Giving volunteer managers a voice

Andy Broomhead is head of volunteering at Diabetes UK, and has been involved in the voluntary sector for more than five years. Prior to this he worked as a self employed consultant for almost ten years.


It’s International Volunteer Managers’ Day, and this year the theme is ‘be the voice’.

At Diabetes UK we advocate for the needs of all people living with or affected by diabetes, whether that’s guiding and funding research, helping people understand their risk of Type 2 diabetes, supporting them in living with diabetes, or campaigning for better care. We couldn’t do any of those things without our volunteers.

Supporting an inspirational group

We have around 7,500 active volunteers at Diabetes UK, many of whom are part of our nationwide local group network offering support to people with diabetes in communities across the country, from Orkney to Plymouth and everywhere in between.

Behind every army of volunteers are good volunteer managers, and we’re no exception. We have a team of 25 people across the UK who offer guidance, training and support to all our volunteers. While they might be called ‘managers’, something like ‘volunteer enablers’ is probably closer to the truth.

We know all our volunteers are different, whether that’s age, motivation or connection to the cause – understanding what drives our volunteers is crucial to enabling us to work together to make our mission (a world where diabetes can do no harm) a reality.

Be the voice

The theme for International Volunteer Managers’ Day encapsulates everything we’re doing on a daily basis. Our volunteer managers are the voice of the organisation when speaking to our volunteers, and are the most vocal advocates for the impact our volunteers make when speaking to the organisation.

It’s easy to try and tie yourself up in numbers, percentages and growth, when thinking about volunteers, but that misses the very essence of what volunteering is about – people. The impact our organisation has through volunteers is told through stories, not pie charts. Making sure our volunteer managers are able to tell the tale of a volunteer who campaigned tirelessly for nearly a decade to support people in the north-east of England is more powerful and arresting than any amount of statistics.

It’s not just about the individual stories though. We know first-hand how the collective voice of our volunteers can bring about real change affecting thousands of people. Just six weeks ago, our campaigners spoke with one voice to make new technology available on prescription for people with diabetes.

Every single one’s got a story to tell

So what does this all mean? To me, it’s simple. Ask any volunteer manager and they’ll be able to tell you incredible stories about all the work your organisation’s volunteers are doing. What you have to do is listen, and the next time you’re finishing a meeting, tell someone else that same story.

Volunteer managers have the first-hand experience of what’s going on. Give them the time and the platform to tell everyone in your organisation those stories because it can only serve to inspire those around them.

Be the voice that advocates for your volunteer managers the same way they advocate for your volunteers. Your organisation will be richer for it – perhaps in more ways than one.


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