In recent years, we’ve seen more and more evidence that emotion plays a large role in how we support and manage volunteers. This might be something we already suspected, but it is useful to look at the support available to volunteer managers with this in mind.
Many modern volunteer management techniques have arisen from practices in managing paid staff. However, while we can share some useful practices with our HR colleagues, volunteer management has some unique features. Volunteering is arguably more likely to be based on ideology. Volunteer motivation may also be quite different too, with volunteering driven by values and wanting to make a difference. This naturally has a strong emotional element to it – an element that can be positive as well as sometimes damaging.
A piece of research looking at the management of volunteers in the National Trust brought these issues into sharp focus. They found that volunteers, and the paid staff who manage them, may operate under a different set of ‘rules’ when it comes to emotional expression. In short, volunteer managers face a specific set of challenges around ‘emotional labour’ – challenges that may benefit from specific approaches and techniques. If you want to know more, you can also check out the Working with Emotions in Volunteering Toolkit produced by the University of Leicester, along with AVM.
The impact on volunteer managers
With this in mind, I’m currently researching what approaches work best when managing volunteers, and what approaches do not. I’m particularly interested in whether certain approaches might help or hinder a manager’s wellbeing.
Through the month of August, I’m carrying out a study on how volunteer managers handle emotions and lead authentically – and how this impacts them personally. I’d like to invite volunteer managers to take part by completing a short survey that should take no more than eight minutes to complete. All responses are anonymised and confidential, and I’d be happy to share the results with participants in the autumn