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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Volunteering and the donation of time.





Sam walks in the door of a major Not for Profit and stands at the reception desk. “Good morning” he says “I have quite a substantial amount of money to donate and I would like to discuss this with someone.” I can pretty much guarantee you that the receptionists face will light up that calls will be made and that Sam will be seen very quickly. Sam has become a donor. Sam will never be called “just a donor”. Sam will get newsletters and emails and they will talk about Impact. He will know how his contribution is making a difference. He will be given plenty of other opportunities to donate in different areas. He may become a regular donor. He is important. He will be treated as such.

Alicia walks in the door of a major Not for Profit and stands at the reception desk. “Good morning” she says “I have quite a substantial amount of time to donate and I would like to discuss this with someone.” The receptionist may well look befuddled. Alicia may need to emphasise that she would like to volunteer. Then she may be referred to a website or given some paperwork to fill in. They might try to contact the under pressure volunteer coordinator to see if they have time but they may well not be answering their phone because they are training and have no support resources to be able to handle the query.

After going home and waiting a week Alicia is invited in for an interview. She is asked to fill in a police check for the admin role she is interested in. She also has another three or four forms to fill out. She must understand the code of conduct. She attends the interview and is grilled about her motivation. Nobody once mentions that she has been a senior partner in a law firm for most of her life although it was in the CV that was sent in. She wonders if it was read.

She is told that unless she commits for 12 months she can’t volunteer. Inwardly she smiles at this non-binding and non-legal contract.  She states she will do her best.

She is invited to a four hour induction. Most of the time is spent on what she cannot do. Rules are set. She can’t figure out why the person doing the induction is talking to them as though they were children. She cringes when she is referred to as a “Vollie”

In the next room Sam is at a morning tea. He is enjoying home-made scones with jam and cream as the CEO explains the impact they all make. No checks and no paper work hinder his donation.

Alicia toddles off after her induction. She has been “told” what to do but not informed about the difference volunteers make. She decides not to come back. Something was just not right. She decides to volunteer money instead.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Inspiring - A tale from Volunteers in the field during Disaster

Fred Rodgers once said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Over the last few weeks Queenslanders and our cousins in NSW in Australia  have not only seen scary things on the news they have literally experienced it due to Cyclone Debbie and its effects. And our Red Cross helpers have been there from members to volunteers and from staff to supporters.
It was a Friday night when I got the call “can you help us in our operations centre tomorrow?” and like Red Cross people across the state there was no hesitation and I was at Humanity place the following morning at 8am. I had been activated once before due to a fire on Russell Island but this was different. This was a disaster on a much larger scale. The centre was full of people. “Can you be deputy Opps?” I was asked. I nervously accepted not even sure what I’d be doing. But now was not the time for too many questions. Many people were giving new things a go. It was all “hands in”. Immediately we felt a sense of trust in our leadership team whose training for such events kicked in straight away.
Learning by doing should never be underrated and soon I was in the thick of it assisting the operations manager and building our Ops team for the coming days. We were responsible for looking after our people on the ground ensuring they had the tools to assist and ensuring we had the right people at the right time in the right places.
As we got stuck in I was amazed at what occurred around me. Very few people knew each other on my first day. People had arrived from further afield in Queensland and from interstate. Strangers on day one, we were soon bonding with our mission to help the many thousands suddenly made vulnerable in our community. We were starting at the crack of dawn and finishing late together. Time did not matter and by the end of the five day deployment we would have done anything for each other with new friendships being forged, friendships that will last a lifetime.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. There were times of frustrations. A printer breaking down, a mobile dying, a computer freezing would test your patience as would a miscommunication or a look taken wrongly. But continuous team meetings and debriefing kept us grounded. What mattered most though was how people were treating each other. A thumbs up from across the room or a heartfelt hug from a team member got people through the testing times. There was a sense that we knew that any challenge we faced paled into insignificance when compared to the challenges our community were experiencing.
On the final day of this deployment I led a team of 15 volunteers into the field for outreach into the Beenleigh and Logan areas. This was the most humbling experience of all. I was now with volunteers in the field. We came face to face with people impacted by devastation. Some people had been cut off from the rest of the world for days. Some had lost power for days and had lost all their food. As we drove down one street with community recovery officers I looked with shock at the houses where their appliances were now rubbish on their footpaths. Washing machines, clothes, mattresses and toys lined the street. I could see where the water had reached on the lampposts and street signs – twice my height!
The resilience of the people struck me the most and their gratefulness. The other thing that struck me instantly was their reaction to seeing the Red Cross. Apprehensive as we pulled up in our car, as soon as they saw our emblem you could see they relaxed. They knew we were the helpers. I held hands with mothers and their kids. Spoke to dads out fixing their yards. As we all returned to our base, volunteers brought their stories with them. Raghu who had just commenced as a volunteer told us that at one house a woman sat with him and cupping his face with her hands had cried for five minutes without a word being exchanged. Afterwards she thanked him for allowing her to do so as she had been holding her emotion in for days.
Being in the field, more than anything I’ve ever done at Red Cross, showed me why we do what we do. It made sense of everything we do – the work and long hours in the operation centre, the training our volunteers undertake, the dedication of our members and volunteers, the trauma teddies and why we work in Voluntary Service.  This was our Power of Humanity and it deepened my commitment to the Red Cross.
The deployment came at the same time I was starting a new team of nine volunteers at our volunteer hub. Suddenly the response to this disaster became more important. And wouldn’t you know it – all 9 volunteers made themselves available to Emergency Services instead and continue to assist in the operations centre and in the field.
On Saturday I commence another deployment. My team will join me again. Members and volunteers and staff will join the next wave of helpers. I realise now that nothing differentiates us. We are the helpers. There are still so many helpers. The world is a better place because of them!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Enough of the constant struggles in Volunteer Management




As a person who had been in the volunteer management sector for 20 years this year I am privileged that I know volunteer managers around the world.

I have made great friends in the sector. It happens. Meeting people from around the world who are as passionate about Volunteer management as you are is a pleasure and a privilege.

Although I don’t blog as much these days I often hear from people in our sector through my email, my blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Something happened in the last week that inspired this blog. I have changed the names. Sandra has been a Volunteer Manager for 15 years. Last week she sent me a heartfelt email. She had finally given up the ghost of her role. “After 15 years I’ve had enough of the constant struggles within the sector to be appreciated and recognised. Specifically by my own manager and organisation. Sometimes you need to put your health first”

Wow! So much for length of service!

In the same week I heard from Mark. In the sector for about 15 years he is thinking of leaving. Why? “I just feel that in our organisation volunteering always come last. We are given a room that can best be described as a cupboard and we get no financial support at all” And he goes on “ We are like an afterthought”

Volunteers as an afterthought. In our sector. In 2017. And we think we are making progress.

What’s kept me in this sector for 20 years? I have been lucky. Because of my passion and interest in speaking about my experience I have come in contact with global thought leaders on volunteering. I’ve worked with Martin J Cowling and Andy Fryar from Australia. I’ve presented with Rob Jackson from the UK. I’ve worked alongside Jayne Cravens from the US and written for and met Susan J Ellis. I’ve met with Sue Kobar from NZ and Sue Jones from England.

Name dropping? No. I’ve simply been lucky that these thought leaders have come into my life and I’ve had the ability to call o these people when I’ve needed to.

She won’t like me saying it because she is a very humble lady but I wouldn’t be still in the sector if it wasn’t for Susan J Ellis. Once I was close to leaving the sector. The reasons are what volunteer managers go through every day. But in a Skype call that got Susan out of bed one early morning she was there for me.

And as I struggled to remain in the sector Andy Fryar and Jayne Cravens were like good buddies: always there with words of encouragement!

So I was lucky. I remained in the sector. I moved jobs but I had the most supportive global network!

And I realise that not everyone has that!

As long as volunteering is seen as nice to have but not necessary we will struggle. I’ve argued for years that the value you put in your organisations volunteers is directionally proportional to your Volunteer Management.

When I hinted at this blog on Twitter someone replied that we have improved immensely. I don’t know. It worries me that people leave the sector due to lack of support. Two people reached out to me in the last week. Why could they not talk honestly to their networks? Why could they not send their communication to their association for volunteer managers? This is the bread and butter stuff that associations need to be there for. Stop being there because your board status seems fancy or it enhances your resume. Be there as an activist to support your Volunteer Manager!

I write this for those thinking of leaving the sector. People have helped me. Please email me if I can help you before you quit.

Because I get it. And I care.








Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At long last - an event that promises to concentrate on the needs of our Volunteer management profession - Let us see!







The 2017 National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership: Mapping Our Future, Strengthening Our Voice, is scheduled for July 26-28 in St. Paul, Minnesota






Even though this is an American conference, they really hope to attract participants from many countries.


Click into the Summit Web page and you can read about the event’s vision and goals as well as logistical information. While the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) is the official sponsor, the conference is being planned by colleagues from more than a dozen states and they do want to gather a national (even international) audience.


I have long wished for a similar conference here in Australia so I am hoping that we can gain some valuable learning from this conference. With an expected attendance of 500 it will be a wonderful opportunity to bring together some thought leaders from our sector.


The few other major conferences in our field scatter attention to diverse tracks, of which the skills of volunteer engagement are simply one of many choices. But this will be an event that proposes to put the profession of volunteer management front and centre. 


Let’s hope too that it will be a major success thus driving other nations to do the same. Our sector deserves something new and bold. Lets hope this conference delivers.

Footnote: I am going to keep a close watch of this. If I see that its the same topics and workshops run by the same people with the same message that they have been sprouting for 20 years I am going to call it. The problem with the sector in its high turnover can be advantageous for some as so called experts can rehash the same mantra year after year. Not any more. Be brave, be different, be ground-breaking and lets hear some new voices to advance the sector because if you are doing the same workshop on advancing the sector that you were doing ten years ago then I'm calling that. Watch This Space!

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