AVM responds to #bethehelpforce

AVM welcomes the recent announcement of #bethehelpforce, a partnership between Helpforce and the Daily Mail, encouraging more people to volunteer their time in the NHS in 2019. AVM believes in the power of volunteering to make a difference, not only to patients, but also to volunteers themselves, and every day we hear their incredible stories.

However, AVM is clear that volunteering should not be a replacement for fully funded public services. Staff and volunteers offer different support to the NHS due to a different working relationship. Every day volunteers of all ages and backgrounds make a huge contribution by giving their time, skills and experience to support the NHS. The real value of these volunteers is the extra value they bring on top of the care and support provided by hard working nurses, doctors and other NHS staff. Volunteers have the time to provide companionship to patients that clinical staff do not have.

While AVM welcomes this initiative, we want to stress that volunteering is not free, and that resources need to be in place to support increased volunteering. This includes volunteer managers who can provide the training and support to volunteers, rather than adding these responsibilities to already stretched clinical staff.

Building bridges between volunteering and research

This is a guest post by Shaun Delaney, volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering. This was first posted on the NCVO website

As a volunteer manager, I like my practice to be evidence-based. I think we all do. We’re forever evaluating, surveying, measuring and holding focus groups to make sure we are doing our very best by our volunteers. But as we know, there are some things we could do with knowing a bit more about.

On 7 June, the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and the National Network of Volunteer Involving Agencies (NNVIA) held an event to plan how we can answer these questions – an event which NCVO was thrilled to support and host. This event brought together the researchers, practitioners and everyone in-between to ask ‘how can we better work together to advance volunteering research’. Get the full lowdown from AVM Chair Ruth Leonard’s blog and comments from VSSN’s Jon Dean.

Practitioners tackle the problems, researchers tackle the solutions

The day had a packed agenda. We started by hearing from the researchers and academics. Margaret Harris was quite clear – ‘if there isn’t a problem, why are we spending time on it?’ And I agree. While we perhaps all wonder why milk makes our cereal soggy, there are bigger problems to solve. As busy people with limited resources, let’s focus on the big issues we are facing. As one of our speakers said, ‘it’s not just about academic masturbation’.

This was my first main message of the day: Let’s be clear what problems volunteer managers face, then ask researchers to help us find the answer.

Practitioners and researchers speaking a shared language

After lunch, we heard from volunteering specialists. First up, Rachel Bailey tackling a key question of the day – ‘why don’t academics and volunteer managers work together more?’ Rachel helped us see something that we perhaps hadn’t noticed before.

Volunteer management isn’t an academic profession. You can’t do a GCSE in social action or a Masters in volunteering. In fact, as recent research suggests, volunteer management requires insight and skills in emotional labour – one of the key things that separates volunteer managements from staff management. So naturally, volunteer managers start their careers in people-oriented professions and may not know one end of a researcher form the other.

So my second take-away message: for practitioners and researchers to work better together, we need to better understand each other’s language.

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

We finished the day looking to the future. How can we find the solutions we need, by better working together? We came up with quite a list. But the thing for me that came out was around communication. For any of this to mean anything, we need to have an audience that is receptive to research – and will actually read it! There is stacks of great insight out there. But if it’s impenetrable, it’s just another dusty book on a shelf. People rarely change how they do things after passively reading a single document too so this insight needs to be engaging.

My final piece of learning for the day: Research is great, but finding a way to bring it to life makes it even greater.

For more information, check out the AVM and VSSN blogs.

Volunteer Management In The Next Decade

Karl Wilding continues our tenth anniversary blog series with thoughts on how Volunteer Management’s journey to date will shape the next ten years.
In the ten years since AVM was established, much has changed in the world around us that has impacted upon volunteering and therefore volunteer management. Some of this surprised us: a financial crisis, a decade of economic stagnation and social tensions, albeit punctuated by the highlight of volunteering during London 2012, and more recently the decision to leave the European Union. Some changes we saw coming: the demographic pressures and changing social attitudes of an ageing, more diverse and more atomised society. What we probably didn’t see was how quickly these changes would come about and the pressure they would place on our communities and the services we use. We probably also didn’t see how the opportunities that digital technology would deliver, or some of the social fractures it would deepen. Building bridges between communities of place and interest is more vital than ever, a tension that saw volunteer management hit (for the first time?) the front pages of our national newspapers recently.
We live in interesting times. It seems to me that these wider social, demographic and economic changes will continue to shape and reshape volunteering over the next decade, though only the most foolhardy venture to make predictions these days. What therefore might AVM members want to mull over as shaping the next 10 years?
For me, the slow burn of demographic change will reshape volunteering and how we think about how we work with those who want to engage in the communities (note the plural) around them. Public services are already being refashioned so as to involve service users more in their delivery. Boundaries between paid and unpaid staff will blur as we try and cope with pressures from a growing, but ageing, population. Note also the less flexible labour markets that many argue will result from the decision to leave the European Union.
Informal volunteering, such as acts of neighbourliness, especially seem important as reducing demand is seen as a way of helping public services better cope. The Royal Voluntary Service’s increased focus on social action might be indicative of the way forward here. Do we need to (re)think volunteer managers as convenors, catalysts, shapers of people who want to get involved in their communities? If so, is it a radical rethink or an evolution of change already afoot? Either way, it will be more important than ever that we build and strengthen the bonds of community. More people helping people.
But it’s about more than just individuals doing good things: bringing people together so that they are more than the sum of their parts, working out how best to involve businesses who feel a responsibility to the community, and working out how to work alongside our public services are all part of the emerging landscape. We’ve learnt over the last decade that volunteers don’t always just appear spontaneously; or even when they do, good organisation and infrastructure enables volunteers to make a bigger impact.
Effective, impactful volunteering needs good infrastructure and networks. As government and business become more interested in social action, the case for investment in volunteer management might become more apparent, based on experience. In turn this will inevitably lead to more thinking about value for money, greater calls for management information, and more data collection. That has to be a good thing, but for some it might be the less attractive side of continued professionalization. If that leads to less of the ‘let’s sprinkle some volunteers on the problem’ type thinking, then a more data-driven approach is OK by me.
The topic of data leads to a discussion of digital (aka #techforgood) and how that might shape the future of volunteering. This is the most difficult to call: AVM’s ten year anniversary coincides with the device that pretty much kicked off the smartphone revolution, the iPhone. Could anyone seriously have predicted the impact that would have on pretty much every aspect of life? Current trends might suggest an ever-more efficient brokering of people who want to get involved with opportunities that fit (based on the data that your phone now collects about you); more emphasis on place and opportunities based on where someone happens to be; and more mopping up of small bits of spare time as the smartphone facilitates activities such as mentoring, remotely. Finally, tech blogs are currently awash with discussions of AI and machine learning. I can’t even begin to understand how these will shape volunteer management – they will – but in terms of volunteering itself, volunteers are already helping machines to learn how to recognise patterns that have a social outcome, such as this project around slavery. A brave new world indeed.
Volunteer management will not stay static in the next decade. Nor should it. I look forward to AVM leading the discussion around what the brave new world of volunteer management could, and might, look like.
 
Karl Wilding speaks and writes widely on issues facing the voluntary sector. Karl is Director of Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO, a trustee of both Creating the Future and St Albans CVS, and an advisor to Charity Bank.

Ten Ten Ten: How Does The Next Decade Look For Volunteering

Continuing our series of blogs celebrating AVM’s tenth anniversary, Joe Saxton offers his ‘top ten’ of how volunteering will change in the next decade.
AVM is ten years old. It’s a huge achievement for any start-up organisation to get this far. Much has changed in the world of volunteering in the last ten years, but the need for AVM is greater than ever. The world of volunteering will go on changing over the next 10 years. So here are my 10 predictions for how volunteering will change, what the best volunteer managers will be doing, and how AVM will need to react.
1. The potential for volunteering will go on growing. Whether its volunteers in schools, welcoming refugees, campaigning against government cuts, or helping neighbours, we haven’t begun to reach saturation in the ways that volunteering can change society.
2. Baby boomers are going to hit peak volunteering potential. The generation born in the years 1946-1964 are just hitting retirement in volume and the potential for them to volunteer is huge. But they need to be treated right.
3. With a little help from charities, youth volunteering will mature to help young people move seamlessly into volunteering during their working lives. Volunteers are for life, not just for young people.
4. Volunteer managers will have specialisms just like fundraisers do. There are over 15 types of fundraising expertise. Expect volunteering management to become more and more specialist as it matures, just as fundraising has.
5. Supporter-centred management will be where the best volunteer managers steal a march on competitors. We already see fundraising and communications and marketing working much more closely together. The best organisations will look at how supporters want to engage and manage their needs holistically whether they want to give, volunteer, campaign or use services.
6. We still don’t know how to encourage neighbourliness or manage it or see it as part of volunteering nearly enough. As much as we want people to volunteer in charity shops and more formal ways, we want people to give time to neighbourhood. This is an example of the specialisms that are needed (see point 4).
7. The most far-sighted charities will invest in volunteer recruitment the way they do donor recruitment. Typically they may invest several hundred pounds in donor recruitment and the total budget may amount to millions of pounds in the biggest charities. I wonder how many volunteer managers even have a recruitment budget.
8. Intertwining specific audiences by demographics (eg working parents) and product (eg micro-volunteering) will be the breakfast of volunteering champions. In other words, the best organisations will understand exactly who their volunteers are, or could be, and create the volunteering products to encourage, entice and engage them ever more into giving their time.
9. AVM needs to gear up to change to make the most of volunteering. A decade after launch it still has just one member of staff (while CharityComms launched at the same time has nearly 10 staff). AVM needs to grasp the potential of the years ahead with passion, energy and enthusiasm.
10. And one of the ways that AVM can make the most of its potential is a name change. Its current name is like a millstone round its neck, partly because the name is usually shortened, and partly because it isn’t just ‘volunteer managers’ who do volunteer management. It can be people with a bundle of responsibilities. AVM as a name ghettoises the organisation and holds it back.
This guest blog is by Joe Saxton, Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy and its founder. Joe co-founded and chaired CharityComms, and has been chair of the Institute of Fundraising and People & Planet. Joe blogs in a personal capacity.

AVM's Thoughts On NCVO's 2017 Letter To The Sector

NCVO has started the year by with an open letter to the voluntary sector which poses many questions around the role of volunteer management. Here AVM Chair Debbie Usiskin responds and offers our thoughts.
Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO, has started the year by publishing an open letter highlighting the part that volunteers can play in building a shared society. More importantly, he makes it clear that we need well supported volunteer managers to help make this happen.
I urge you to read Sir Stuart’s letter and share it within your organisation. He makes the valuable point, very well, that for volunteering to be successful it needs to be adequately resourced; it could spark off a discussion within your organisation about expectations and impacts.
We are attending the NCVO Members’ Assembly in February where we will be contributing to the development of their public policy work. We want to hear from members and make sure that we represent you so let us know what you think following Sir Stuart’s letter.
Of course, we agree with Sir Stuart that this means greater investment in the support that volunteering needs, acknowledging that managing volunteers is harder than managing staff. We look forward to continuing to work closely with NCVO to ensure that volunteering is managed well, and that those who do it are valued.

Reasons to be cheerful… 1, 2, 3!

With the dust settling after a whirlwind conference – our biggest event ever – we wanted to make sure everyone had caught up on the big three changes AVM’s announced in the last couple of days.
Part 1 – new Twitter handle
We’ve had a lot of feedback over the past year about our social media presence. In response to one of the recurring issues raised we’ve adopted a new easier to remember and shorter twitter handle. You can now catch us at @AVMtweets.
Part 2 – refreshed visual identity
Yesterday’s conference saw the first outing of our refreshed visual identity.
Taking the work done since AVM’s inception, we’ve retained the essence of our identity and developed a fresh new look. As the way we communicate and work changes, we’re bringing everything we do together to prepare the ground for the way AVM will evolve over the coming years.
Part 3 – new package for organisations
The third and biggest change announced at conference is that AVM is taking its first steps into engaging organisations as well as individuals. Our popular and relevant membership offering, available to individuals for the last nine years, has been overhauled and is now complemented by new Organisational Learning and Development Package.
We’re working to ensure that volunteer engagement skills are valued and nurtured across the whole of the volunteer involving sector. The new Organisational Learning and Development Package will allow organisations to place themselves at the forefront of volunteering development, and ensure that managers are inspired, engaged and supported by an engaged and knowledgeable network of volunteer management professionals across the country.
More details about the organisational package will be shared in the coming days, but right now you can get in contact with Anne-Marie for an informal chat about what’s involved and the next steps.

AVM Network Day – Retail Volunteer Management

Our latest networking day on getting the best from retail volunteers was held in London on Thursday 19 May and brought together 35 participants from all over the UK, from retail heavyweights to those considering retail as a new revenue stream, small local charities to big national organisations it was a great day for networking and sharing new ideas and best practice.
Diane Eyre and Lily Caswell from Save the Children opened the day with their talk on the charities predominantly volunteer managed network of shops, the opportunities this model presents as well as the possible pit-falls and creating the right foundations to manage both. The key message being that if you empower your volunteers to do more and to take more responsibility then your organisation will reap the rewards.
They were followed by Karen Allsop and Liz Reed who joined us from Blue Cross who’s retail offering has increased significantly over recent years. Rapid expansion has forced them to take a closer look at their recruiting process and how they can attract volunteers more effectively by streamlining the application process and making volunteering for them more accessible.
And finally Alex South and Darryl Neville from Sense rounded of the day with their approach to volunteer recruitment and managing their individual shops needs with their Four Group Plan as well as demonstrating how they have implemented clear strategy to boost sales.
Many thanks for those of you who attended and to Nightingale Hammerson who very kindly provided the meeting space. For those of you who couldn’t make it we hope you will join us at our next event but in the meantime follow the below links to access the presentations
Managing the Rising Costs of Retail Staff by Diane Eyre & Lily Caswell, Save the Children
Keeping Pace with Retail by Karen Allsop & Liz Reed, Blue Cross
Empty Nests to Social Hubs – Alex South, Sense
The “Orange Shop” an Ongoing Journey – Darryl Neville, Sense

Guardian Jobs – no longer to post volunteering opportunities

Below is the statement made by the Guardian on its decision regarding the removal of volunteering opportunities from its jobs website.

Changes to Guardian Jobs volunteering advertisements
The Guardian has always been a great supporter of volunteering and we are committed to writing intelligently about the voluntary sector. However, in response to significant jobseeker feedback, we have decided that we will no longer be including volunteering listings on Guardian Jobs from 1 July 2014.
Whilst this will not affect advertisements for paid positions in the Voluntary sector – for which we will continue to be the number one source of quality candidates – recent feedback from jobseekers searching for paid work has indicated that they were seeing too many volunteering roles compared to paid positions. We tried to address this with a filter to enable users to exclude ‘volunteering’ positions, but the feedback remained the same and users stated that it was affecting their experience in looking for paid work on Guardian Jobs.
We appreciate that volunteering listings are important and we are therefore investigating how we can adopt a different approach for this in the future, and we will keep jobseekers and the sector updated on these plans.
We continue to offer charities a discount on job ads placed with Guardian Jobs.
If you have any questions about these changes please email [email protected]

For background

Post on ivo.org by Addam Merali-Hosiene
Post on Third Sector by Sam Burne James