June 3, 2010

Why blog about Managing Volunteers?

Posted in Introduction at 11:21 pm by Sue Hine

Well – I’ve given a few hints in the stories below about language.  Here’s my list of laments for the state of managing volunteers:

  • The labels and the language we use about ourselves can be first-class put-downs
  • I have been at meetings for managers of volunteers where a chorus of ‘poor-me’s’ becomes a downward spiral with lots of hang-dog heads.
  • I’ve seen job descriptions that go on for 10 pages, asking the impossible of any one person.
  • I’ve noted how the Manager of Volunteers is sometimes confined to a poky office miles from where the real action is.
  • The organisation gives heaps of praise for the work of volunteers and never a nod to the person who makes it all happen.
  • Volunteers and their manager are perceived as the soft and fluffy bits of the organisation, and they do not need to be included in strategic planning or management decision-making.
  • I really object to finding statistics showing how much volunteer services contribute to the domestic economy, without a mention of the skilled management and leadership that gets the services going. 

This is why I write about managing volunteers. I want something better for volunteers, for their organisations, and most of all for the people responsible for volunteer programmes and services.

Oooh, I hear you say.  You think I have gone to extremes in these examples of exploitation and lack of recognition?  If you have never experienced any of the above then you and your organisation are most fortunate.  Please, share your good news stories.  My future posts will be accentuating the positive, as well as pointing out the heap of resources available to make things better.


  1. DJ Cronin said,

    Firstly Sue, May I give you a warm welcome to the blogosphere! I couldn’t agree more with your lists of laments. I find myself in the good position of working for an organisation that values both Volunteers and Volunteer Management.

    However, this is something I have worked at for a number of years. There was a time where I could tick off most of the list at another organisation. But one day I took the conscious decision to abandon the “poor me” and took action to gain adequate recognition and respect for Volunteer Management.

    It was all about educating up. And I made the link – If an organisation truly values its Volunteers then it truly values Volunteer Management.

    Keep up the good work Sue!

    DJ Cronin


  2. Sue Hine said,

    Thanks DJ. I hope you realise what a profound statement you have made in your last para. You have kick-started my thinking about how an organisation “truly values its volunteers” which goes way beyond the list of ‘rewards and recognition’ we can find in a basic manual on management of volunteers. What sort of criteria would you apply in measuring an organisation’s valuing of volunteers?


  3. Alison said,

    Thanks Sue for getting this organised and giving us the opportunity to inspire and challenge each other. I thought you may be interested to know that Mary Potter Hospice is one of a few organisations for a research project about to begin by Victoria University and I quote “Organisations tell us that their volunteers are ‘absolutely essential’ to achieving their goals, yet it is not often that the value of these inputs to services is reported in organisations’ accounts or grant applications. As part of a larger stream of research around volunteers in Victoria Management School and the School of Accounting and Commercial Law, we are undertaking a study into how organisations value and manage volunteer performance”. So watch this space as in a couple of months I hope we have some interesting results to share! I look forward to following the blog and am so pleased that Sue has the motivation to make this happen and connects us all when dealing with very similar issues. kia ora.


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