AVM Welcomes Lords’ Recommendations On Charities

AVM has welcomed the key recommendation around supporting volunteer management in ‘Stronger charities for a stronger society’, the new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities.

The report contains the recommendation:

We propose that funders should provide more resources for volunteer managers so that charities can make the best possible use of the generous contribution of their volunteers and support their efforts.

The recommendation is based on a submission from the Association of Volunteer Managers responding to the Select Committee’s call for evidence last year. This was bolstered by the committee’s own evidence gathering when they visited local charities who talked about their needs when involving volunteers in their work.

Debbie Usiskin, Chair of AVM, said: “We are over the moon at this news. Communicating the value and need for volunteer management as a recognised discipline is at the core of what AVM was set up to achieve. Having such high-profile confirmation of this is very welcome.”

AVM member Sheila Norris echoed these words: “Working in a local volunteer centre, I see first hand the impact that investing in volunteer management can have. I’m pleased that this new report recognises the resources needed to make volunteering happen.”

The committee’s own comments on the recommendation were: “Funders need to be more receptive to requests for resources for volunteer managers and co-ordinators, especially where charities are able to demonstrate a strong potential volunteer base. We recommend that Government guidance on public sector grants and contracts is amended to reflect this and set a standard for other funders.”

Learning & Development for Organisations – New Additional Benefits

The Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) has been the foremost body for volunteer managers since we launched in 2007 and we are continuing to grow. One of the reasons for our success is our membership-driven outlook – we were set up and are still run by volunteer managers for volunteer managers and this gives us the opportunity to create a network of peers sharing ideas and experiences. Over the years our membership base has been steadily increasing and we want to develop this still further to ensure that as many people as possible can access our services and we can continue to be relevant to the sector.

At our Annual Conference in October 2016 we announced the launch of a Learning and Development Package for organisations, to run alongside our existing individual membership model. We believe this will give a choice to organisations about how to be involved with us and will extend our reach to a wider group of people to help meet the growing demand from the sector for professionalisation of volunteer management.

Today we’re excited to announce that we’ve secured special rates on one-day training from internationally renowned strategic volunteer engagement specialists Rob Jackson Consulting. This new addition is just one of a range of discounts and benefits available organisation-wide when you sign-up.

We run a range of services promoting great volunteer management and raising the profile of the work volunteering professionals do. Earlier in the year we employed our first member of staff, an Events Manager, which has helped us to grow our range of events, seminars and conferences.

We’re here to promote great volunteer management and raise the profile of the work of volunteering professionals, to inform best practice and inspiration from across the sector and beyond and we believe that our new Learning and Development package to organisations will help us to achieve this still further as well as ensure that your staff team receive the very best support, resources and development opportunities in volunteer management.

To find out more please see here.

“Joining us will place your organisation at the forefront of volunteering development, and ensure that your managers are inspired, engaged and supported by a large network of volunteer management professionals across the country.  If your organisation involves volunteers and manages volunteer programmes, directly or indirectly, then this is the association for you.”
Debbie Usiskin, Chair, Association of Volunteer Managers

AVM Learning & Development Day: Engaging Young People Through Social Action

Following on from out latest Learning and Development event; Ruth Leonard, Head of Volunteering Development at Macmillan Cancer Support and AVM Director reflects on the importance of involving young people in voluntary roles.

For me, as a Director of AVM the ability for organisations to offer activities which engage young people is a sensible way of future proofing the volunteering movement – and being able to creatively respond to their needs and ideas can help improve the volunteering experience for all and lead to exciting meaningful developments for people to shape their futures and communities.

It is clear from the data that young people between 16 and 25 years old still represent the highest overall rate of volunteers compared with all other age groups. With a 4% increase on last year, rates of young people involved in formal volunteering are at their highest for over a decade[1]. 42% of young people are regularly participating in social action[2] and most of those who do feel that it is important to them; is part of their routine and is something they would always do – which is really positive.

However whilst appetite is high, awareness about volunteering and other social action opportunities does seem low. 41% who didn’t participate said they wouldn’t know where to begin or that it had just never occurred to them so it looks as though promoting just what is available and in places and ways that are identifiable to this age group is essential.

One of the biggest issues facing volunteer involving organisations is that young people just don’t identify with the term ‘volunteer’ nor ‘social action’[3]. As one participant put it “the first rule of volunteering: don’t mention volunteering”.

But once we get the messaging right young people fully understand the benefits of giving their time and energy – giving them the chance to develop life skills and valuable experience. Not that this is the only reason young people want to get involved, in fact the main reason given by 16-24 year olds who volunteer is that “they wanted to improve things, help people” with 56% of them identifying this – higher than across all other age groups[4]. Learning more skills was identified as the 2nd reason – again the highest of all age groups, but this was clearly to be alongside with enjoying themselves and socialising

All of which is a challenge – and opportunity – to think about the kind of roles we as volunteer managers’ offer; and how we offer them. Young people are looking to be challenged and to help to shape the activities they are involved with so we should be looking at our volunteer roles and tasks differently and ensure young people can contribute.  We also need to challenge our perceptions about what young people can – and want – to do. An example of this is from my professional role at Macmillan:

Abby Lennox is a remarkable 22 year old who is one of Macmillan’s Lead Volunteers for a service which provides practical and emotional support to people affected by cancer in Belfast. Abby effectively manages the service and provides support to other volunteers, something which traditionally we may have felt was not attractive to a young person. When asked what she’d say to others who were thinking about volunteering in the community she said “I’d say do it! You’ll not regret it and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner” Unsurprisingly Abby was a winner of the Young Macmillan Champion Awards for inspiring and exceptional young volunteers in 2015.

It is important to build recognition and reward into a volunteer programme and Macmillan is proud to be able to say a specific thank you to our young volunteers. One of this year’s winners is Zara Salim – a volunteer inspiring a generation. When the 13 year old’s granddad was diagnosed with cancer last year she was motivated to raise money for Macmillan by selling her own toys. She quickly reached her target but then went on to step-up her fundraising from organising a coffee morning to arranging an auction, contacting local businesses and being overwhelmed by generous donations. Zara’s passion and enthusiasm for volunteering seems boundless and she inspires others through sharing her story in the community and at school

Encouraging young volunteers to recognise their specific skills and reflect on what they’ve learnt through volunteering is also valuable – both to develop their own confidence and self-esteem but also to be able to demonstrate externally to future employers for example, and Macmillan has created a Development Journal in which volunteers can write down all the things they experience and learn while volunteering with the hope that it will be a useful tool to help set their goals, reflect on what they’ve learned and review their achievements.

The Association of Volunteer Managers is a great place to network with other volunteer managers – to hear about and share ideas from others at a range of different organisations and to be a central place to discuss issues such as ‘so how do we talk about volunteering if the word itself is a barrier?’! Our next networking day will be addressing this fascinating subject of recruiting and engaging young volunteers and will be a great opportunity to meet others and keep the debate going.

I have shared examples from my organisation because clearly it is the one I know best, but it would be great to hear from others – what kind of powerful tools do you use to engage young people and please do tell us your stories of inspirational young people who give time?

[1] NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac 2016
[2] #iwill youth social action survey 2015
[3] Livity research on Young People Volunteering in Health and Social Care
[4] Helping Out survey 2007

AVM’s Problem Solving Forum

Book HERE.

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

Date: Friday 3rd February 2017 (rescheduled from Thursday 1st December 2016)

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

Agenda:

Being Volunteer Managers we have the privilege of working with truly inspiring and dedicated people on a daily basis. The sheer variety of people we come in to contact with via volunteering is what makes our work so enjoyable. But as with everything, difficult situations may occasionally arise.

Perhaps a volunteer wishes to make a complaint against another volunteer, a member of staff or the organisation. Alternatively, someone may wish to complain about a volunteer’s behaviour or contribution. Whatever the challenge it’s part of the Volunteer Manager’s role to ensure robust procedures are in place to deal with these situations clearly and fairly.

This 3 hour workshop will give an overview of current best practice and the kind of structure you should have in place as well as expert tips for solving challenging circumstances. We’ll also discuss common scenarios and how best to deal with them, wrapping up the day with a Q&A session.

This workshop is facilitated and delivered by Anne Marie Zaritsky, Head of Volunteering at the Royal Mencap Society and Lead Assessor for Investing in Volunteers.

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

Book your space HERE NOW

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

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

AVM Learning & Development Day: Engaging young people through social action

Book your space HERE.

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

Date: Monday 21st November 2016

Timings: Registration will open at 10:00 with presentations beginning at 10:30. The day will close at 16:30.

Agenda:

Working with #iwill campaign this learning and development day aims to showcase the role that young people can play in your organisation hearing from those who are already leading the way in involving young people from across the voluntary sector.

Presentations will include:

What the Research Tells Us
Adam Wilson – Trusts & Statutory Fundraising Executive – Vinspired

Using input from their research with young people and insights from the Youth Social Action Survey you’ll hear about what young people want to do and how to get them involved.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s AAP Scheme
Lizzie Usher – Programme & Quality Manager – The Duke of Edinburgh Award

Understanding the DofE  AAP licence, how to get involved and working with DofE volunteers

Developing Girlguiding and its young members through social action
Tamsin Fudge – Membership Recruitment Manager – Girlguiding

Over the last two years Girlguiding has delivered two pilot projects that sought to bring more young people into the organisation through delivering social action. One project focused on working with the National Citizenship Service (NCS) giving their graduates opportunities within Girlguiding.

The other gave increased access to social action in local communities through the Uniformed Youth Social Action Fund project (UYSAF). The presentation will discuss the two different approaches and the outcomes and learning from both that have enhanced the experience of the young people and the development of growth work nationally.

Putting Ideas into Action
Sue Torrison – Assistant Head of Social Action and Volunteering

We’ll hear from The Medway Youth Trust on their inspiring ways to engage vulnerable young people from the East in social action opportunities to improve the local community and develop employability skills.

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

To See a full agenda and to book your space Here

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

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

AVM Conference 2016 – It’s a 220 attendees sell out!

Well thanks to all 220 of you who have booked on our 2016 Conference – it’s going to be a great day. This will be our biggest conference ever and the Events Team and AVM Board look forward to meeting you all on the day.

If you’ve missed out on booking we are running a waiting list should any tickets become available. So if you did want to attend it is worth adding your name to the list – you never know!

For those of you who have booked were see you on the day.

AVM Events Team

AVM Learning & Development Day: Volunteer reward and recognition

Book your space Here.

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

Date: Friday 30th September 2016

Timings: Registration will open at 10:00 with presentations beginning at 10:30. The day will close at 16:30.

Agenda:

For many volunteering is its own reward but as Volunteer Managers we all know the importance of rewarding and recognising volunteers for giving their time, energy and creativity to our organisations. This can be deceptively difficult to do effectively, from limited resources to legal pitfalls there are many obvious and not so obvious challenges to overcome when considering your own reward and recognition programme.

Join us for our latest learning & development day where we explore reward and recognition good practice, challenges and triumphs with talks including:

Macmillan’s Journey of rewarding and recognising volunteers
Johnny Keating – Volunteering Journey Programme Manager – Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan have reviewed and repurposed a lot of their reward and recognition mechanisms, and have introduced some new initiatives to ensure volunteers feel valued. As we all know, every person is different, and would like to feel valued in different ways, therefore offering a suite of reward and recognition tools has ensured every volunteer has a great experience with Macmillan.

Maintaining Engagement Beyond Event Day
Jennifer Fash – Volunteer Manager – London Marathon Events

Drawing on her previous experience and work at other organisations Jennifer Fash will be sharing her plans for creating a comprehensive reward and recognition programme at London Marathon Events, where their most well-known event the London Marathon attracts in the region of 6000 volunteers the biggest challenge is maintaining engagement beyond event day. Jennifer will share with us how she hopes her model will help change this.

We will also hear from Geraldine McCarthy at Age UK Camden and her experience of making volunteers feel valued by creating meaningful rewards within a smaller organisation.

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

Book your space Here

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

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

2016 AVM Conference – Only 10 places left!

The 2016 AVM Conference is almost fully booked and we don’t want you to miss out on this great learning and networking opportunity with over 200 of your peers.

If you’ve not already booked your place now’s the time to do so as we only have 10 places left.  You can book your place here.

If you are still not sure if this is the event for you then below are just a few of the comments we received from delegates at last years conference.

‘AVM Conference is by far the highlight of my year, in terms of conferences/training/network events. It’s a refreshing change to go to something where everything feels 100% relevant and speaking to people in the same profession.

It’s so well organised and by far the best conference I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot!). I’ve been to the past 3 conferences and it’s great to see it getting bigger and better than ever!’

‘It has something for all the different levels of volunteer managers, for those starting out to those who are strategic leads, or aspiring to be.’

‘First AVM Conference as a new member! It was an extremely useful and, most importantly, relevant meeting. There is only one of me in my organisation and getting the chance to hear sector updates plus all the opportunities to network were really valuable. It’s great to see our profession championed in this way.’

‘There is no other conference that concentrates fully on volunteer management and the issues that relate to my work.’

Surely now you can’t afford to miss this event?  200 of your peers are already going!  See you there.

AVM Conference Team  – Abi, Anne-Marie, Wendy, Alex, Karen and Alan

AVM Network Day – how to engage young people through social action – 12th Sept

Important update: Unfortunately we have had to postpone this event until later in the year. We will circulate details when we have a new date available. Many apologies to those who expressed an interest, and we hope to welcome you to this learning opportunity soon.

For our latest networking day we have teamed up with the #iwill campaign to take a closer look at what makes younger volunteers tick and how we can better engage, retain and manage them.

Drawing on industry research we’ll explore what motivates young people to volunteer and hear first hand from current #will ambassadors how they want to spend their time doing so.

We’ll also hear from fellow Volunteer Managers at organisations at the forefront of engaging young volunteers and the practical steps they have taken not only to target their approach towards younger people but to identify and remove barriers for youth involvement.

Please Note: Lunch will not be provided on the day. Delegates are encouraged to bring their own or purchase lunch from the onsite cafe or from local food vendors. Please be aware however that this is a Buddhist Temple so meat, fish and alcohol are not permitted.

Why the need for a “volunteering framework”?

After attending AVM’s Networking Event: Embedding a Volunteer Culture within an Organisation Sabine Pitcher reflects on her own personal experience of doing just that at City Lit. Where a volunteer framework will support the strategic direction of the college by directly linking in with some of its key objectives, including bringing people together, enriching lives, and increasing community impact.

A volunteer culture and a volunteer framework go hand in hand.

A volunteer framework puts in writing the mutual commitment, so volunteers know what is expected of them and how they will find the appropriate support, ensuring that the volunteering experience adds value both to the volunteers and the organisation.

I have been working at City Lit since 2008, where nearly 30,000 adults study with us each year, most on very short courses. We offer more than 5,000 courses in total and pride ourselves on being able to cater for a whole range of sometimes quite complex access needs. Formerly Head of Student Services, I have been looking into how we can set up a volunteering framework across the college.

We have a long tradition of involving volunteers in a handful of small areas – e.g. giving ESOL students extra support with their reading or helping out at community events. Across the college, these initiatives are often not well-known and there is little imagination for what else volunteers could be involved with. I’ve always thought that’s a shame – and a missed opportunity.

City Lit is so varied and diverse that there is a lot we can offer potential volunteers. And they could help us broaden the scope of services and initiatives we provide to our students. So I have started to talk to colleagues across the organisation about their ideas and needs, and what we would need to have in place in terms of a support structure.

It turned out to be a bit of an uphill struggle.

While the initial conversations were positive – it helped that I knew colleagues from my previous role – as usual, the devil proved to be in the detail. In an organisation like ours volunteering isn’t top of anybody’s agenda and just getting everybody I’d spoken to individually to a joint meeting was a hurdle. With no immediate need, the success of the project will depend on persistence and perseverance and finding ways to illustrate to colleagues that, yes, initially they will have to put in a bit of work, but they will get something in return. This approach works if this “something” is important enough to them and isn’t overtaken by other priorities or changes.

On the plus side, I have now done nearly all the leg work. I have done my research and spoken to people in other organisations about their volunteering experiences and structures. I have drafted a framework, discussed it with colleagues, produced templates for role descriptions and done all the other “back-office” preparation. Some colleagues might have experienced this as an impingement on the way they have handled volunteering in the past – they feel that it takes their autonomy away and doesn’t do justice to their volunteers. Others, however, saw the benefits in integrating and sharing experience and expertise. In an ideal world, they would all have been involved in all the different stages, but time is usually precious. Getting them all into a room just once was a major achievement.

A framework will eventually add transparency and also ensures that knowledge and information is shared and not held by just one person with whom it could get lost. A framework doesn’t have to be a “one size fits all” – it can still allow for flexibility. This is something which we’ve explicitly agreed, for example with regards to the extent of detail in role descriptions.

My advice? Persist and persevere…

What is a volunteering framework?

It takes time to develop a framework and gain consent from all the various stakeholders in your organisation. But once it is in place, it will make your life a lot easier, and will provide a point of reference for your volunteers as well as for everybody in your organisation. Such a framework will clarify roles and responsibilities and set expectations by addressing the following elements:

  • Rationale – what does the organisation gain? What is the value volunteers contribute?
  • Benefits of volunteering – what experience will volunteers gain? How does it benefit their development?
  • Relationships – how do volunteering roles sit within or alongside paid roles? Is there transparency and appreciation?
  • Volunteering roles – what is expected of them? What is the scope of their contribution? And how are they being recruited?
  • Training and support – who provides the induction? Who can volunteers turn to if there are any problems? What training do they have access to?
  • Reward structure – how are you celebrating volunteers? Are you taking them out / can they benefit from free courses / are their achievements being made public internally?
  • Expenses – can you ensure that reasonable expenses are being paid in a timely manner? And what would those be in your specific context?
  • Management and coordination – who is in charge of the volunteering schemes? Who coordinates the volunteers and who makes decisions?
  • Communication – volunteers might not be “active” all the time; how are they being kept informed? Are they included in staff communication?
  • Volunteer involvement – do volunteers have an opportunity to contribute to the further development of the volunteering scheme?
  • Conflicts –is there a process to deal with conflict, e.g. volunteers not adhering to boundaries, or complaining about not having been accepted for a particular role? What is the protocol for volunteers to report about bullying or mistreatment (by colleagues or by your clients)?
  • Reporting – there should be a way to regularly update others in your organisation on the work of volunteers and gather feedback. (Don’t wait until you’re asked for this information.)

I would also strongly recommend that you include your unions in the debate – they can support the integration of volunteers into your staff team, and they will appreciate reassurance that no paid work is being replaced. They can also help to ensure that you have appropriately identified the benefits to the volunteers.

Don’t feel afraid to seek legal advice if ever you are in any doubt – your organisation will have a contact.

Last but not least… your volunteering framework needs a budget.

How to you get all that established?

This assumes that either you don’t yet have a volunteering scheme or there’s a need to make changes.

In many instances, the contributions volunteers make are vital for the organisation to deliver its services. There is no benefit in downplaying the gain to the organisation. On the contrary, you need to be able to prove what this gain is – your senior team might appreciate if you can express this in monetary terms. This can include funding you wouldn’t otherwise be able to attract; elements of your service for which there is no other funding available; service users you would potentially lose as a consequence; outcomes for your service users that would either improve through volunteers or deteriorate without them. And don’t forget to highlight how the work of your volunteers sits within your organisation’s strategy and goals. (If it doesn’t, this might be a debate worth initiating.)

In order to ensure that processes and procedures are adhered to, my recommendation will be to involve HR – e.g. in the initial stages of recruitment and delivering a central induction. As an organisation, we would want all our volunteers to be ambassadors of City Lit and to understand our culture and values. A dedicated volunteer manager would then work across the different departments. Depending on the scope, there might be several (part-time) volunteer managers, and different approaches might be pursued for different areas of volunteer engagement. However, I will suggest a central point of contact who stays in touch with volunteering organisations (networking is vital), disseminates information, updates documents, ensures that volunteers feel engaged etc. There’s only one thing worse than having no framework/documentation – and that’s to have outdated ones.

We are in the lucky situation to have a student counselling service. The lead counsellor will provide an additional point of call for volunteers, in addition to colleagues and managers in the various departments. This could take the form of moderated peer-support or individual mentoring where this is suitable and appropriate.

Our strategy and processes are still only in draft form, but feedback from colleagues has, so far, been positive. The challenge is to get colleagues to commit to the next steps. These include drafting role descriptions, agreeing on responsibilities and suggesting recruitment periods and are all things that can’t be decided centrally. Once the framework is completed, I foresee a section on our website “Volunteering at City Lit”. (At present, there are three separate sections and they aren’t easy to find.)

I would like to thank the AVM and the wider network for their support and inspiration. I will take my personal experience into my new job and will certainly continue to promote their work

Sabine will now be leaving City Lit and will hand over her responsibilities to the student experience team. But for anybody who has questions or would just like to stay in touch, they have a dedicated email address – volunteering@citylit.ac.uk – which everybody in the team can access. Sabine can also be found on LinkedIn.