The education and celebration of volunteer managers

Kristen Stephenson joined NCVO in July 2013 as the Volunteer Management and Good Practice Manager in the Volunteering Development team. Her interests include developing volunteer management and raising the profile of the profession. She is also interested in innovative approaches to good practice and how this can help volunteering deliver for people, organisations and communities.

Wanted: Effective communicator with impeccable people skills to manage and support a diverse range of individuals. A responsive leader with an ability to adapt, working strategically and practically to achieve impact across the organisation. You will contribute to meeting your organisation’s key performance targets whilst meeting the expectations, hopes and aspirations of the individuals you work with.

Sounds like a high level, exciting and challenging role that’s vital to the organisation doesn’t it?! The short version of my advert would be “Wanted: Volunteer Manager.” How many people would guess that was the role being advertised? How much do people really understand and appreciate volunteer management? Volunteer managers do this every day, some are even volunteers themselves.

Today on International Volunteer Managers Day we are requested to embark on education through celebration and I invite you to be bold in educating others about the role as a way to celebrate volunteer management as one of the most important professions in our society. What will you do? Volunteer Management is not just important; it is also unique, wonderful in fact, in its ability to do all of the above (and sometimes more!!) often with inadequate resources or recognition.

Following the Association of Volunteer Managers conference ‘Finding our voice’  on 23rd Oct I browsed the tweets with this years’ hash tag AVMConf2013 and one particularly struck me which said “so many great people in one room”. It was simple and echoed my thoughts about the day. People raved about the skills, knowledge and experience being shared and the intelligent, articulate debate. It’s not like volunteer managers to pat themselves on the back and to shout about how good they are however when they come together something happens! They start to notice the amazing skills and qualities in others and celebrate them. Let’s face it most of us feel much more comfortable about singing the praises of colleagues rather than ourselves!

Importantly what sat alongside the atmosphere of celebration was that AVM offered up the right topics for debate. Should we engage volunteers or manage them? How should we define the profession? What is its future? These are the big questions and issues we need to be engaging with. We also need to continue to work together in this way to educate ourselves and each other, challenging our current perceptions and approaches. Only then can we ensure that we continue to develop as a profession.

In my role, taking the lead on Volunteer Management within NCVO, I hope to work in partnership with volunteer managers as well as networks like the Association of Volunteer Managers and Volunteer Management Movement that bring them together, to ensure that we can find the answers to these questions and that volunteer managers are empowered to define the profession for themselves. I want to contribute to the development of the evidence base and help move professional development and accreditation on to the next phase. I strongly believe that together we can ensure volunteer managers have the status and profile they deserve in the sector and beyond.

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Kristen Stephenson Kristen is NCVO’s Volunteer Management and Good Practice Manager. She’s interested in raising the profile of volunteer management as a profession, and the development of approaches which can help volunteering deliver for people, organisations and communities.

One Response to The education and celebration of volunteer managers

  1. Ms Zarina Dossaji says:

    The main criteria for any Volunteer Manager has got to be to
    • Lead by example, be a volunteer as well as being passionate about the aims and objectives of the organisation. To run a good professional voluntary service is not easy and can be very challenging but stimulating as well.
    • Majority of the staff and volunteers will only engage with the organisation when the mission statement is clear.
    • The voluntary nature of the organisation, code of ethics and the overall image must be in line with what the volunteer’s vision is, what they wish to get involved in.
    • A volunteer will only continue if they are valued and respected as to what they will bring into the organisation as well. A core team of volunteers must be fully involved in making a difference to their community.
    • All the voluntary team must participate in training, CPD, learn or gain qualification in that particular area of expertise, so they can utilise the skill learnt in their social setting or at workplace.
    • Once engaged with the service organisation, volunteers will self manage providing there is a set of protocols, aide memoire of the do’s and don’ts and the Organisation has quality standards which monitors its service delivery to its users.
    • To ensure all team members are aware of the past, present and the future strategic objectives, the vision, the focus on the outcomes or impact of the projects or services to all the stakeholders externally.
    • The volunteers have got to be valued and treated as any other employee of the organisation. We tend to quote ‘we cannot exist without the team of …’
    • Any good VM must motivate, inspire and retain all key volunteers
    • It is important not to overstretch the voluntary team by ensuring there is a good rota in place, in accordance to volunteer’s availability.
    • It is vital to continue to safeguard and protect the volunteers by providing supervision, peer feedback and on-going training programmes at least 2 or 3 times in a year.
    • Offering to cover travel expenses, subsistence, providing regular social events, attending conferences, participating at Board meetings
    • Involving volunteers with the external stakeholders in presentations, strategic meetings, so the continuous training and awareness is also cascaded down to peers in group meetings.
    • Open, transparent, communication policy.
    The above long list is simple indicator of various responsibilities’ including financial management which are tackled on daily basis by a VM like me.
    The responsibility of operational management lies with a sole VM and countless others like me! A sole VM cannot operate effectively without the support of paid administrators, supervisors, trainers and a good voluntary Trustee Board.
    1. It would be great to have resources and spare time available for a peer support group to come together regularly at local, regional or international level to celebrate what we do everyday but also to share and tackle similar dilemmas for VS organisations’ of similar size and revenue.
    2. It would be a real bonus to share a dialogue with a medium sized corporate organisation or a budget holder from a statute sector.