by Ruth Leonard

We celebrated our 15th birthday on ‘Thank You Day’, 5th June 2022, and I’d like to thank all of those who have made this happen, and continue to be involved in AVM.

It has been a challenging couple of years for everyone. But one thing the pandemic has demonstrated is that volunteering is – and remains – universally strong. People, without being asked to step in, came forward to give their time and share their skills, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support; ultimately creating a sense of resilience and strength.

And as we come to the end of Volunteers’ Week in the UK, we want to thank everyone who has given their time to improve our world in this way. For AVM it is also timely to reflect on the importance of having the appropriate infrastructure to support volunteering – a key element of which is having well-trained and well-supported people to provide the volunteer management.

To enable volunteers to offer the greatest value and ensure that there is equity offered to everyone who wants to give time to us, we need to recognise that Volunteer Managers are essential.

As when we started all those years ago, we are run for members, by members, and it is an integral part of our philosophy that AVM will only work if it is member-driven. We are now supported by a staff team, and also have a corporate partner, but we remain committed to being your association.

We now hold regular events – include several specifically for our members – on a range of issues which affect volunteer managers. The next event is on 23rd June, and is about providing ongoing support for volunteers.

We have a resource library – including videos of past events – and offer a variety of peer support and network opportunities, such as hosting informal catch ups (our next is this Thursday, 9th June), holding randomised coffee trials through AVM Connect, and have a highly regarded mentoring offer. We also host a regular book club for members – the next one is on June 28th where we’ll be looking at ‘Four thousand weeks; time and how to use it’ by Oliver Burkeman, and share a weekly jobs board.

We have an annual conference each October, with exciting keynote speakers, workshops and panel conversations. Tickets for this year will be available in the summer, but please hold 19 & 20 October 2022

One of the things I’m really proud of is how AVM has engaged with the partners from across the volunteer-involving sectors, and also with the academic and research sector, enabling our members to shape some of the thinking as well as the practical outcomes from this.

I was really pleased to work with Anne-marie Greene and Jenna Ward, who were engaged with academic research exploring the everyday experiences of managing volunteers. One of the outcomes of this research has been the ‘Working with Emotions in Volunteering Toolkit’, and I know this is already being used by our member organisations.

AVM was one of the partners with NCVO, Volunteering Matters, NAVCA and Sports England which recently launched a Vision for Volunteering for England Vision for Volunteering

The Vision for Volunteering is, very consciously, not a finalised action plan suggesting how we achieve those things. Instead, this is the start of the next sentence in a conversation about what is needed to create that diverse, innovative, ambitious and person-centred future, by 2032 – when we shall celebrate our silver jubilee!

We’re asking for people and organisations to make pledges for how they will enable the achievement of this. AVM has made the following pledge:

“Association of Volunteer Managers knows that in order to offer and enable meaningful and effective volunteering interventions, organisations need to have well supported individuals who feel confident and comfortable at involving people who want to give their time

We will work with our members to better support the development of these skills of collaborating and working together with volunteers and communities wherever they are and however they want to be involved.

We will do this by ensuring that our members are genuinely included and leading the conversations about what they need in order to achieve the vision in their own practice.

We recognise that those who involve volunteers want the varied skills needed for this role to be understood and shared so we pledge to develop and implement an accreditation system to raise the profile of those who deliver volunteer management within their organisations

We have already started on the road of being less London-centric and are committed to seeing this grow as we develop regional led groups and opportunities across the UK. This will ensure greater flexibility, co-operation and encouragement to experiment and share learning.”

For me, volunteer management is the foundation that enables people giving their time to be engaged, supported and motivated. Ensuring that volunteer management is recognised as a skill and a valued profession is essential to the continued flourishing of volunteers and indeed volunteering.

The theme of this year’s International Volunteer Managers’ Day “Many Backgrounds – One Profession – Stronger Together” really resonates for me and this year, as we grow towards maturity, AVM feels a relevant place to reflect this.

About Ruth

Ruth Leonard is Chair of the UK’s Association of Volunteer Managers whose day job is Head of Volunteering Development at Macmillan Cancer Support.

For Ruth, volunteer management is about empowering and enabling people to bring creativity and ingenuity to a solution to make a difference in their community.

Her current role is to consider strategically where volunteering can add value to developing solutions and to ensure a supportive infrastructure so people who want give their time can have a quality experience.

Having been involved in volunteer management for nearly two decades she has significant experience at providing leadership on involving and engaging people and is committed to ensuring others are able to develop these skills.

Connect with Ruth on LinkedIn or Twitter.