Being More Pirate: reflections on AVM’s 2019 conference

I have now finished my second month as an Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London). However, I have been working with volunteers for the best part of 4 years in different shapes and forms. Most of my experience has been stewarding groups of volunteers, and in the last year it has taken a more strategic turn.  The most exciting thing about starting at UCL is joining their campaign ‘It’s All Academic’, and being able to contribute to achieving 250,000 alumni volunteer hours. No small feat; so when I was asked if I would like to go to the AVM conference I jumped at the opportunity! The morning of the conference was a busy one. Having not attended an AVM conference I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite knowing a few friendly faces from the volunteering world. While stuck in tube delays Twitter soon diminished any doubts I had, I saw lots of tweets from other volunteer managers who were sharing gifs about their journeys and needing coffee. On arrival I enjoyed maybe a few too many pastries, and had a look around the various stalls. One of my first observations was just how many people from different organisations who were all here for volunteers! All the main stage presentations and panel talks where excellent; however my particular favourite was ‘Be More Pirate’. Alex Barker told us about the golden age of pirates, which was absolutely fascinating, and not just because I am a history nerd! Alex discussed how volunteers can play a pivotal role in challenging and reshaping systems. She drew comparisons between people who are considered do-it-yourselfers, side hustlers, and the Golden Age Pirates. As a new starter in a brand new role this was certainly food for thought! I also thoroughly enjoyed Amira Tharani’s impact and evaluation workshop. Amira’s workshop gave me great insight on where to start when evaluating a project area or programme in such an interactive way. I came out of the workshop armed with new ideas and resources to make those ideas a reality.  Going forward, I am excited to get further involved in AVM and learn everything I can from the fantastic network!

Hannah Kinghorn is Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London)

Collaborating to improve volunteering

Guest blog by Carly Benton, Volunteering Development Manager at Lymphoma Action.

Lymphoma Action’s Volunteering Development Manager, Carly, shares why she is part of a team who organise an annual volunteer managers conference.

AVM’s conference planning team at the 2019 conference

This October saw another successful Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) annual conference in London. AVM is a membership organisation that aims to support, represent and champion leaders of volunteering across the UK. Carly, our Volunteering Development Manager, has been part of the conference planning team since 2016, helping to identify a programme of speakers, promoting the conference and coordinating the event on the day.

This year’s conference welcomed over 250 leaders of volunteering, with a jam-packed agenda where attendees explored the future of volunteering, alongside practical tips for recruiting, managing, supporting and empowering volunteers.

By being involved, Carly is able to stay up-to-date and connected with sector news and ideas that will support the development of volunteering at Lymphoma Action, as well as representing the charity and contributing to the learning and development of volunteer managers across the UK.

Following the the launch our new Volunteering Strategy, Carly is reviewing key take aways from the conference to grow our volunteering programme and support our volunteers to make the greatest positive impact for people affected by lymphoma.

“It’s fantastic to collaborate with other volunteer managers to plan the conference and to experience the event as a volunteer manager too. It’s inspiring to hear about the collective impact the voluntary sector is making and to be part of the engaging conversations for developing volunteering in our own organisations.”

Carly, Lymphoma Action

The post originally appeared on Lymphoma Action’s website. Read the original post.

AVM Conference 2019 — October 17

Your voice, together with AVM, advancing volunteer management

Bookings are now closed and conference is full!

Watch this space for details about next year’s conference.

Royal National Hotel (North Reception)
Bedford Way

The Royal National Hotel offers excellent bedroom rates through their website, but if you would prefer to stay elsewhere check out our Hotelmap to see the best rates at other local hotels.
Conference chair - Rachael Bayley, Ramblers and AVM Director

Please note, there is no entry to the event before 9.15am with the conference agenda beginning at 10am.
9.15am Conference registration opens
Refreshments available – tea, coffee, breakfast yoghurts and Danish pastries.

Chance to make new contacts, meet old friends and check out our exhibition stands
10am Welcome address
Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair
10.10am Keynote
Alex Barker, Right Hand Pirate - Be More Pirate
10.55am Morning workshops – Please choose one when you book
  • A: From mass-participation mega-event to people-powered movement - Shaun Crummey - Head of Volunteering, Absolutely Cultured (formerly Hull UK City of Culture) (click to learn more)

    Diversity and inclusion in the story of Hull’s ground-breaking UK City of Culture volunteer initiative.

    In this workshop Shaun will share experience and thinking on:

    • Access: Ensuring inclusive recruitment, empowerment and retention.
    • Diversity: Tips for ensuring diversity across multiple-events volunteering.
    • People-Power: Maintaining momentum and diversity from mega-event to people-powered movement.
    Attendees at this workshop will take away proven and practical examples of working practice. Transferable ideas – shaped across a range of sectors (e.g. sports, community, arts & culture volunteering etc.).
  • NOW FULLY BOOKED B: Volunteers and the Law: Key Topics – Mark Restall - Freelance trainer, consultant and writer, specialising in volunteer management issues (click to learn more)

    The law is an off-putting topic. It seems to be on the one hand difficult to understand and full of jargon, and on the other fraught with danger if you get things wrong. Volunteer managers naturally worry about the legal position of their volunteers, and their own responsibilities.

    This session will attempt to allay some fears. It will give an overview of the legal status of volunteers, and cover some of the core areas where things could go wrong, always from a practical point of view and in plain English.

    It will cover:

    • How to avoid creating an employment contract
    • Data protection after the GDPR
    • Health and Safety and your responsibilities
  • C: Attracting and recruiting younger people into volunteering from disadvantaged backgrounds - Sue Heritage - Head of Operations, StreetGames
  • D: Managing remote volunteers – building relationships and engagement with remote volunteers – Alan Bennett - Programme Delivery Executive (Early Years), The Scouts (click to learn more)

    This session will encourage you to think differently about your role as a supporter and motivator of volunteers. How do we engage and empower volunteers who we may never meet face to face? Alan will share his experiences and, in addition to your own contributions, give you the confidence to try something different in building relationships with remote volunteers.

    Please come with your questions and curiosity as together we will explore this topic further.

12.15pm AVM AGM or networking time for non-members
12.35pm Lunch and chance to network
A sit-down meal is provided with a range of dietary options. Please let us know of any special dietary requirements when you book
1.45pm In conversation with...Karl Wilding, Chief Executive, NCVO
Come and hear AVM Chair, Ruth Leonard ask the new Chief Executive of NCVO his thoughts on volunteering, volunteer management and the place of civil society within the changing world.

Help inform the debate by joining the conversation
2.30pm Afternoon workshops – Please choose one when you book
  • E: Be More parkrun – Helen Timbrell – People and Organisational Development Consultant (click to learn more)

    We all know parkrun is one of the most successful volunteering programmes to emerge in recent years: over 25,000 people volunteer with parkrun every weekend. The scale, speed of growth and levels of commitment parkrun volunteers show are enviable. So, how have they made that happen? As an experienced leader and manager of volunteering my experience as a founding Event Director (setting up a new parkrun event in 2018) and subsequently as a parkrun Volunteer Coordinator has been illuminating. There is much we can learn from parkrun with regard to how to engage and support volunteers.

    This session offers a personal perspective drawn from my combined experience as a strategic leader of volunteering and as an on the ground parkrun volunteer. It aims to offer practical insights, ideas to steal, challenges to consider and a sneaky peak behind the scenes. I believe volunteering in the UK needs to Be More parkrun. Come and find out why.
  • F: What leaders of volunteer engagement can learn from Pete Tong? – Rob Jackson – Consultant, Rob Jackson Consulting Limited (click to learn more)

    Despite our best efforts, sometimes volunteer engagement doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes things go a bit Pete Tong (wrong!).

    In this session you’ll hear from a panel who have dealt with problem situations in three different kinds of organisations. You’ll get a chance to ask the panel questions and then reflect on and discuss with peers the lessons for your own practice.
  • NOW FULLY BOOKED G: Wisdom for the Wise Volunteer Manager – Sally Seddon – Volunteer Engagement Manager, Shared Interest & Jen Stoneman – Volunteer Services Co-ordinator, Mencap (click to learn more)

    Come and share your great ideas, lightbulb moments, your challenges and questions for great volunteer management. This workshop will give you the opportunity to share your successes and ask for help with challenges to develop your volunteer management skills and resources. This workshop will bring you together with your peers in a safe environment to discuss and learn new ideas, techniques and skills you can take away with you.

    This session is particularly suited to those new to volunteer management or those working alone on volunteer management within their organisations but is open to everyone.
  • H: Inspiring Impact - NCVO Charities Evaluation Services - The importance of measuring your impact: a practical guide - Amira Tharani – Senior Consultant, NCVO Charities Evaluation Services (click to learn more)

    This session will discuss practical approaches for voluntary organisations to demonstrate the impact of their work, including resources, tools, and opportunities for learning. We will explore in an interactive setting not only how you can bring this vital information to life, but also how it can be helpful for your organisations, beneficiaries, and your volunteers. Topics discussed include:

    • Why do we measure?
    • How to know what to measure?
    • Practical resources and tools to help build a foundation for impact measurement
3.45pm Tea, coffee & networking opportunity
4.10pm Volunteer Managers Advice Surgery
A Q&A session on whatever you want. Hosted by Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair; including Rob Jackson
4.50pm Closing Address
Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair
5pm Conference closes
5.15pm Informal post-conference drinks – please join us to network and relax
The AVM conference is always a highlight in our year. Our members tell us that it is the premier event for volunteer managers, leaders and heads of volunteering. Regularly attracting nearly 250 delegates, this event brings together those passionate and proactive about volunteer management.

We bring together the best speakers from our Learning and Development events as well as those people who are at the forefront of volunteer management and thought leadership.

The event takes the form of a mix of inspiring keynote speakers, eight workshops to choose from on a variety of themes and the Volunteer Managers’ Advice Surgery. Not to mention lots of opportunities to network and chat to other leaders of volunteering from across a variety of sectors and organisations.

We know that every year people leave the event buzzing with possibilities – and even more importantly the connections to help those possibilities become a reality. Don’t just take our word for it here are some of the things last year’s delegates had to say:
"Great keynote speeches. Nice supportive atmosphere. Practical workshops."

"Particularly enjoyed the workshops - difficult conversations was especially relevant and helpful and will inform the Volunteer Managers training I deliver."

"The opportunity to network with others and to hear from the keynote speakers. I liked the idea of the 'Advice Surgery'."

"Really inspirational content."

"Standard of speakers was excellent, thought provoking and interesting ideas." 

"Great central location easy to get to by train, friendly and relaxed event with people being very open to talk to new people and willing to share."

My experience of the AVM Conference
Carly Benton, Volunteer Development Manager, Lymphoma Action

In 2016 I joined the Volunteering Team at a previous organisation where I came across AVM through a colleague. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to be part of a supportive network of volunteer managers so I joined as a member. I attended my first annual conference in October 2016 with the hope of connecting with other volunteer managers, and the idea of keeping up to date with sector news, trends and new ideas was very appealing. I was eager to find out what AVM and the conference was about.

I attended the conference on my own, slightly unsure of what to expect. There was definitely a buzz walking into the main room, filled with conversations and welcoming faces! It was inspiring to see a large audience of people united with a shared passion and from across a variety of organisations and differing roles. I have attended many conferences and training days over the years, but how often are you in a room with over 200 volunteer managers?!

I enjoyed my first AVM conference so much so that I stepped up to join the AVM Conference Planning Group, where I’m now in my third year of helping to organise the annual conference. It’s been fantastic to experience the conference as an attendee, and to collaborate with other volunteer managers to plan it. I get a lot out of seeing the impact the voluntary sector has and what we can achieve as volunteer managers together.

The agenda is always jam-packed with a diverse range seminars and keynote speakers. There are thought-provoking sessions with ideas for volunteer managers from the corporate world and future trends and issues in volunteer management, to more practical based seminars for managing and supporting volunteers such as measuring impact. The mix is a brilliant way to explore current trends and a ‘bigger picture’ approach, alongside practical tips I could take away and implement in the short term.

For me there is nothing more valuable than meeting like-minded peers to challenge my thinking. There will always be areas for improvement and barriers to overcome in the world of volunteering. This is why the AVM Conference is the perfect place for volunteer managers to come together with a shared understanding, to not only develop your skillset and keep up to date with current trends, but also to reassure you you’re not in it alone!

Networking Tips

  • Take business cards – a quick and easy way of exchanging information
  • Use social media – I check the hashtag throughout the day to see what people are tweeting which gives me the opportunity to connect with people I wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to meet during the day. I also follow some of the keynote and seminar speakers on Twitter who share some interesting topics that I keep up to date.
  • Come along with some ideas on what you would like to get out of the day and any areas for development you are working on in your organisation. These may come up in conversation with others and provide the opportunity for shared learning. For example in my organisation we were changing the structure of our volunteering programme so when speaking with others, I’d ask if anyone had any experience of this.
  • Take a look at the delegates list in the conference guide as its great way to see who is at the event – you may recognise a name or an organisation you’d like to connect with.
  • If you’ve made new connections previous to the conference, get in contact to see if they are attending and arrange to catch up on the day – a great way to put a face to a name if you haven’t met in person!


Please use the hashtag #AVM2019 to join the conversation and involve others in this event.