House of Lords Seeks Views on Active Citizenship

Volunteer managers are encouraged to take a look at the House of Lords’ latest call for evidence on Citizenship and Civic Engagement.

The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement has published the call hoping that a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations will submit evidence that helps them understand the nature of the citizenship challenge for different parts of society.

The part that will be of particular interest to the volunteer management community is section six, which asks:

Do voluntary citizenship programmes such as the National Citizen Service do a good job of creating active citizens? Are they the right length? Should they be compulsory, and if so, when? Should they include a greater political element? Should they lead to a more public citizenship ceremony? Are they good value for money? What other routes exist for creating active citizens?

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Chairman of the Committee said: “This Committee has been established to investigate citizenship in the UK, what it means and whether it should change. We also want to find out if there are barriers preventing people from being more involved, both locally and nationally. We hope to hear from people all over the country who have an interest in this topic, who work with communities who are disengaged as well as from people who are disengaged themselves.”

Interested parties have until 8 September 2017 to respond, and can find full details on the House of Lords website.

Trustees Week

Celebrate Trustee week with The Jewish Volunteering Network, LEAD and Bircham Dyson BellWe are delighted to invite you to a central London Forum for Trustees of small to medium sized charities with guest speaker John O’Brien on November 5th 2012.Guest Speaker John O’Brien founder of Jubilee Hour in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee, the largest collective volunteering initiative in the U.K since World War Two.

Seminar begins with drinks at 17.00 and finishes at 19.30.

Places are free but limited to 40, so book early.

To book a place please contact Hilary by email

Further details available at time of booking

*John has spent twenty years creating significant projects with high net worth individuals, public figures, businesses and government agencies.

He has worked with organisations including 15 current FTSE 100 companies, the U.K Cabinet Office, Channel 4, the U.K Foreign & Commonwealth Office; The U.S Department of State; The Royal Society of Arts and numerous others worldwide.

John has represented the projects for The Duke of Edinburgh and has spent twelve years representing interests of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Is the merger the answer to all our volunteer management ills?

Having read Rob Jackson’s analysis of the potential merger between VE and NCVO, I wanted to look a little deeper what it could mean for volunteer management.

Looking back over the last few years we have seen some strides in how VM has developed: the revised NOS for VMs, the development of the apprenticeships, the Volunteer Management funding, the work done by Voluntary Action Warrington, the AVM conferences, the increased number of blogs and channels for debates (ivo being one of them) etc.

BUT volunteer management is still in an extremely fragile state. Only this morning I was talking to a colleague about a network meeting we attended yesterday. Just a few years ago the room would have been packed out with over 20 VMs. Yesterday there was just eight with another about to leave. Whilst the funding cuts are hitting everybody it does feel that volunteer management is being hit more then most, perversely at a time when volunteering is being looked to as one of the solutions.

For me the key issue, the one we have still yet to crack, is what we all know: key decision-makers do no ‘get’ volunteer management. And when I say key decision-makers I mean the chairs, the trustees, and the chief executives. Whilst it might be nice to have government say the right thing, frankly volunteer management is nothing to do with them (and Nick Hurd has said as much). It’s for organisations to respect and support their volunteers by properly investing in their management.

So how can they be influenced?

Firstly, by influencing upwards, by demonstrating how volunteer management is improving the organisation’s work. And VE produced their Influencing Up – A Guide to Gaining Executive Support for Volunteering and Volunteer Management to help with that. But of course, in reality, unless senior management is receptive at the outset then this is incredibly difficult and frustrating.

Secondly, by influencing funders and commissioners to recognise that any grant or contract that involves volunteering must be properly budgeted to include effective volunteer management.

And thirdly, by influencing downwards, by having sector bodies speaking directly to their members, to their chairs, the trustees, and the chief executives, to show that volunteer management should be an integral part of any organisation that involves volunteers.

And this is where the potential merger holds the key. Rob rightly pointed out that volunteer management has been one of the less developed areas of VE’s work. But even it was, in all honesty, they do not have the clout that NCVO has. There is real potential here that the new NCVO can influence funders and commissioners, trustee networks and ACEVO to get them to buy into volunteer management.

But that means the new NCVO themselves need to buy into volunteer management, to put volunteer management at the centre of the debate. Whilst it’s a bit melodramatic to say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, if the merger does go through then now is the time to start planning, to start influencing the development of volunteer management within the new organisation. There is a real opportunity here to create that step-change that volunteer management desperately needs.

There are many players out there who have a role to play in this – AVM, NAVSM, the fledgling VM Movement, VA Warrington, to name but a few. But also each of us whose organisations are members of VE and/or NCVO need to play our part as vocal members.

The question is do we have the will to do it?


Post by John Ramsey

The difference between a contract and a grant (employee and a volunteer)

The following comparisons appear to provide some interesting reflections of how volunteer management may be (or need to be) evolving…

The difference between a contract and a grant as cited in Caritas Magazine (August 2011).

  • Contract: A legally binding bargain; a payment in return for a service.
  • Grant: A unilateral payment; a subsidy to assist in the provision of service.
  • Contract: Creates reciprocal rights. If the service is delivered the price must be paid and vice versa.
  • Grant: Creates only expectations.
  • Contract: Given on terms and conditions defining proper performance of the service.
  • Grant: Given on conditions that it is applied as intended.
  • Contract: A breach of a contract condition triggers a right to be compensated for consequent loss.
  • Grant: A breach of a grant condition triggers an obligation to repay the grant for not having been used as intended.

These terms feel similar to the differences between an employment contract and a volunteering relationship. Consider:

  • Employment contract: A legally binding bargain; a payment in return for a service.
  • Volunteering relationship: Unilateral payment of expenses/provision of resources to assist volunteers wishing to offer their personal contribution.
  • Employment contract: Creates reciprocal rights. If the service is delivered the price must be paid and vice versa.
  • Volunteering relationship: Creates only expectations.
  • Employment contract: Given on terms and conditions defining proper performance of the service.
  • Volunteering relationship: Given on conditions that it is applied as intended.
  • Employment contract: A breach of an employment contract triggers a right to be compensated for consequent loss.
  • Volunteering relationship: A breach of a volunteer relationship triggers all sorts of mayhem…

OK – it’s not a perfect match, but the third sector is being asked to develop contractual relationships with externals whilst relying on ‘grant-like’ relationships with its volunteers. Something has to give.

I wouldn’t be surprised if organisations that move from grants to contracts need to tighten up the mutual expectations and reporting processes between themselves and their volunteers.

…and then on the other hand, there is a significant push by the government for community involvement, ‘any which way’ it can be encouraged.

It appears the world of volunteer management is entering a very interesting phase, and the ‘VM profession’ needs to be creative, nimble and flexible to ensure is stays relevant.


Post by Stephen Moreton

Francis Maude

The Minister for the Cabinet Office spoke at an event last week and was quoted in Third Sector as saying that he thinks that public sector employees who are being made redundant from their roles would make good voluntary managers of volunteers in third sector organisations.

The article can be seen by following this link. ( )and of course take a look at the comments below.

This does of course raise many many issues, each one of which may cause your blood to boil. The Association of Volunteer Managers has replied and we anticipate our letter being published this week. Our response can be seen on ( and we would like to hear what you think.

Some of what bothered me about this reported statement was:

  • the lack of recognition that there is a distinct skills set around the management of volunteers
  • the assumption that anyone with managerial skills and no experience of or passion for volunteering can manage volunteers
  • the assumption that those being made redundant from public sector bodies can afford to continue to work – with no pay
  • the assumption that if they are volunteering it needs to be as managers of volunteers, and not as finance officers, logistics planners, HR officers and many of the other functions that they may already have skills and experience in and are needed by under funded third sector organisations
  • the assumption that it is OK for organisations wishing to engage volunteers, not to invest in it.

DJ Cronin wrote a great post earlier this week about the need for representative organisations to take a lead, AVM can only lead if we know how our constituents feel, so please do comment on this, and post on our website so that we can make sure we are going in the right direction.

Response to Third Sector Article Reporting Francis Maude’s Speech

Please find below AVM’s letter in response to the Third Sector article on Francis Maude’s speech last week.



The Association of Volunteer Managers notes that Francis Maude MP has some perception of the issues facing managers of volunteers and volunteers, and welcomes any ideas he might have for enhancing and facilitating the involvement of volunteers through volunteer management. However, from the context in which his speech was reported in Third Sector (30 June 11), it appears that he believes increasing the number of managers of volunteers would mean that more volunteers are able to be involved. This seems similar to the previous Government’s belief that more volunteers equals better and more effective services provided by volunteer involving organisations. Involving volunteers effectively is however far more complex than simply a numbers game.

Mr Maude identified the need for training as key for any public sector workers wishing to become managers of volunteers. As with any profession, training is key to learning the necessary skills to be able to work in that profession, however it seems that Mr Maude fails to take into account that the need for practical experience is as much, if not more, needed in mastering a profession.

There seems to be a perception that managing volunteers is easy and that anyone with even the smallest amount of management experience can do it. If Mr Maude’s remarks as reported are indeed accurate and represent the views of the Coalition Government it would seem that (as with the previous Government) they still have much to learn about both volunteering and volunteer management.

While up-skilling potential and existing managers of volunteers is vital in developing the effectiveness of volunteer involvement it can only be realised through good governance and proper resourcing. If Mr Maude and the Coalition Government are serious about supporting volunteering and realising the Big Society, their focus should be in encouraging the senior management teams and trustee boards of volunteer involving organisations to invest accordingly and in proportion to the vital nature of volunteer support and involvement..

Yours faithfully,

Sean Cobley

Chair, Association of Volunteer Managers

Managing the future of volunteering

Nick Hurd speaking at AVM's conference 2012, Sean Cobley (left) AVM Chair

Nick Hurd speaking at AVM’s conference 2012, Sean Cobley (left) AVM Chair

The Association of Volunteer Managers had its inaugural conference today (9th March 2011) focussing on volunteer management and the Big Society. Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society addressed the conference setting how he saw the role of volunteer management in the Big Society. He came armed with as many questions as answers, but the fact that he was there at all was surely testament to the recognition of volunteer management’s value to the Government’s current policy agenda.

A short synopsis of what Hurd shared: Big Society is about cultural change, it’s a long process and it’s going to be difficult.

Interestingly, given the audience of professionals working in volunteering- he chose to underline the notion that Big Society is “more than volunteering”. That this point needs to be made at all, signals an underlying sense of how critical volunteering is to the Big Society. Volunteering may not be the be all and end all of the Big Society, but when all’s said and done it’s the idea of volunteering that people keep coming back to to explain the Big Society to an often confused and baffled public.

Whatever the link between volunteering and the Big Society in the minds of policy makers, Nick Hurd insisted that volunteer management was a crucial part of the equation. He pointed to the funding that the Office of Civil Society (OCS) is going to make available through the European Year of the Volunteer specifically for volunteer management as just one example.

He shared a short anecdote about an encounter he had had with Baroness Julia Neuberger at the time of her work on the Commission on the Future of Volunteering. When he asked her for one thing that’s crucial to the future of volunteering she responded simply: “volunteer managers”. This was a Minister keen to build bridges.

He addressed questions from delegates where Government policy seemed to run counter to this expressed support for volunteering in the Big Society at the Cabinet Office. For example:

  • Budget cuts to the voluntary sector including infrastructure will result in making it harder, not easier for volunteer managers to do their job
  • By making public service reform such a prominent aspect of the Big Society public perception now is that the Government is asking volunteers to step into fill gaps left by the retrenchment of the state. This perception whether or not it is founded in fact is making it harder, not easier, to recruit volunteers
  • Mandatory work activity (JSA reform) runs counter to the ethos of volunteering and the voluntary sector. As a result, work programmes previously run on a voluntary basis with those out of work- would no longer make sense in the voluntary sector if they became mandatory. Again, this policy may lead to less volunteering, not more.

Nick Hurd’s response to the issue of budget cuts seemed to be: we know it’s painful, but it is temporary adjustment. It will be worth it in the long run.

His response to the public service reform was to say that this public perception will change over time – and insisted that Government had a role to play in leading this change in perceptions and culture. In fact, he gave the impression that a large part of the Government’s approach to volunteering was in how it could be a vehicle for changing social attitudes to giving and social action. There are a number of policies designed to change the attitudes from the National Citizen Service that’s aimed at the attitudes of the nation’s 16 year olds, through to the “civic service” initiative which challenges civil servants to rethink their relationship to the communities they work with.

In terms of contradictions in Government policy – at one stage Nick Hurd joked, “Welcome to Government”. But he did not accept the point about mandatory work activity and suggested this contradiction was more semantic, than actual, and could be overcome.
In terms of the Government’s role in fostering a vibrant and efficient infrastructure for volunteering in this country, Nick Hurd told delegates “he didn’t need any lectures on the importance of volunteering infrastructure”.

He agreed it was important, but was not clear on how it could be funded in the future. It should involve Central Government to a degree, but also the Big Lottery Fund and local authorities had to play their part.

Interestingly, he also floated the idea that longer term umbrella organisations should receive much more of their funding direct from their members or “customers”. If this could be achieved, then Hurd believed infrastructure bodies would become much more efficient than they are today.

At the moment the complex and fragmented system of funding is too thinly spread to make it effective and that too much of volunteer managers’ time is spent fundraising to make it efficient. This issue of infrastructure was one of the big questions that Nick Hurd came with which was: what kind of infrastructure do we need to be able to improve and shape the quality of volunteering experiences?

Another strand of the Government’s approach included more effectively leveraging the links between local businesses and the communities in which they’re present. He spoke about a new initiative to develop “business connectors” who could help establish fruitful relationships for both the voluntary sector and local businesses. This was separate from, but could run in parallel with, the idea to train community organisers to do the same kind of work forging links across communities.

Hurd made reference to the support the Government has given to Chris White’s Private Member’s Bill that aims to make social impact and value a key requirement in the commissioning process in future. It will be interesting to see whether these kinds of measures will effectively open up the space necessary for volunteering and volunteer management to play a role in service provision that can compete with private sector providers. Some delegates flagged up concerns that services built on volunteer management models would not be able to compete on private sector bids for contracts on price alone.

When challenged Hurd accepted the development of volunteer management required nudging organisations to change their behaviour, and that it could not all be resolved by establishing the right kind of infrastructure. On the issue of professionalization of volunteer management, Hurd somewhat baldly stated that he had no interest in this agenda and this should not be the agenda of any Government. This [professionalization], he said, was a matter for volunteer managers themselves.

There were no huge surprises in Hurd’s words, but it was refreshing to have a discussion that centred on how the Government understands what role volunteer management can play in the Big Society agenda. It formed the basis for what was a really informative and productive discussion on the future of the role of volunteer management. Long may this dialogue and discussion with volunteer managers continue.

Government announcement on organisations receiving £6.5m earmarked to provide volunteering opportunities for unemployed

Third Sector reports that the government has announced that the £6.5 million pounds earmarked in ithe Third Sector Action Plan to offer volunteer opportunities to people who are long term unemployed will go to BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) as a prime contacter, with CSV, V, and Volunteering England as subcontractors. According to the article

” Job centres will give people who have been unemployed for more than six months a volunteering freephone number for Doncaster-based BTCV. The organisation then has five days to consult with its subcontractors on the opportunities that are available before coming up with an offer.”

BTCV may seem a surprising choice as a lead body in the partnership, given that they only deal with a very specific type of volunteering, but they have delivered welfare to work programmes for the DWP in the past. It will be interesting to see how the partnership develops.

You can read the full article here:

James Purnell – long term unemployed and volunteering

James Purnell issued a ministerial statement on Monday on the government's plans to get people who are long term unemployed back into work. Unsurprisingly volunteering is mentioned but, at least the way I read it, he seems to have made the assumption that most volunteering will be full time. 

Obviously this is far from true, very few people volunteering are doing so full time.  I've come up against this assumption a couple of times with governmenty peeps, and I'm wondering what effect this has on government plans around volunteering?  Do they see the CSV full time model as the norm, and is effecting their plans and strategies?

Liam Byrne expands (slightly!) on the scheme Purnell mentions. It's right at the end again!