What could a national strategy for volunteer management achieve?

Addressing the current issues in volunteer management is a huge task but many hands make light work and at this stage my thinking is that only a joined up, strategic approach could help make more progress here. So, do we need a national strategy for volunteer management?

I believe a strategy could…

  • articulate a shared vision for the future of volunteer management
  • Support a stronger voice for volunteer management allowing us to stand together behind some key, evidence based messages
  • identify shared aims to help coordinate and maximise the impact of the work we do
  • help to empower volunteer managers as individuals to address issues in their own organisations

Of course, a strategy is only any good if it is implemented – it is crucial that any strategy reflects what NCVO and potential partners could commit to deliver.

Why do we need one?

Without a strategic approach we will continue to face the same issues again, and again. Volunteer managers would continue to face significant barriers, and ultimately, volunteering will never achieve its full potential.

Our members recently drew our attention to some of the current issues affecting volunteer management through our Steer NCVO and Project 2015 consultations. It is unlikely that this list of issues will surprise you as many of these have been identified before.

They include:

  • leadership and voice
  • status and professionalisation
  • professional development and accreditation
  • the evidence base.

These are issues that have been previously identified in research, some of which is four years old. The most recent survey we have of volunteer managers in England is from 2010. The issues themselves are probably much older.

Complex issues

The fact that these issues are still around is not because organisations, the networks or in fact volunteer managers as individuals have failed in some way. It is because they are challenging and complex issues to tackle, as demonstrated by the diagram produced at the roundtable as we thought through some of the connections.

We also can’t see them as sitting in isolation from the other challenges the sector faces. To tackle these issues we will need to look beyond volunteering for solutions and influence and work across the whole sector, asking challenging questions about organisational development, strategy, funding and resources as well as approaches to training and personal development. We know volunteering and volunteer management is at the heart of what the sector does and therefore it follows that some of the issues go to the very heart of how it does things.

Roundtable

On the 12 of February I brought together some of the key networks for volunteer managers to begin to consider whether this might be a good approach. I was delighted to have representatives from the Association of Volunteer Managers, the Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies, National Association of Voluntary Service Managers, the Association of Voluntary Service Managers and Volunteer Management Movement joining the discussion. It was a great discussion and it was amazing to see how enthusiastic they were about this work.

Next steps

This is just the start of what needs to be wider consultation and the next day I attended the England Volunteer Development Council for the South West in Taunton to discuss and test some of this thinking with volunteer managers in that region. The issues rang true there too which suggests that we are on the right lines and are starting to identify shared priorities.

This networks that attended the roundtable will meet again after I have identified other key networks to involve and completed some more detailed mapping of existing support and evidence.

At NCVO, we will be keeping volunteer management high on the agenda, and will continue to influence where possible through our ongoing policy work.

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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.

4 Responses to What could a national strategy for volunteer management achieve?

  1. Rob Jackson says:

    Great to read this update, thanks.

    One note of caution – using the language of “the sector”. The volunteering sector is bigger than the voluntary sector because volunteering happens in public, private and voluntary (civil society) sectors. Any strategy for volunteer management needs to embrace all these contexts as well as the mix of paid and unpaid VMs.

    This is perhaps another reason why progress has been slow: an ineffective vocabulary to identify what we’re all talking about and ensure we’re on the same page.

  2. Alison Marino says:

    Good to hear about this piece of work. Can I just check, of all the networks around the table the Volunteer Centre Managers’Network (VCMN) isn’t mentioned? Was there representation from VC managers and where is this being publicised?

    I am well aware that I may have missed something but it seems odd that the very network NCVO hosts isn’t mentioned.

    Many thanks

    • Kristen Stephenson Kristen Stephenson says:

      Hi Alison,

      This is very much the start of the consultation process in relation to this work and so this first meeting was with the networks for volunteer managers. The next phase will be wider consultation with Volunteer Centres and other stakeholders. I anticipate that there will be a series of meetings and as the process continues I intend on asking other networks, including the VCMN, how they would like to feed into this work.

      Hope that helps to clarify things.

      Best wishes,
      Kristen

  3. Jamie Darwen says:

    I suggest also that you look to engage Volunteer Managers in Further and Higher Education in your next steps. Workers in Student Community Volunteering (www.wiscv.org) is a large and vibrant network of volunteer managers in universities, colleges and students’ unions – who inspire massive numbers of students to get involved in voluntary action, both through their own institutions and with many local and national organisations.

    I’m sure that many of us would be keen to contribute to your work.