July 9, 2010

Managers Matter!

Posted in Managers Matter at 10:22 pm by Sue Hine

I do not recall ever seeing a New Zealand-based research study related to the management of volunteers.  Plenty of information about the contributions of the community and voluntary sector to the economy, to social policy, and to Civil Society.  Heaps of stuff about volunteers and volunteering.  Indeed there is a rich tapestry of resources about the sector, but you would have to dig hard to find something specific to management of volunteers.

 Sure, there has been a welcome upsurge in resources for managers of volunteers in the past ten years – guides on practice principles and policy development, either in print or on websites; opportunities for training through Volunteer Centre fora, international experts offering workshops, and Unitec’s post-graduate Diploma.  Access to information via the internet has expanded our access to knowledge and resources, including research studies and journal papers on management of volunteers. 

Finally an indigenous account of managers of volunteers has been launched.  Managers Matter is a survey undertaken by Karen Smith and Carolyn Cordery of Victoria University of Wellington addressing the question Who Manages New Zealand’s Volunteers?  You can find out who you are at http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fca/research-services/volunteer-management-research.aspx

It is not surprising to find diversity in job titles and employment status (paid/unpaid; full-time/part-time) given the diverse range of organisations in our communities.  Nor is it surprising that finding time and money to achieve goals is a major challenge.  Recruitment and retention of volunteers is also a significant concern.  Get the detail and further information by reading the report. 

This study is a small beginning, and it is great to note there are three more projects to come, under the heading of Volunteer Management Research Programme:

  • Valuing Volunteers’ Outcomes and Organisational Management
  • Volunteer Managers: Work, Career and Identity in an Emergent Profession
  • What works? A systematic review of research and evaluation literature on encouragement and support of volunteering.

Why have I gone on at length about the importance of research?  Especially when those findings mentioned above are self-evident to people in the field?  Think about it: the collective voice of national data; the power of evidence-based argument; a guide to future planning; the possibility of comparative studies and improved performance.  Because managers of volunteers are worth it!

I hope we are not going to sit back and wait for Victoria University to deliver the goods.  I’ll bet there’s a lot of informal small-scale research going on in several communities right now.  Or you could start a project.  Or engage volunteer(s) to do some (a lot) of the work.  And before you say “I haven’t got time!” please read my latest post.


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