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 job site cuts

Today, we got official public confirmation from Guardian Jobs that it intends to cease its service of allowing organisations to post volunteering opportunities on Guardian Jobs from 1st July 2014.

Back at the end of March, there were reports that people were being told a decision had been taken. When challenged at the beginning of April, Guardian Jobs said the decision was still under review:

At the end of last week, Third Sector published an article and managed to get an informal briefing from a member of the Guardian’s press office who said:

some job-seekers looking for paid work were complaining that there were too many volunteering roles compared with paid positions, “which was affecting their experience in looking for paid work on the site”.

Guardian Jobs twitter feed was still silent on this today, and in ‘good cop’ ‘bad cop’ style left it to sister stream Guardian Voluntary to deliver the bad news:

This confirmed the line that the change is “in response to significant jobseeker feedback” that flagged up dissatisfaction with the mix of volunteering opportunities alongside paid jobs. They went further:

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.

The technicalities of this issue don’t really seem to fully explain the move. In terms of a filter – there already is a filter.

When a user searches you can restrict the search to paid jobs only simply by clicking “Job Vacancy” in Listing Type.

The solution, therefore, would be to switch this on by default and demand the user explicitly opts in to viewing volunteering opportunities. Incidently, the Guardian also posts internships which are expenses only, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do about these.

But I suspect this decision has not been made purely on the technicalities. This is about the issue of perception and how the Guardian Jobs service is perceived by users.

The thinking may have gone something like the following: a job site to compete and be effective needs to look and feel like a job site. Too many volunteering roles (and describing them as volunteering jobs probably didn’t help) popping up in a user’s searches runs contrary to expectations of what a job site is and should be.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Are job sites and volunteering opportunities incompatible?

Charity Job has listings for both paid and voluntary work. So it’s not like it’s unheard of – but Charity Job have clearly worked harder to distinguish between paid and voluntary roles. LinkedIn certainly sees potential to run the two together with its launch of the Volunteer Marketplace.

Moreover, don’t hibrid sites complement volunteering opportunity-only sites like Do-it, vInspired or Reach? To go to a volunteering only site – the user is already actively searching for volunteering. Whereas job sites with volunteering opportunities, like Guardian Jobs, are uniquely placed to engage jobseekers who may never have considered volunteering.

It provides that precious opportunity to reach people when they are jobseeking, at a time when they are both particularly responsive to volunteering and potentially have so much to gain from volunteering. Whether they are out of work or considering a career change, there’s a synergy between jobseeking and volunteer opportunity seeking. It feels like a huge shame that the needs of one segment of the jobseekers trump the needs of another segment of jobseekers.

And it’s not for lack of evidence – the Guardian will know better than anyone in the sector how many organisations have used their service to post volunteering opportunities, how many volunteering opportunities it has posted and how much interest each volunteering opportunity generates. You’d suspect with volunteering opportunities currently representing roughly 10% of the jobs on Guardian Jobs and volunteer recruiters reporting such a high level of satisfaction, that the figures would be in rude health. According to what the Guardian themselves say: “Volunteer roles advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk receive on average 564 page views and 37 applications.”

It’s hard to ignore the obvious difference: that one segment is much easier to monetize than the other. And so charities are reminded, if one was needed, that services offered for free cannot be sustained indefinitely (read the small print), when commercial imperatives sooner or later can no longer be held in check.

All in all, the significance for those in volunteer management of the Guardian’s decision is that it signals the withdrawal from the UK’s volunteer recruiter’s ecosystem of a platform with unparalleled mainstream profile. In the UK, those in volunteer management are fortunate to have such a vibrant volunteering opportunity infrastructure, particularly with ivo.org announcing a revamp for Do-it later this year.

However, with the Guardian’s profile and positioning, it’s not surprising many organisations have reported Guardian Jobs as a particularly important way of reaching a different type of volunteer.

According to Quantcast, the Guardian is their UK number one site with over 12 million people visiting a month (over 1 million visiting Jobs Guardian monthly in the UK). In other measures the Guardian is in the top 15 sites in the UK (only after the tech multinationals and the Daily Mail).

According to Guardian itself: 109,000 monthly unique users of Guardian Jobs, work in the charity or voluntary sector and Guardian Jobs carries more charity roles than any other publication or job board.

This is a story about the UK’s self proclaimed number one job board for charities turning its back on listing volunteering opportunities.

So may be we should not ignore how the statement today by Guardian Jobs appeared to leave the door ajar:

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.

If you haven’t already, write and tell those at the Guardian considering the new approach why the service has been important to your organisation and the volunteers who found your opportunities through them (contact them: jobs.help@theguardian.com).


Interesting comment thread on the Third Sector article

A Storify timeline of the wider discussion mainly on Twitter

Background Info

Top reasons to use Guardian Jobs

Guardian Jobs list ads for volunteer roles free of charge: As of November 2010 any volunteer role advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk is completely free (excludes Trustees, Chairs, Honorary Board Members, Internships and Non-Executive Directors)

Volunteer roles highly sought after: Volunteer roles advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk receive on average 564 page views and 37 applications.

A huge reach online: 207,000 voluntary/charity sector professionals use guardianjobs.co.uk a month

A strong reach in print: 89,000 voluntary/charity sector professionals use the Guardian’s print recruitment supplements every week

Quality response: 82% of voluntary/charity or public sector roles advertised with Guardian Jobs result in a Guardian candidate filling the role

Source: The Guardian

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 jobs.help@theguardian.com

For background

Post on ivo.org by Addam Merali-Hosiene

Post on Third Sector by Sam Burne James

Letter to 3rd Sector regarding OrangeCorps

I wanted to share with you a letter I sent to Third Sector in response to the interview in last Weds (20th Aug) issue in case it doesn’t get published. I’d welcome your thoughts!:


I read with interest your interview with Stephen Green, Chief Executive of RockCorps.

While thinking the RockCorps concept is an interesting and innovative idea in introducing young people to volunteering I am left feeling a little troubled about incentivising volunteering in this way. If young people are more willing to give than ever as Mr Greene states, why then to they need to be offered concert tickets to volunteer? Volunteering shouldn’t be about personal material gain.

It would be interesting to find out how many of the 35% who went on to volunteer elsewhere did so without being offered something material in return. While I understand that the idea is to introduce young people to volunteering, can 4 hours really give them a proper idea of what it is really like to be an active citizen?

Offering concert tickets in this way would also seem to be a payment in kind and of sufficient value to be a “consideration”. Is this not an overt contract as the work is in exchange for the tickets which is clearly expressed and acknowledged by RockCorps? Legislation and good practice is different in the US and wonder if this model needs adapting for the UK.

Kind regards,

Sean Cobley
Director, AVM

Commission on the Future of Volunteering

The Commission on the Future of Volunteering is calling for evidence. AVM has put together an initial draft response to the Commission which is attached. If members wish to feed into the AVM response with their own thoughts and views please respond by Thursday 26th July.

The deadlines for submissions is Tuesday 31st July. For further information about the Commission go to www.volcomm.org.uk