of Directors, the Chair, Ruth Leonard, rang me up to ask what I wanted to get out of volunteering, what was it that motivated me? I said I hoped to learn from the diverse experience of other AVM members: I wanted to progress in my career, and so it would be great to learn from others how they had gone about developing theirs. We then got to talking about mentoring, and how it would be wonderful if AVM could set up a scheme where members could learn from each other, much as I was describing.  Top volunteer management marks to Ruth: she had identified my own motivation, and matched it with a strategic aim of AVMs. Thus it was agreed I would lead the setting up of AVMs mentoring scheme, and use the learning for the search for my own mentor to inform and facilitate the project. Great! I was excited to get going. But where to begin?

Fortunately, I was not alone: fellow Director Jo Gibney agreed to join forces with me. So, we met, drank coffee, and did a lot of brainstorming. Jo also wanted to find a mentor…so we started by thinking about what we wanted to get out of it. Discussing it helped us to think through our aims, which made it easier to consider who might be a good person to help me to achieve those aims.Reading up on it, I found out that the mentoring relationship works best when there’s a high level of trust between both parties, and this is most likely to occur when the mentee chooses their own mentor. It should be someone with whom you are not too familiar (e.g. a friend) as you are unlikely to really be challenged in your thinking or to learn very much. Also the experience gap is important: if it is “too narrow, mentor and mentee will have little to talk about. If it is too great, the mentors experience will be increasingly irrelevant to the mentee” (Clutterbuck, D. 2014).

Where would I find such a person? And how would I make the approach? I felt quite awkward about the whole thing, it reminded me of the bashfulness I felt when I was in my late teens, about to ask a guy if he wanted to go to the movies! So it took me a while to work up the courage…

After a fair bit of umming and ahhing, I took a deep breath, and called a colleague I really respected in the volunteer management field, who had experience within the area I wanted to move into. It was great to catch up with him, and talk through some of my aims and hopes. In the end I sort of blurted it out – “would you have any interest in mentoring me…of course no worries at all if you can’t…” [in my head: “EEEEEEEEEK!”] sadly, this colleague had just changed jobs himself, and just didn’t have the time right now. Oh. Oh well, not to worry. I didn’t take it personally. Onwards!

There was one other person I knew who I’d thought for some time, would make a wonderful mentor, but I’d never plucked up the courage to ask. She was talented and very experienced, and probably very busy. I didn’t think I had much chance, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway – nothing ventured and all that. And she said yes! I was more delighted than when the guy agreed to go to the movies with me. Having someone I really respected agree to invest their time in ME seemed incredibly generous: I was very grateful.

Meanwhile, Jo and I have been busy working up our ideas for the AVM Mentoring Scheme. We’ve been learning from others, designing registration forms and a project plan for how it all might work. We hope that the scheme will make it much easier for mentors and mentees to find each other and pair up.

Since just last week, 29 people have approached AVM to say they’d like to sign up as a mentor, mentee, or both…so we’re well on the way to making it easier (and a bit less like asking someone to go to the movies?!) for members who want to find mentors. We want to bring people together, both in person and online, and facilitate links between people in similar geographic areas. But those are just some of our ideas.

We are really keen to hear from AVM members who would be happy to help us shape the scheme and test out the tools (such as the registration forms) that we’ve developed. If you’re interested in getting involved, please do leave us your details here – we’ll get back to you.

Edited 16.03.2018

The power of listening…and of new boots

brown bootsBy: Angela Wilson, AVM Director

Returning to work following maternity leave, I realised I NEEDED to go shopping. I’d worn the same cosy, baggy jeans for several months, with my baby happily wiping her nose on whichever of my bobbly jumpers I was wearing that day.

The trouble was, it had been months since I’d bought myself new clothes, and I’d forgotten how to shop! Fashion had moved on and as I stared at the strange, oversized, bat-winged type coats, I realised I had no idea what I was doing, and felt rather lost and intimidated about the whole thing. Back-up was needed. I called my mates Lucy and Jos, and pleaded for them to help me step out of my mum-garb into a confident new look.

I knew I needed boots. Who doesn’t need boots. But which ones? Never one for stiletto’s, I like my feet firmly on the ground. But I’m also five foot three, so a couple of extra inches would be good. My hand hovered over a pair of brown, leather boots with a chunky two inch heel. Argh – there was that indecision again…would they look good? Now, Lucy and Jos aren’t afraid to say boo to a goose. They’re bolshy, opinionated, wonderful women who will tell you exactly what they think, which was exactly what I’d hoped for from them. However, on this occasion, they didn’t.

“What do you think, Ange?” asked Jos.

Slightly perturbed, I looked at my reflection and asked myself that question. Did I like the boots? Yes, I did…a lot. Confirming as much, Josie’s face broke out into a big smile, and she told me she thought they looked great too. Hurrah! They were a great first purchase.
Later on, enjoying my buyers-high, I mulled over the day. I was feeling much more confident about what I wanted and realised I didn’t need to wear enormous bat-winged coats to look good, I just needed to have confidence in the clothes I liked, and to choose clothes that made me feel good. Jos had helped me to remember this. And she’d done it in a really important way.

Instead of dictating to me what she thought looked good, she’d listened, and waited for me to find the answer in myself. If she hadn’t done that, I’d have ended up looking like a daft version of her (she’s far taller than me and a completely different body shape) and I wouldn’t have regained confidence in my own ability to find lovely clothes.

That, for me, was an important lesson. People often have the answers to their problems inside themselves, and only they can effectively overcome their challenges and find their own solutions. Other people telling them what to do simply won’t work, as what’s right for one, is not for another. When others can really listen, and help you to find those answers yourself, it can be a very powerful experience.

It’s the same in a mentoring relationship.

Great mentors respect their mentees and help them to find their own solutions: “to do the role well requires a capacity to hold back and allow people to learn for themselves” (Clutterbuck, D. 2014).

The Association of Volunteer Managers is setting up its own mentoring scheme, in the hopes of unleashing some of the powerful volunteer management skills, experience and knowledge that exists amongst our membership, helping to develop listening and leadership skills amongst mentors, and helping to progress the careers and personal development goals of mentees.

We would like members to help us to shape it and to road-test some of the early stage tools we’ve developed. If you think you would be interested in learning more about mentoring and participating in the scheme, and would be willing to help us to make it into a success, we would love to hear from you. Please leave your details here, and we’ll get back in touch.

Read about what we’re planning.

Retail Volunteering Event: Investing in volunteer time drives income.

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

Click here to book.

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

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

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

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

Balancing Time And Dollar

Time is money -Investing in volunteer time drives income

For more information or to book – Click here.

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

GDPR event: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data


@AVMtweets: Our Director @running4chips introduces today’s #VMLearn reminding us that we’re all ‘in the same boat’ for #GDPR

By Lisa McDermott 
AVM member; Volunteering Management and Training Officer (UK), Stroke Association

On a dreary January afternoon, I was sat in a room. Well a hall technically. In Shoreditch. With a ‘gathering’ – is that the right word? – of volunteer managers and leaders of volunteers.

Over the next few hours we experienced a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from being gobsmacked, determined, panicked and relieved. Who knew that an AVM event about the General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR] could generate such a response. Not me…

First up to the podium was the RNLI. They started their GDPR journey in 2016 so compared to a lot of other people in the room they are well ahead of the curve. The pioneers, if you will, in the GDPR wilderness.


@AVMtweets: Why is good data governance important? For @RNLI it means more lives are saved #GDPR #VMLearn

A clever campaign – Communication Saves Lives – has seen nearly 500,000 supporters opt in by the end of 2017 to continue receiving fundraising communications, and as a result the response rate to a Summer appeal increase from 10.4% to 32.8%. Impressive I nod sagely….

Their multifaceted, one-size doesn’t fit all, engagement which included staff ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions and tailored volunteer messaging was also a bit special. I too find food is a great persuader….

There was an audible gasp, however, when we learnt that the RNLI had only applied GDPR to their direct marketing. What?? After all that you’ve still got shed loads to do? At this point I think some panic started to set in.


@AVMtweets: Everyone loves a good acronym. Here’s one for handling personal data #GDPR #VMLearn

Next up was the Alzheimer’s Society who gave an honest and frank account of living under an E10 enforcement notice after being sanctioned by the Information Commissioner. This forced them to have a long hard look at how the organisation, their staff and volunteers process data but in doing so they are now in a happy place and feeling prepared for GDPR.  I’m not sure when I am next going to have a discussion about hamster bedding and composting in the same breath as why GDPR is important.

Our last presenter for the day was Paul Jennings from Bates, Wells and Braithwaite who took us through some of the ‘legalese’ and dealt with some insightful and challenging questions from the crowd on topics like retention policies, roles and responsibilities and privacy notices.


@AVMtweets: Paul from BWB is managing to make #data & #GDPR an engaging topic #VMLearn

There was also an interesting discussion on whether asking volunteers for consent is the right thing to do and whether gathering data under the legitimate interest banner would be more appropriate. Organisations need to decide for themselves what works best for them. Food – and a biccy – for thought…

So, by the end of the day our heads were spinning with advice, guidance, predictions and questions about what GDPR means for us and our organisations. Will it be “an evolution or a revolution?” For us probably the former as we already have a lot of data safeguards in place due to the nature of our work but for others it might mean coming out on the streets, waving the GDPR flag and shouting ‘viva la revolucion!”

The three engaging GDPR presentations from January are exclusively available to AVM members, using the password in the latest AVM event email, by visiting:

Still don’t feel #GDPR ready? We’ve teamed up with Paul again to answer your top 10 data protection questions. Watch this space for Paul’s Q&A blog!

View the next AVM Learning & Development Days you can attend:

Volunteer Management Progress Report – AVM’s response

The recently published​ 2018​ ​Volunteer Management Progress Report once again highlights the range of job titles in ​our profession​, across the world​.  Although there is a slight increase in ‘Coordinators’, and a ​small decrease in ‘Managers’ in practice Coordinator and Manager roles are likely to overlap, with similar tasks and responsibilities.  2018-VMPR-Cover-e1517423490909

This echoes the IVMD Survey carried out by AVM in 2017.  A third of survey recipients indicated that their role was non-managerial.  Their job titles included Officer / Coordinator / Supervisor / Engagement.  With the potential to negatively impact on the scope for career progression, particularly for new entrants to the industry, improved consistency in naming conventions is needed.

The report also identified time as a challenge for volunteer managers. A proportion of respondents had other core responsibilities alongside their volunteer management role, facing ​the reality of splitting time between competing ​workloads.  Do competing workloads compromise the ability of volunteer managers to be effective?  Is more investment needed?  

The answer may seem obvious but the question is not new.  In 2008 the Institute for Volunteering Research’s​  Management Matters survey found that:

Volunteers are often a vital resource for organisations, yet it would appear that many are not dedicating significant resources to their involvement….While human resources are more readily available for managing volunteers, they are often dispersed and may be hidden within people’s wider roles. (p.7-8, IVR, 2008)

A disappointing trend is the lack of budget assigned to volunteer management. For many of us necessity really is the mother of invention when it comes to managing volunteer programmes but this should be the exception, and not the norm.  An under-financed programme is unlikely to reach its true potential.  16% of the IVMD Survey recipients highlighted budget, resources and finance as an existing challenge they faced in their role, but 25% cited this as a challenge for the sector in the next few years.


Good budget management provides evidence for sustainability and growth, and all organisations promoting and relying on volunteers should properly fund this endeavour, and provide budget writing and management training for their volunteer managers.

The 2010 Valuing Volunteer Management Skills study acknowledges the difficulty in developing a relevant training programme for volunteer managers given that their role is rarely standalone.  It should be noted that the earlier survey recognises that barriers to training opportunities may deter those who are new to the role but are not hampering the development of models of good practice by longer standing practitioners.

Although there was a correlation to salary, there were still relatively high levels of satisfaction amongst volunteer managers, and this has been consistent in the time that the survey has been produced.  Role satisfaction is closely matched by the intention to continue working in this field.  It’s not only volunteers who find the environment rewarding but also volunteer managers!

Manchester, here we come!

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

15 March 2018 at The Whitworth  Click here to book

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day will include table discussions and networking opportunities.

Click here for full agenda or to book.


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


Diversity in Volunteering: Attracting different demographics

22 February 2018, The Crypt, Christ Church, Spitalfields, 10:30 – 4:15 pm

Click here to book.

Interested in attracting a more diverse volunteer base?

Interested in targeting volunteers from a particular demographic?  

Hear from our experienced speakers on different strategies for attracting a more diverse volunteer base, as well as presentations from organisations that have identified specific demographics they are keen to recruit.

You will hear about the process of identifying the need and assessing the benefits throughout an organisation, then various approaches to targeting and recruiting volunteers from different demographics.

We will hear the experiences of three organisations working with older, younger and LGBT volunteers. We will also hear from two umbrella organisations that are developing or have developed strategies for attracting diverse volunteers in general.

There will be table discussions, networking opportunities and ample space for delegates to share their own experiences, concerns and success stories.

A light lunch and refreshments are included in the price.

Click here for further details or to book.

images (1) Diversity in Volunteering: Attracting different demographics.

22 February 2018, London.

Click here for Eventbrite page.


AVM welcomes the arrival of Helpforce

The Association of Volunteer Managers welcomes the arrival of Helpforce into the sector. Volunteering is an important part of the fabric of health and social care with an estimated 3 million people volunteering regularly.

The health service is facing unprecedented demand. There is no doubt that volunteering in health will and must increase. A balanced and strategic approach is essential to future-proof our health service.

Volunteers don’t only play a greater role in supporting NHS staff, they also connect and empower communities.

To be sustainable, volunteers should be offered opportunities which are rewarding, flexible and suited to their skills. Volunteer managers must share their experience and learning; a cohesive approach is fundamental to success.

#iwillWeek -November 20th to 24th: save the date and get involved!

Following the seminar that Andy Chaggar and the team delivered at the AVM conference we wanted to remind you to save the date! #iwillWeek 2017 is November 20th – 24th. Building communities through youth social action. What will you be doing? Get inspired and get involved. Here is the #iwillWeek webpage for further information.

As part of our support for the campaign AVM will:

  • Harness our links with AVM members to promote support for the campaign
  • Address challenges faced by volunteer managers supporting young people in social action
  • Seek to encourage Government to support volunteer management as part of its commitment to volunteering and to the #iwill campaign

Our Pledge For International Volunteer Managers’ Day 2017

Today AVM is marking International Volunteer Managers’ Day with an organisational pledge dedicated to the community of UK leaders of volunteers.

Our pledge: We pledge to empower, enable and amplify the voice of all managers of volunteers across the UK.

Every year 5 November marks International Volunteer Managers’  Day, an opportunity to talk about and thank those who work to make volunteering happen across charities and communities, in ground-level sport, in the public sector, and in all other settings where volunteers contribute their time and talents.

The 2017 theme is Be The Voice, with a call to action to make a pledge, either individually or as an organisation.

AVM chair Ruth Leonard said: “We think it’s important to lead the pledges by affirming our commitment to volunteer managers on this very special day of the year.”

You can make a personal pledge by visiting the official website, or join us in central London on Tuesday for networking and to make your own pledge amongst VM colleagues.