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Sunday, November 4, 2012

IVMD: Volunteer Managers Acknowldged and Appreciated!



A few months ago I wrote to the Australian Prime Minister as a Volunteer Manager informing her about International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD). It was lovely to get a reply recently from Andrew Coogan, a senior advisor for our Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was asked to reply on the Prime Ministers behalf.


Here is an edited version of that reply. I dedicate it to all Volunteer Managers on this IVMD. In a way it is written to you.

“Thank you for your letter to the Prime Minister regarding recognising Volunteer Managers. I have been asked to reply on the Prime Minister’s behalf.

The Australia Government recognizes that volunteering is an essential part of a socially inclusive society and helps all Australians to feel valued and have the opportunity to participate in community life. Your contribution as a Volunteer Manager, promoting volunteering within your community and assisting individuals to volunteer, is acknowledged and appreciated.’

The letter goes on to mention the 2012 members of parliament National Volunteer Awards which can recognise people who support and strengthen their community. It points out that two in particular can be used to recognise Volunteer Managers"innovation in volunteering and Long-term commitment to Community service.”

So as another IVMD comes around here are a few comments I’d like to make.

• I wrote to the Australian Prime Minister about Volunteer Management and got a reply. Ok, the letter was written by a senior advisor but...on the Prime Ministers behalf.

• I wrote a similar letter to senior political figures nationally and internationally and this was the only reply I got to date!

• Now imagine if your President or Prime Minister received 200 Letters about Volunteer Management and IVMD! - Government responds to stuff like this!

• If we are to be serious about IVMD we need to be activists for IVMD. Getting together for lunch is good. But we need to get proactive about the day. We are doing this better. More Volunteer Managers are blogging, tweeting and Face booking about the day.

Final thoughts on IVMD 2012

A big shout out to the IVMD committee – you know who you are. Thanks for your volunteering work in raising the profile of the day and spreading the word. From this Volunteer Manager – a big thank you!

To the leader of volunteers who works hard at their job without any recognition what so ever, who will not have IVMD mentioned in their work place, who will read this blog and wonder what it’s all about…..Today this fellow Volunteer Manager salutes you and your work.

And next year on IVMD pick up a pen and let someone know about the great work that Volunteer Managers do around the globe!

“To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” - Elbert Hubbard

Happy IVMD!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Imagine


Imagine if you can for a moment that you are looking for a job.
Imagine you call an organisation and ask if there are any such jobs going at the moment.
The person answering the phone is not too sure if they have positions and also isn’t sure who to pass the call onto.
So you listen to dreary unimaginative music while you are placed on hold.
Until someone with a real voice talks to you and tells you they will send you an application kit and information.
Imagine waiting for weeks for mentioned kit. Nothing arrives and you decide to ring again though your patience is tested. You do like the organisation after all and you would like to be part of it.
You ring again. You get the pleasure of listening to the same music as someone at the organisation scrambles to see if there are vacancies for your preferred role.
Someone offers to send you out an application kit and information. You inform them that this happened weeks ago. So you are booked in for an interview.
Imagine if on arrival the “Interview” consists of meeting someone who appears much stressed and tells you to start on Monday after a five minute conversation.
Imagine said person telling you that you must participate for at least a year as training costs too much and can’t be wasted on people who don’t “commit’!  (and you wonder if you must sign a contract or some legally binding document!)
Cautiously optimistic you show up on Monday.
Imagine not being provided with any orientation to your role and to your organisation. Someone, somewhere gives you a task to do. After an hour you are not sure what to do. You ask around and soon feel that you might be getting in the way.
You soon find that your “manager” is managing other areas in the organisation.
You notice that you don’t get much thanks or recognition for what you do. Imagine someone looking at your ID badge and saying “Oh..You are just a (Whatever job title you may have)”
Imagine staying away from your job for a few days to see if anyone notices. And no one does!
Imagine quitting your job and walking out the door without a soul in the organisation asking you why you are leaving.
Doesn’t sound like a very good organisation to work for does it?
Imagine that the role you had was a volunteer position.
A volunteer.
Imagine if the person who had experienced this was a first time volunteer. They could be lost forever to volunteering. They could talk to their friends and family about their bad experience and influence others about volunteering.
Generally organisations do not treat their employees in such a manner. They employ HR Professionals, they abide by standards, they rely on accreditation and the processes involved.  Many manage a workforce and seek out the best and most innovative ways to do so. They value their staff and leaders.
Why should it be any different for volunteers?
They deserve the best systems, Resources, management, orientation, training and leadership that the organisation can muster! They deserve no less.
Imagine organisations that engage volunteers recognising this.
Imagine Government supporting peak bodies to help facilitate this
Imagine society demanding this.
Imagine….

Saturday, September 29, 2012

United we broke our Volunteer!

Volunteer managers have great responsibilities. More so than other managers in many cases. When we engage volunteers we engage the community. This is not the same as engaging paid staff. Yes engaging paid staff incurs great responsibility. Your organisation prospers by keeping motivated staff. Having motivated and engaged staff is key to your organisations success.
Having motivated and engaged volunteers is even more important in my opinion as you are engaging a voice that has more freedom to speak. Volunteers provide a greater community buy in. Volunteers as I was once told many years ago by people who were scrutinizing my organization for accreditation purposes were the “eyes and ears of the organisation”
This is why I have for many years considered volunteers to be consumers and customers. Actually, what I mean to say is that I have tended to treat volunteers that way. I know some of you will jump up and down with that description but that is how I have treated volunteers and that is why I believe I have had great success in the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
Here is why:
·         People can volunteer for a myriad of organisations. Volunteer managers need to sell their organisation
·         People now volunteer for a myriad of reasons. The days of altruistic motivation as the only motivation for volunteering are long gone. Volunteer Managers need to capture this new breed of volunteering and sell why their organisations can accommodate same.
·         Episodic volunteering has been the biggest trend that has impacted my volunteering programs. I know I must sell my organisational flexibility to entice these episodic volunteers. And it works!
Volunteer interviews should now be a two way street. While we still traditionally do the interview that seeks to determine what type of person or character we are engaging and whether or not their skills and attributes suit our organisation we are also needing to be interviewed by them on whether we are worthy of their donated time!
I once met a volunteer manager who “binned” applicants that did not meet his/her interest. And they never even heard from him/her.
Today in the social media age every move you make has the potential to be scrutinized. Think now about the consequences if you don’t reply to the following:
·         An email request about your volunteer program
·         A tweet about your volunteer program
·         A Facebook message about your volunteer program
And have a think about how existing volunteers are communicating about your volunteer program and about your organisation!
Because if you work for a large or small organisation and one of your volunteers has a bad experience and if you don’t manage this effectively then you have the possibility of a social media savvy volunteer sharing their experience on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media outlet!
 Imagine having a volunteer sing a song about their bad experience at your organization and it becoming a hit on YouTube!!!
Perish the thought!
A guy called Dave Carroll had a bad experience with United Airlines. He was a customer. They treated him badly. In fact they broke his guitar!  He wrote a song, put in on YouTube and has had over 12 million views.
I am a great fan of Dave (he has some great songs apart from this hit). He is also one of the most genuine “stars’ I have come across! I have contacted him in the past and he has always personally taken the time to respond.
If we start treating our volunteers as customers we stand a better chance of retaining great people once we understand good customer service! And if we don’t get customer service we are behind the eight ball when it comes to volunteering!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Change of a Dollar

It’s not too often that a movie really touches me. Especially an 11 minute one. Well here is one that did. It’s one that I just discovered and one that I will be sharing with volunteers.  I have always believed that It doesn’t take much to be the change in someone’s life. A smile. A kind word. A lending hand. A shoulder to cry on. A listening ear. A laugh shared. Little things can mean a lot.

It is good to remind volunteers sometimes that everything they do, from the little things to the bigger and more public things mean a lot. And sometimes we don’t even realise that a small action on our part can have amazing consequences for another.
This 11 minutes or so gave me encouragement and hope too. And faith in the goodness of a world where so much bad news reigns.
I am passing this little gem forward. I hope that some of you do too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 reasons to support International Volunteer Managers Day and 10 ways to do it.

What is International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD)? From the IVMD website:

“Universally, people recognise the contribution of volunteers - in sport, health, emergency services, faith communities and the environmental lobby ...in fact volunteers are involved in just about every aspect of service delivery in all walks of life.



However, volunteering does not succeed in a vacuum. Behind this army of volunteers lies an equally dedicated group of individuals and agencies who are responsible for the coordination, support, training, administration and recruitment of the world's volunteers - skilled professionals who are adept at taking singular passion and turning it into effective action.



That is why we celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day every year on November 5.”

http://www.volunteermanagersday.org/

For years I have been an avid fan of this day. Here are my 10 reasons why people should support it

1. Volunteerism greatly benefits communities throughout the world. Behind many great projects lie the dedication and hard work of Volunteer Managers

2. Effective Volunteer Management advocates and promotes volunteerism

3. Volunteer Managers play a pivotal role in highlighting the great work of volunteers in their organisations and in their communities

4. Volunteer Management rightly aspires to be a recognised profession

5. Volunteer Managers are often unrecognized, unsupported and undervalued in some sectors

6. IVMD can be a powerful educational tool to educate and change perceptions on not only the role of managers but on volunteerism itself

7. Volunteer Management is a complex role and deserves the same respect given to other management roles

8. Volunteer Management enables vision to become reality

9. Effective Volunteer Management plays a part in changing lives

10. Volunteer Managers need the support of their volunteers, communities, friends and organisations to truly lead and inspire.

Here are 10 ways to support IVMD this year. And for once let’s reach out to other stakeholders. Let’s escape the echo chambers in Volunteer Management and call on community support. Because it matters!



1. Educate volunteers about the day

2. Send a letter to the nearest organisation to you that engages volunteers. Thank them for their efforts and ask them to celebrate IVMD

3. If your organisation has a Volunteer Manager send them an email on November 5 and wish them a happy IVMD

4. If you know a Volunteer Manager send them a message of support

5. Like the IVMD Facebook page and share it with all your friends http://www.facebook.com/groups/90188010197/

6. Watch this YouTube and Like and comment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvSNHWKHc8s

7. Follow the day on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/IVMDay

8. Respond to this blog and tell us why you support IVMD

9. Share this blog!

10. Share the fact that IVMD also stands for Inspirational Valuable Magnificent and Dynamic!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leading to Inspire Volunteers by Glenn Searle

I am a keen student of leading to inspire others and had the wonderful opportunity to undertake research into the phenomenon, the results of which were published in a leadership journal. Recently, at the Australian Institute of Management, DJ & I had a chat about inspiration in the context of leading in the volunteer sector – hence the ‘guest’ post. As part of my research, I interviewed a leader who worked extensively with volunteers and employees. The leader had some interesting perspectives that might be of interest to you.
One of his first comments was, ‘for me, inspiring people is about helping them reach their goal and potential – to help them become what they have been created to be’. Incidentally he saw little difference between volunteer and paid workers in the context of reaching goals and potential. The ways he went about inspiring them were a little different. He proposed that people often become leaders because of their position at work and, consequently, people might follow them because they are bosses.

In the volunteer sector, people primarily come to serve others, not necessarily to follow leaders. In my experience, volunteers follow leaders by desire, not by design. In essence, the question for leaders becomes, ‘Do I wish to inspire the volunteer workforce?’ Volunteers often volunteer as a result of inspiration or draw inspiration from the people they serve. Do volunteers look to be inspired by leaders? Lockwood and Kunda (1997) asserted that inspiration is about being open to the possibilities of it occurring for the self to experience it. Do you think volunteers are open to the possibility of being inspired by leaders within the organisations they give their time and effort?

The interviewed leader considered engagement was critical because volunteering in his sector was ‘a huge commitment’. He was also adamant that inspiring volunteers to engage with the vision is critical, at personal, organisational and community levels. I believe he is right. I believe inspiring people provides them with the energy and confidence they need to achieve wonderful things. How did he go about cultivating opportunities to inspire volunteers? You can read more in my new book, Inspiring Leaders, Practical Insights. In the short-term, here are a few strategies he employed specifically for inspiring volunteers:

1. Validate their importance to achieving the vision

Highlight the importance of activities in which volunteers will be involved, and help them understand the results and outcomes of their efforts. It is vital for people to connect to a vision of what is possible, and a vision of what influence they might have on the lives of others.

2. Illustrate how they could make a difference

Use photographs and images to highlight achievements, experiences and successes of previous volunteers. When people see the achievements of others, and how they connected with the people they were serving, it often inspires people to believe they can make a difference.

3. Get volunteers to share their stories

Leaders don’t have to be the source of inspiration. There are a number of studies that demonstrate that peers can be role models, and therefore a source of inspiration. Tap into the stories of previous and current volunteers to spread the good word and empower others to take action.



Glenn Searle is the Director of InspHigher and has been in the education and training industry for over 23 years in teaching, training and educational leadership roles. His involvement with people of all ages evoked a love of learning and a keen interest in leading and working with others. In an attempt to be a better leader and to understand the phenomenon of inspiration, he undertook a research thesis at UQ. Therefore it’s not surprising the primary focus of Glenn's speaking, coaching and writing is on the topic of  Leading to Inspire Others.

His academic findings were published in the Leadership and Organizational Development Journal in 2011. The article is titled, "Leading to inspire others: charismatic influence or hard work?" Interest generated by presenting his findings led to the authoring of a book , “a breath of fresh air: the leader's guide to inspiring others.”   The book is designed to help leaders and educators learn practical strategies to inspire others.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Tip – #ttvolmgrs and follow Thoughtful Thursdays!

Join Volunteer Managers from across the globe every Thursday to participate in a weekly discussion and 'tweetchat', focusing specifically on the Volunteer Management issues of the day.
Follow @suevjones on http://ivo.org/ to be notified of the weekly blog post or make sure you visit the blogs page there every Thursday to discover the weekly topic.
Next add your thoughts via twitter using the hash tag #ttvolmgrs and, if twitter isn't your thing - you can contribute via the comments section below the blog.

I have to admit that I have been slow off the mark in regards to twitter. It took me awhile to understand what # even meant!! But I have been observing #ttvolmgrs and the conversation can be enlightening, educational and fun too! See you there! Also a big shout out to those who are giving up their own time keeping it going!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

DJs Thursday Tip: Communicate Inspire Communicate Inspire Communicate!

Keeping up communication with the volunteer team is essential in my opinion. Volunteers work on different days and different hours and it’s a challenge keeping them up to speed with organisational news and updates, new policies, great stories, etc. Here are some of my tips:
·         Create a volunteers newsletter. Have it driven by volunteers!
·         Create a volunteer email list with those volunteers who agree to be on one.
·         Have a fantastic notice board where volunteers sign in
·         Have  a volunteer liaison committee which meets regularly with volunteer management and executive/board
Keep the communication positive and inspiring. Tell the volunteering story. Share positive feedback and don’t be afraid to keep asking for volunteer feedback.
Celebrate volunteering and communicate it. Keep in touch. Volunteers will appreciate it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Telling the inspiring story of volunteering

Recently I presented at a conference on a volunteering program I manage. The presentation took out an award for innovative practice. The presentation was up against several other presentations on innovative practice in a hospital setting. It was, I noted, the only presentation on volunteers during the entire conference.


I still get nervous before presenting. It’s the same with my stage work. Sometimes I feel physically sick before walking out on stage. Once I am out there though the nerves settle. I feed off the audience. If for example I am in a stage comedy and there is no laughter after the first gag or joke and only a cough and the sound of a pin dropping then I know the night can be a struggle!

In some ways, the role of volunteer manager calls on us to be presenters. There is so much presenting we can be involved in. We present when we hold training and orientation for volunteers. We Present when we are talking to other managers about our roles. We present when we educate up about our roles and about volunteer services to our executive or our boards. We present at community forums and groups when recruiting for volunteers. In short there can be a lot of public speaking going on.

Back to the conference I was on. I was especially nervous as this was the first time I was presenting in front of a large audience outside of my workplace and outside of my volunteering and volunteer management sector. The winning presentations were voted on by the audience.

This was good I thought to my self as I sat at my table looking at the delegates throughout the room. Here were Managers, Directors and CEOs. Here was my chance to share the wonderful work of my team and here was a chance to talk up the potential and benefits of volunteering. I was sharing a room with many people of influence and I wasn’t going to miss my chance!

Such thinking of course only made me more nervous. I sat there, sweaty palms, hand shaking to get the glass of cold water to reach my lips and all the while my heart beating a little faster than usual.

Then the speaker before me was introduced to the stage. The facilitator introduced her with a glowing bio including “has completed a Diploma of Presentation Skills”.

Great! Just great! The speaker just before me too! And she was excellent of course.

Then I toddled up to the podium after my introduction. I looked at the audience. They looked back. In the distance a dog barked. Ok I made that bit up. I took a deep breath. With my deadpan face I started -

“ Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the organisers of todays event for placing me after the speaker who has just completed a diploma of Presentation skills. Thank you. That is great”

Well the laughter that rolled across the room was wonderful. My nerves settled, the palms decided to dry up a little and the heartbeat decided that it wasn’t going to run a marathon after all today.

When the laughter died down I continued “Today I am going to tell you a story about an inspiring group of people doing innovative things. These are our volunteers…” and the rest as they say is history.

I encourage all of you reading to share the story of the volunteers that you work with. Volunteer managers can be story tellers. Telling the stories of individuals and groups. While we do this well at our national conferences or volunteer get togethers we can and should tell the story to wider audiences.

Because I believe that Volunteers Matter. And I believe in telling the volunteering story. It inspires me daily. It will inspire others too in a world that needs its inspirational stories!



Thursday, August 2, 2012

DJs Thursday Tip – Add volunteers to the staff orientation checklist!

Get staff educated on volunteers and volunteering from the Get Go.

If you have paid staff at your organisation how are you educating them about volunteers and volunteering? Here’s one tip. If you have regular staff orientation sessions make sure volunteering is on the agenda. Do a little presentation or workshop on volunteers at your organisation. Don’t just rattle of what volunteers do. Spend time on how their work contributes to your organisation and its people or clients. Talk on how your organisation values your volunteers (because it should right?) and how they as staff members can contribute to the ongoing recognition of volunteers.

Are you presenting on volunteers at staff orientation? If the answer is no, now is the time to act. If your next question is “why” then here are a few of my reasons

·         First impressions last. Staff get to see that volunteers are important enough to be part of the orientation program
·         Staff understand roles and responsibilities of volunteers
·         Volunteers are part of the team right?
·         An opportunity to let people know about your role too!


 Let me know how it goes and email me if you need any more info.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DJs Thursday Tip - Turn your Volunteer Meeting into an event!

Thanks to a recommendation from a colleague I will attempt a regular feature on this Blog called DJs Thursday Tip!
Today’s is - Turn your Volunteer Meeting into an event.
Need to provide training updates or in-service?
If you have volunteer meetings throughout the year my tip is to make them really interesting to attract the numbers. Meetings are great to update volunteers on new procedures and to update volunteers on training and changes within your organisation.
One upon a time, many moons ago my volunteer meetings were run like a committee meeting. It bored the pants of many and numbers were low. I then decided to run meetings that included all the material of the “Boring” meeting and dressed it up with exciting additions. I included guest speakers. Sometimes speakers who had nothing to do with volunteerism but who had something interesting to say to 100 plus people!
I incorporated some educational entertainment – YouTube videos, Trivia questions, Workshops etc. I worked hard on making meetings more participatory.
I invited volunteers to help set the agenda of meetings. And they did! I established quarterly meetings running 2 and half hours and now they are all very well attended. They’ve become events with a high standard! And so they should.
Volunteer meetings are very important to the success of your volunteer program
So my 5 tips for fab meetings is to make them
·         Fun
·         Educational
·         Partly based on volunteer suggestions
·         Interactive
·         Different! Every time!
Now there’s a challenge for you every time!

A Mouthful of Volunteer Management!

Well I joined AAMov recently. Now there’s a mouthful. Every time I say AAMov people say Goodbye. I think that they think I am saying “I’m off”. For those of you outside Australia AAMov is the Australasian Association of Managers of Volunteers. It’s a good thing they use only one letter O in the abbreviation and not both. AAOMOV sounds even a bit more tricky. People might say “Bless you” after you utter the word.
I explained the above for those of you outside Australia and New Zealand. However at a recent network of volunteer managers and coordinators or coordinators and managers of volunteers which ever title takes your fancy, few had heard of AAMov which doesn't surprise me given the recent change. So I did my first good act for AAMov and explained to everyone that the Australasian Association of Managers of Volunteers or AAMov was once known as the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators or AAVA. Some people then went “Ah, AAVA” !
Tricky business this abbreviation thing. I remember in Ireland when they introduced a new Train system in Dublin they called it the D.A.R.T. It stands for Dublin Area Rapid Transport. Cork gave some thought to calling theirs CART.  A town called Fermoy however drew a line in the sand on that one.
In the UK they have the simple AVM which is the Association of Volunteer Managers. The “Manager of Volunteers” philosophy espoused by some hasn’t quite reached the northern hemisphere yet! If it does I suggest they go with MOVA so not to confuse themselves with AAMov.
It’s a tricky one and I can’t see any way around the mouthfuls really. So I will just continue to inform people I come across in the sector about these groups. It’s the work that we do that is more important than words after all.
For those of you interested in Joining AAMoV  - http://www.aava.asn.au/


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Part of the journey that needs more attention!

What, as managers or coordinators of volunteers sets us aside from managers of paid staff? There are many differences and indeed many similarities. In fact I’ve often championed the belief that in terms of management we simply have to adopt similar processes, systems and styles. But managing volunteers does have its different flavours without a shadow of a doubt. It encompasses a different skill set and it embraces different philosophies.
As a writer on matters Volunteerism and Volunteer Management I am interested to know why certain subject matter remains a little taboo in Volunteer Management. And I speak of ageing, dementia and death.
Google ageing, dementia and death in Volunteerism and see how you go. You will get plenty of references to volunteers who contribute in many caring ways to support those undergoing ageing, dementia and death.
But where is the discussion, writing or workshops on Ageing dementia and death in volunteering? Maybe I am missing it. Would love a few pointers if I am.
Although there have been significant lifestyle changes due to the Global Financial Crisis there has traditionally been a retirement age for people in the workplace. Not so in the Volunteering workplace. In fact for many decades a large percentage of the volunteering workforce has been drawn from the retired workforce. And it has been great and a real benefit to society.
But how are we dealing with the associated challenges this can cause?
Let’s compare a HR Manager to a Volunteer Manager in relation to these matters.
The HR Manager generally does not worry about a person’s capacity to do the task safely because of age i.e. they are generally not required to determine if an 87 year old can continue doing the task. Volunteer managers do.
The HR Manager has less chance, I dare suggest, of managing a person with dementia.
People die. A HR manager will attend the funeral of their staff normally in tragic circumstances. Funerals may be par for the course during the year for a manager of volunteers with an ageing population.
These are huge differences in the management of people. I’ve seen far too little dialogue on the issue. Yet I’ve heard individual managers broach the question often.
I’ve often written topic matter on our sector gaining the recognition it deserves. But I also want to write on topics in our sector that deserve more attention.
And this topic does. For 2 major reasons:
1.       Volunteering encompasses all ages. We need to value the effort that comes from the 16 year old to the 98 year old! While it seems so hip these days to study why youth is volunteering and to come up with strategies on how we can encourage  and manage youth volunteering we will do ourselves a disservice if we neglect study into volunteering amongst the older generation.
2.       The Volunteer Management sector has a unique opportunity to show how it provides leadership in managing people of all ages! This can rarely be said of other management sectors.
I’ve been to volunteer funerals. They have all been deeply touching. Their volunteering experience has always been a part of the story. I have shed many a tear.
But how do we all deal with grief? We need more dialogue on this subject too.
To be the best leaders we can be in volunteer management we need to be able to deal with ageing, dementia, death and dying! And we need to be able to look after ourselves!
We may find that hard to talk about but it’s part of our journey.

Part of the Journey

What, as managers or coordinators of volunteers sets us aside from managers of paid staff. There are many differences and indeed many similarities. In fact I’ve often championed the belief that in terms of management we simply have to adopt similar processes, systems and styles. But managing volunteers does have its different flavours without a shadow of a doubt. It encompasses a different skill set and it embraces different philosophies.
As a writer on matters volunteerism and Volunteer Management I am interested to know why certain subject matter remains a little taboo in Volunteer Management. And I speak of ageing, dementia and death.
Google ageing, dementia and death in Volunteerism and see how you go. You will get plenty of references to volunteers who contribute in many caring ways to support those undergoing ageing, dementia and death.
But where is the discussion, writing or workshops on Ageing dementia and death in volunteering. Maybe I am missing it. Would love a few pointers if I am.
Although there have been significant lifestyle changes due to the Global Financial Crisis there has traditionally been a retirement age for people in the workplace. Not so in the Volunteering workplace. In fact for many decades a large percentage of the volunteering workforce has been drawn from the retired workforce. And it has been great and a real benefit to society.
But how are we dealing with the associated challenges this can cause?
Let’s compare a HR Manager to a Volunteer Manager in relation to these matters
·         The HR Manager generally does not worry about a person’s capacity to do the task safely because of age i.e. they are generally not required to determine if an 87 year old can continue doing the task. Volunteer managers do.
·          The HR Manager has less chance, I dare suggest, of managing a person with dementia.
·         People die. A HR manager will attend the funeral of their staff normally in tragic circumstances. Funerals may be par for the course during the year for a manager of volunteers with an ageing population.
These are huge differences in the management of people. I’ve seen far too little dialogue on the issue. Yet I’ve heard individual managers broach the question often.
I’ve often written topic matter on our sector gaining the recognition it deserves. But I also want to write on topics in our sector that deserve more attention.
And this topic does. For 2 major reasons:

1.       Volunteering encompasses all ages. We need to value the effort that comes from the 16 year old to the 98 year old! While it seems so hip these days to study why youth is volunteering and to come up with strategies on how we can encourage  and manage youth volunteering we will do ourselves a disservice if we neglect study into volunteering amongst the older generation.

2.       The Volunteer Management sector has a unique opportunity to show how it provides leadership in managing people of all ages! This can rarely be said of other management sectors.I’ve been to volunteer funerals. They have all been deeply touching. Their volunteering experience has always been a part of the story. I have shed many a tear.

But how do we all deal with grief? We need more dialogue on this subject too.

To be the best leaders we can be in volunteer management we need to be able to deal with ageing, dementia, death and dying! And we need to be able to look after ourselves!

We may find that hard to talk about but it’s part of our journey.

Friday, July 6, 2012

POWER: When Volunteer Managers get together


Sharing a story here that may have an Australian context. But it is a story that can be applicable to an international audience of Volunteer Managers!
I had a great experience last week. A productive network meeting with volunteer managers and coordinators. VPM Health Network is a group of Volunteer Managers from South East Queensland in Australia who meet every 2 months. All work in a health setting. I’ve been at many a meeting of this group over the years but our last meeting held a few days ago really stood out for me.
One of the Volunteer managers (VMs) had a significant say on one of the topics we were discussing. After she had shared her view on a topic she said “I wouldn’t have spoken out a year ago, I would have said nothing in fact – it’s through belonging to the network that has given me the confidence to speak.” I was delighted to hear this. I’ve always championed strong networking and seen the value to VMs getting together to share experience and assist each other. And when someone else at the meeting said “That’s exactly how I feel – I would never have said a word at these meetings and I’ve learned through all of you” I felt so encouraged on the power of networking.
Please know that my quotes are not word perfect but it lead to the best network meeting I have been at for many a year. We had a meeting of 17 volunteer managers talking about the issues we all face in the workplace and discussing the state of volunteering in Australia and engaging in a discussion on the future direction of our own state body Volunteering Queensland and our National body  Volunteering Australia!
Neither group had a member present. But we did have a guest speaker from Volunteering Gold Coast promoting the great work this organisation is doing. They were also witness to some feedback on the other two groups.
This got me thinking. State and national bodies on volunteering must get more active in engaging people who are on the ground as far as volunteering is concerned.
They can no longer await a written or emailed invitation to address networks of Volunteer Management. They in fact should be proactive in engaging all stakeholders in Volunteerism. No longer should Volunteer Management be asking for a place at the table. The place at the table for VM should already be booked by a forward thinking state or national body on volunteering.
Small gestures like stating support for International Volunteer Managers Day are too easy. While important there must be a follow up. The follow up is engaging the Volunteer Management sector in meaningful ways.
What sort of ways?
How about these 2
The board of Volunteering Australia and all state bodies including a member of AAMOV (the Australasian Association of Volunteer Managers)
A national conference on volunteering that recognises Volunteer management! There has never been one to date IMHO! Shame!
With so much change happening in relation to funding of volunteer centres in Australia now is the time for Volunteer Management to be speaking its voice loudly. We have opportunities here.
A meeting of 17 local volunteer managers inspired this blog post. When I asked them if they had heard of AAMOV one of them had. One!  AAMOV is the Australasian Association of Managers of Volunteers. When I said AAVA around 7 had. (the previous name of the group which was the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators) But none were members. I told them I had put in an application to rejoin. At the next meeting I hope to give out some brochures.
Because I think that now, more than ever, because of great changes in volunteerism and in the thinking on such matters that Volunteer Management has a huge opportunity to finally guide direction and thinking in the great movement that is volunteering. And about time too.
Let’s find our power!

Friday, June 29, 2012

VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT MATTERS

Martin J Cowling, trainer, consultant and blogger on Volunteerism stated in a recent blog post about THE National Conference Volunteering Service in Chicago, Illinois, USA. recently

“The glaring absence for me, was the absolute non mention at any time of managers of volunteers”

http://cowlingreport.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/ncvs-launch.html

It seems to be a global trend.

I recall attending a National Conference on volunteering. I remember in the opening address the CEO of the national body on volunteering making a long speech on volunteering. I remember deciding to count the amount of times ‘Volunteer management” was mentioned. As far as I recall I was on the board of the association of Volunteer Management at the time. That’s why it had a special meaning for me back then. My continued passion for the role of volunteer manager and its recognition is the reason I still talk about it today. I don’t think it got a mention that day. I remember saying to someone else attending that I couldn’t believe Volunteer Management didn’t get a mention. I was rebuffed. ‘The conference is about volunteering, not Volunteer Management.”

It’s like the volunteer managers I’ve occasionally met who’ve said the same thing. When I talk about promoting their profession, promoting their skill set, promoting their value, promoting the integral role they play in their teams success I often get- “No – it’s about the volunteers, it’s not me”

Look! I get that. Truly. I know where they are coming from. But it’s the kind of humbleness that sticks our profession in a rut.

“We should be out there promoting our volunteer teams, singing their praises and broadcasting the fantastic work that they do”. Yes yes and yes. But they are a fantastic team because someone has planned their activity. Someone has strategically planned. Someone has coordinated their shifts. Someone has engaged in good people management skills. Someone has worked towards strong volunteer retention. Someone has devised excellent orientation and training programs. Someone has facilitated feedback. Someone has ensured job satisfaction; someone has ensured volunteer effort is recognised and valued on an organisational level. Someone has understood the value of building social capitol. Someone has enabled community participation. Someone has been a leader. Someone has advocated for volunteers.

That someone is the volunteer manager or coordinator. That someone matters too. Organisations that ignore this do so at their peril. Organisations that value volunteer management value volunteers and visa versa. It’s a key formula in successfully engaging volunteers in your organisation.

There are changes happening with National Volunteering bodies worldwide at the moment. Now they have an opportunity to finally engage with the volunteer management sector. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Let’s share and talk like we should have been from the get go! Because at the end of the day our goals are the same.

But…

We must stop sitting there waiting for this to happen. .

I’ve been advocating for this for years. I’ve been advocating for other changes for years. Some of these changes are now happening and I will blog on some other successes in the future.

I have learnt though that sometimes you might feel like a lone voice. It does not mean that the support isn’t there.

More and more people are standing up and speaking out for volunteerism and volunteer management.

They are on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

And this is progress. Thanks to those who are leading and being brave by writing and commentating first.











Sunday, June 3, 2012

GROW! 21 Modules for Volunteer Management Training

Over the last 12 months there has been some discussion on accreditation for the Volunteer Management sector and on the professionalization of Volunteer Management. In layman’s terms much of the discussion has been around what qualification people should have for entry into the field. Right now there is none. Despite our chatter within our echo chambers this remains the same. From my view I don’t feel much has been achieved as a result of some of the initiatives in VM circles as I don’t feel there was a great response to any online or website based forums or sites on the issue. One wonders where the lethargy stems from? But the reality remains that Volunteer Managers come from a variety of life experiences and I still see adds for the job that have the words “experience leading volunteers would be an advantage” as an afterthought. Not to mention the fact the “Mary from Finance” is still a popular choice to lead volunteers (see earlier post on Mary from Finance)


What is lacking beyond the social media chatter is the firm action of having effective and experienced Volunteer Managers across the globe collaborate on what a certificate/diploma/degree should look like.

I have done so many courses and workshops over the years that have served me so well in Volunteer Management. This combined with practical experience has given me the ability to lead with confidence, passion and belief in my own journey.

I believe that as a sector we need to lead in determining what type of education or course needs to be created to bring forth our future leaders of volunteers. We have a choice. We can sit back and accept what others decree is best for us or we can contribute to the discussion on what such training or education looks like. The latter is most important.

Peak bodies for volunteering may eventually come undone when they ignore the voice of those working at the coalface. It’s such an important voice.

So to start the ball rolling here are my thoughts on the skills I believe need to be inducted into any Volunteer Management course! And please, when and if you have the time, add yours!



1. Management and coordination

2. Conflict resolution

3. Recruitment

4. Interviewing

5. Marketing/media/PR

6. Event Management

7. Retention

8. Recognition

9. Task planning

10. Time management

11. Reflective Counselling

12. Listening

13. Empathy

14. Leadership

15. Grief counselling

16. Financial Management

17. Business development

18. Legal frameworks

19. Workplace diversity

20. Health and safety

21. Public speaking









Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big news for Volunteering Sector in Australia!

From Voluntering Australias Website

http://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/About-Us/-Board-/Volunteering-Australia-Board-Communiqu-May-2012.asp



Volunteering Australia Board Communique - May 2012
Staff changes at Volunteering Australia.
The Board of Volunteering Australia met in Melbourne last week to plan the transition arrangements following the recent decision to re-locate the administrative headquarters for the organisation from Melbourne to Canberra, ACT.
The transition to Canberra will allow to VA to work more closely with the Australian Government as we jointly introduce initiatives to support the recently released National Volunteering Strategy. The strategy has re-affirmed the importance of having a strong national body to represent the interests of volunteers and volunteer involving organisations at a time of significant change in the sector.
The transition will commence with the closure of the Melbourne office on Friday 29th June. Unfortunately this also means that all current staff and volunteers of Volunteering Australia will be leaving the organisation at the end of June. The commitment of this group of individuals will be missed at VA and it is with regret that I advise of their departure. The board would like to formally acknowledge the contribution of Cary and his team to the advancement of volunteering issues and volunteering infrastructure with some team members having over 10 years experience.
Volunteering Australia has received and accepted an offer of accommodation on very generous terms from one of our Foundation Members in Volunteering ACT and we will commence transition to these new premises during July and August. For this we thank Volunteering ACT. Recruitment of a new Executive Officer and administrative staff in Canberra will commence within the next month with a view to being fully operational by the end of August.
VA is continuing discussions with its Foundation Members to ensure continuity of services during the transitional period.
This move comes at a time when Volunteering Australia is undertaking a major review of its governance and institutional arrangements to ensure that it can best represent the volunteering sector in the decades to come. The move will enable Volunteering Australia to establish closer connections with key stakeholders within government.
VA will also have some exciting new initiatives to announce over the next 4/6 weeks so keep an eye on the website.

Paul Lynch

President
Volunteering Australia
May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thanks

My blog passed 80,000 reads in the last 12 hours. This after 2 years amazes me. For a site that is non commercial and doesn’t advertise itself! Time to say thanks to everyone who follows the site. Thanks to everyone who checks back here now and then to read posts.

I am thankful that I work with such amazing and truly inspiring people. I am thankful that I have inspiring colleagues around the globe!

Volunteer management is such an awesome profession! Volunteerism is such an awesome movement!

Thank you for sharing part of my journey!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The usual platitudes on Volunteering

A keen follower of volunteering I’ve been watching how the media. Government and society in general have been reacting to National Volunteer week 2012 in Australia.
I worry a little about the message. If the sectors greatest claim to fame is the fact that we contribute x amount of millions in unpaid labor then I think that we lose the message and   the philosophy of volunteering.
I’ve seen a few speeches on volunteering this week. A few speeches from Politicians. Now folks, whether you like it or not politicians matter! And they have been referring a bit about “unpaid labor’! Now, I know I may stir some debate here but I for one do not equate volunteering to “unpaid labor” For if we do this then we devalue the concept of volunteerism to a method of getting stuff done without a cost hourly value! I put it in those terms even though I believe that effective volunteering does come with a cost. That is to say money for resourcing volunteer programs due to staffing, effective volunteer management, training, orientation, etc etc.
It annoys me that Government can say we save x amount of billions because of volunteers and don’t go on to show us how a few million can be spent resourcing effective volunteer management!
This is just my little “say” during National Volunteer week. The only way I can have this say is because I have my own blog and can say these things. A national organisation on volunteering should have a forum on encouraging feedback. I personally don’t believe we have that in Australia. If National Volunteer Week can gift us something it should be a forum where volunteers, managers of volunteers, resource centers, consultants and the peak body get together and talk about what volunteering means in 2012!
Perhaps we can aim for this in 2013!



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Volunteer Weeks and 10 possible ways to make it an Every Day event!

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is coming up soon, in May, in Australia. The week is celebrated in many other countries at various times throughout the year.

 I’m an enormous fan of NVW. It furnishes us the opportunity to promote and recognise volunteering. It also gives us the opportunity to recruit more people to volunteering through education.

 In our echo chambers we all agree that these weeks are important. But are these proceedings having a truly imperative influence on volunteerism? Are we gaining what we should be gaining i.e. society buy in into the value of volunteering and thus more participation and support from the people that govern our societies? During volunteer weeks Volunteerism does seem to garnish some attention from Government and media. How do we ensure volunteering is being supported by society and Government all year round?

Here is my top ten wish list!

 1.Volunteer programs are adequately resourced by organizations

 2.Volunteers are treated as equal members of any organisational team

 3.Volunteers have meaningful work

4.Peak bodies for volunteers and resource centre’s are supported by society, corporations and government without losing an independent voice

 5.Peak bodies for volunteers are highly accountable to those in the volunteering sector and are transparent in their actions and governance

 6.Volunteer management is taken seriously and supported and resources are made available to ensure effective and professional volunteer management

 7.Volunteering remains fluid with many flavours and colours and remains unrestricted by dogma

8.The volunteering sector adapts to emerging trends with respect and flexibility.

 9.Open and free dialogue is encouraged bringing disparate views together to encourage the growth of volunteering with no one claiming ownership of ideas and ideals

 10.Volunteering is treated with respect.

 Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? I could write a few paragraphs under each point. How much of this wish list is true in your own experience?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Volunteer Management Pillow Talk



Today is International Pillow Day. I only know because I see the story about it on ABC News online in Australia. It’s also called International Pillow Fight Day.

From the International Awareness day website:

“I couldn't believe it when I heard ... that yes, International Pillow Fight Day really will be taking place!
The Urban Playground Movement has described public spaces in our cities as 'public living rooms'. Or I suppose, in this case, it would be bedrooms!
Lots of places around the world have had great fun getting involved with pillow fight day. See some absolutely fantastic pictures of the day taking place around the world - from Amsterdam, Budapest, to New York.
The basic idea is to get every major city in the world involved in this organised event! Flashmobs like this are getting more and more common, and I think its a great way to let loose amidst our often stressful working weeks!”

On the same site I searched “International Volunteer Managers Day”
I got the result “Sorry, no matches were found containing International Volunteer Managers Day”

So I googled “International Volunteers manager day” and I got 11,900 results. Not bad!

But when I googled “International Pillow Fight day” I got 392,000 hits! Just a difference of 380,000 or so!

Obviously IVMD needs more traction. More publicity. So here’s my suggestion. On November 5 we have an international collaboration where volunteer managers engage in a massive international pillow fight. We coordinate an event where we are pictured smashing each other or ourselves with pillows through social media. When people ask us why we say that we are unashamedly stealing another idea this year because we believe that IVMD deserves more attention. And as everyone else criticizes us for being unoriginal we gain some attention for our sector and for volunteerism!

That’s the start of getting some attention on IVMD. Then we look at ways of making the day more appealing. I love IVMD and have always supported the concept. But it needs to become more social media savvy! Because that’s the world we live in now.

I’m ready to play my part with a pillow on the next IVMD. But maybe beforehand we can come up with some stunt that we can call our own!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The ART of paying volunteers!

Volunteers are not paid in money. But we forget sometimes that one can pay in many ways. And there are some ways that volunteers must be paid!
Pay is an interesting word. You can be ‘Paid” to do something” You can “pay” a compliment. Sometimes when one seeks revenge they seek “payback”. In space travel we have a payload!

I believe that ART is the currency we should be using to pay volunteers

ART

Acknowledgement

Respect

Thanks

In My opinion these three words are interlinked and similar in some ways but are the key ingredients in how organisations, government, society and volunteer managers could treat volunteers.

It is too easy to stand up and make a speech during a National Volunteer week event or a volunteer’s function and say that volunteers are acknowledged, respected and thanked. And leave it at that. The problem that we may have with these types of events is that they can be conduits for flowery language on volunteer recognition. Volunteers will know though. Volunteers will see through anyone’s attempt at ART at a volunteers function if that ART is not practiced throughout the year.
ART must be ongoing to be real and relevant. I believe that the organisation that practices good ART can have the most effective and happy volunteer program!

Let’s look at how we may practice ART

Acknowledgment


Have you ever had that moment where you are walking down a busy corridor and you see someone you know and you say hello and they completely ignore you? That person may be busy or preoccupied. They may have their attention on someone else. Sometimes they may hold positions more senior to yours. You pass by and you still think “They could have at least said hello”
Normally when this happens to me I ensure that I make a bigger effort in my greeting the next time I see them. I ensure that I always give a friendly greeting. I ensure that I am always polite in the face of impoliteness.

I’ve met volunteers who have shared such stories with me. So believe me when I say that it’s important. It’s important to ensure that staff that share an organisation with volunteers acknowledge their presence! It’s important that people acknowledge that volunteers are part of the team.

Respect


Assigning meaningful work to volunteers is in my opinion the greatest way to show respect to volunteers. Thought out and well planned roles show that you respect the volunteer contribution. Meaningful work of course can be subjective but the respect factor comes in when you have assigned the most suitable role for the most suitable volunteer. Always keep checking if the volunteer is happy with the role they are performing. Feedback encapsulates respect. If you are constantly encouraging feedback from your volunteers you are giving them the respect that they deserve.

Thanks


The ‘Thanks” factor is so overlooked in my opinion. And we are poorer for that. Sometimes we ignore the human condition.

I do a job. I am paid to do a job. I appreciate the fact that I am paid. But even in my paid capacity I feel great when I am thanked for something. It’s not ego. I struggle with praise. But I appreciate a thank you!
I believe as volunteer managers we get blindsided when we fall for the line “I am not in it for the thanks”! So many volunteer s that I have encountered in my decades involved in volunteerism have said this. In fact I probably have said this too once upon a time.But it’s a kind of fallacy
How many people do you know who have rejected a thank you?

I postulate that volunteers know a genuine thank you. If you have a once a year event where the thank you platitudes are in abundance and the rest of the year is thankless then you are in serious trouble!

I still feel real in my role when I can say thank you to a volunteer and mean it! I therefore hope that when I say those words they are understood to be genuine!

There is an art to effective Volunteer Management


What are your thoughts on this ART?

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