Monday, January 15, 2018

My top ten gripes about volunteer management and volunteerism

Had a Twitter exchange today that gave me the idea for this blog.

What I tweeted is at number 10 but these are not in order of preference just a top ten gripe list. Feel free to add yours.  In fact I might turn each one into a tweet.

I like to read job ads for leaders of volunteers. Usually I read the responsibilities which are major. Then I read the pay band which is minor. Usually part time too. What's with #crapwages in #volmgt #lovols #value #respect

I got a good reply on Twitter to the above. I will honour it with a place on my top ten list

Even more frustrating when a job post doesn't mention pay, which usually means it's embarrassingly low. I never share job posts without pay listed. – Liza Dyer

My reply to that gets number 8

Or when they won't list the role as Manager for fear of having to pay management wages! 

When there is an ad for a volunteer leadership position but leading or working with volunteers only makes it to “desirable” in the selection criteria or does not make it at all! And people find themselves in senior roles concerning volunteering but haven’t a clue about volunteerism!

A volunteer management role that states – “Must have HR degree or experience”


People who are given the responsibility of managing volunteers as an add on to their core role. I.E. our receptionist is nice so he will be good “looking after the vollies” or “Our Social worker will have plenty of time to manage the 100 volunteers we have too”

The word “Vollies”. I am not sure why but it makes me cringe.

“Just A” As in “I’m just a volunteer” or “I am just a volunteer coordinator” We are all guilty of this one. It needs to be dead and buried!

“The lifeblood of the organisation” This old chestnut usually is brought out during an event like volunteers week. Usually used by a politician, CEO or journalist. WE are tired of the lip service. Find more profound language my friends!

The following conversation

‘What do you do?”

“I manage volunteers”


“That’s nice”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 – The year of the Volunteer Activist

2017 – What a year. The year of war, terror, fear, fear mongering, Trump, North Korea, anger and volunteering. I added volunteering because you just got to take something good from the year right? But wait up, how many people volunteered for the Trump campaign? Is this volunteering for good? There is a blog and a debate for the future. Even so, the words “low level volunteer” still echo in my mind.

I’ve been hanging around on this planet for almost 48 years now. I don’t think I’ve seen so much anger and divisiveness in my life. Everyone seems to be fighting. Black white. Rich poor. Arab Jew. Woman man. Religious atheist. Social media perpetuated this anger. You can’t read a news story on Facebook without reading the brawling in the comments section. Keyboard warriors have masses of courage.

You don’t see much compassion, love, forgiveness and tolerance on social media. You certainly don’t see much of this coming from our Governments. It’s enough to despair but I sense something is not quite right here.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? While we are all fighting are we simply distracted by what is really going on? Imagine if we paused the arguments put down our phones and devices and just had a look around us for a day.  Imagine if we just had a conversation about the growing divide between rich and poor and the disappearance of the middle class. Imagine if we saw refugees with our hearts instead of our minds and ignored the fear mongering driven by a government agenda supported by the press.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? While we are all fighting do we not notice that there is little difference between political parties? Kids will starve to death by the time we usually reach lunch time but we have our reality shows and dinner delivered on our apps to look forward to in the evening.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? Because above the noise of our arguments no one hears the cash registers ringing at the billions many of our governments spend on defence. And we won’t worry about that as long as we get a great New Year’s Eve fireworks display in major cities that costs millions upon millions. But that’s ok because the homeless get a free show too right?

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? Because we get more time to go to the beaches due to the beautiful hot weather and those scientists are full of fake news.

Who benefits from us all fighting with each other? The answer is those who benefit from us all being distracted. And who are they? The status quo brigade. The elite. The powerful. The people who own you. Or like to think they do. Their biggest fear is the old adage “the people united will never be defeated”

Because united we find our humanity. United we see that we all breathe the same air and bleed the same colour. United there are no borders. United we seek equality and justice for all. United we know we produce enough resources on this earth to serve all. United we know there is cheaper cleaner energy.

And there is hope. In 2017 I’ve watched brave people around the globe take action for good. People volunteer to make a difference but are being choosier about where they volunteer. Activism is growing. I was once at a national conference where someone argued that activism and volunteerism were inherently different. I disagree. I believe the world will change for the good because of volunteer activists!

This year for the first time since the Iraq war I protested. Alerted by social media to the case of people who were being treated inhumanly, without compassion and with cruelty I decided to be on the right side of history and picked up my placard and sang my protest song. Because no more. Not in my name.

Here’s to the volunteer activist in 2018. But first, try and see all the distractions for what they really are.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Time for a Quality Mark in Volunteering because it matters!

The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement in Australia provide a sound framework for supporting the volunteer sector. The Standards are easy to follow and are adaptable to different organisation types and different forms of volunteering which reflect the diversity of this growing sector.

Direct benefits to organisations:

·         They provide good practice guidance and benchmarks to help organisations attract, manage and retain volunteers, and

·         Help manage risk and safety in their work with volunteers.

Direct benefits to volunteers:

·         They help improve the volunteer experience.

The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement (2015) are the intellectual property of Volunteering Australia. They are recognised within Australia as the best practice framework for volunteer involvement.

Additionally, Volunteering Australia will be developing a flexible, tiered voluntary certification, or ‘Quality Mark’ system to enable organisations to check how they are tracking in implementing the Standards.

This is great news for the volunteering sector and for the volunteer management profession. So many of our charity organisations rely on volunteers across the nation. But it is vital that they are being seen to do the right thing by volunteers and those who manage them.

People who may wish to volunteer should have guidance on how organisations value volunteers. In truth organisations that don’t value volunteering effort eventually run into strife anyway as volunteers vote with their feet if they are not treated well or “used” inappropriately.

Organisations that have the ability to resource Human resources and a plethora of other paid positions are doing volunteering a disservice if they engage volunteers but do not resource volunteer management. Volunteers do not come for free. I repeat volunteers do not come for free! Effective volunteer programs are adequately resourced with staff, training, development and recognition budgets.

A quality mark or best practice mark on volunteering standards will not be compulsory for organisations yet but it will push to the forefront those organisations that see the value of volunteering and effective volunteer management.

The Volunteer Management sector must get behind the National Standards as it advances our profession. Volunteers will get behind the National Standards as it goes to their rights and protection and all organisations with volunteers have a duty to implement these well researched industry standards!

Failure to do so may not have consequences as of yet. But if a quality mark is developed and an effective accreditation system put in place organisations that do not get on board will be left behind or volunteers and staff who are passionate about the mission they work for will demand to their leadership that their organisations have standards for volunteer involvement! Bring it on!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My personal pledge to be the voice for volunteer managers is...

Continue advocating for the importance of effective volunteer management in all volunteer involving organisations!
Argue for closer relationship and collaboration between associations of volunteer managers and peak bodies and other leading agencies in the volunteering sector!
Challenge silos and echo chambers within our volunteer management sector!
Demonstrate that volunteer management is a specialised skill that takes unique talent, dedication and hard work and when done effectively demonstrates authentic and transformative leadership that sets an example for leadership in other fields! 
Keep spreading the news on what an inspiring and awesome vocation volunteer management is and to encourage leaders of the future!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

20 Years A Volunteer Manager

At about this time In 1997 I first encountered a role where I was managing volunteers. The spice girls were all the rage. Mary Mcaleese was elected president of Ireland, the first time in the world that one woman had succeeded another as elected head of state. Bill Clinton was re - elected.

Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car crash. I remember the newsflash on TV like it was yesterday. Tiger won the masters at 21. Hale-Bopp came to have a look at Earth. John was PM in Australia while Tony ruled in the UK.

It was one heck of a year for the Adelaide Crows, Might and Power and Skip Away. People were dancing to MMMbop and Freak.

The International Year of Volunteers was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1997. Australia, and in particular the 4,500 volunteer centres, played a significant role in petitioning for the year.

In 1997 Apple was a struggling computer company, AOL was a booming Internet service provider, Microsoft was on the verge of releasing Windows 98, and the Web was a very different place. There was no Google web page!

A youngish Irishman had the task of Managing a major Doorknock appeal for a Major Not for Profit in a Major Australian City. I had the belief back then that our dreams would be achieved by the assistance of volunteers. I gathered a team of inspiring Southbank TAFE students around me and together we recruited over 2000 volunteers to Doorknock and collect for our great cause. 80% of our volunteer collectors were high school students. And we did it! We surpassed our target. I knew then that volunteers could achieve anything. And so began my 20 years in volunteer management.

20 years later and I now reflect on one of the most inspiring and amazing professions one could choose. I have interviewed thousands of volunteers. I have hundreds of inspiring stories. I have seen friendships forged, people changed, lives impacted, tears of joy, lives comforted, communities helped, people helped, time committed, good deeds carried out, time sacrificed, love shared, smiles embraced, hugs a million and tears wiped dry.

I have seen people grow, people shine and people share. I have seen the very best of the human endeavour. In an oft negative world I have seen the most positive of people. I have seen real impact delivered by people giving up their time. I have seen heroes, quiet achievers, great leaders and simply wonderful human beings at their most humanitarian and compassionate.

I have encountered amazing colleagues across the globe. I count volunteer sector people as friends from the United States to New Zealand and from London to Adelaide and Toronto to Dublin and Cork!

What changes have I seen in my 20 years? This is for another blog post. This post is just for my celebration. If you are reading this and you have just started a career in volunteer management and/or coordination welcome to what can be a most life rewarding profession! Just know that we are a tight knit community around the globe and many of your colleagues are here for you!

I finish this little reflection to thank my colleagues around the world who have been there to support me and encourage me. I know that I can always count on you! That’s Volunteer Managers for you!

We are a profession. We make a difference.

And finally to volunteers. I would not be here without you. In 20 years you have never failed to cease inspiring me.

Thank you

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Volunteers. Volunteerism. Volunteer Management. Titles used to get more views on volunteer management blogs!

I haven’t blogged for a while. Been so busy with life and work. That happens. I’ve realised my blog is part of my life but not all of it. I come back here now and then to share A STORY or to impart some wisdom according to DJ Cronin!

I do have lots of stories to tell. But I was intrigued by an email I got today from Susan J Ellis. At the most recent Volunteer Manager conference in the US a group convened consisting of bloggers who blog about volunteer management. There happens to be a few. I imagine maybe 30 around the globe but I may be wrong.

A bloggers group met there. People who blog about volunteerism and volunteer management. And I admire them as I admire Susan (who I think is the reason so many of us have a voice today and for the fact that we consider ourselves a profession!)

Anyway I could not make this conference due to the fact that I could not gather a dollar to attend. (Happens to many volunteer coordinators around the world who are sometimes lucky to get a few coffee vouchers throughout the year)

And that kind of thinking led me to realise that I want to be there for those people who coordinate or lead or manage volunteers but have no budget! Its ok for me to say “If you are serious about your career then you will spend 70 bucks of your own money to join your “professional Association” If you are serious about being a volunteer management professional then you should spend hundreds if not thousands of your own dollars on professional development.

 Most of your regular volunteer coordinators or managers cannot afford professional development. And Guess why? Most of your regular volunteer coordinators or managers are poorly paid! And most of them get no budget. Yes….no budget….not just a small budget! Sometimes trainers and consultants forget this. This should not be the case because this needs to be a serious organisational policy! But there is no one there to push this through organisations. Or peak bodies are too busy dealing with Governments lack of intelligence of all matters volunteering.

But back to the bloggers group for I digress!

Groucho Marx once said that he would never want to be a member of a CLUB that would accept his membership. I’m wondering about a bloggers group and hoping that this blog gets their first debate going!

Blog about people who will never afford professional development because their organisations place no value on volunteer management

 Over to you

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