April 10, 2011

How Bad, How Sad

Posted in A Bigger Picture, Leading Volunteers, Managers Matter at 2:05 am by Sue Hine

The Energize newsletter has given me a load of laughs for this week.  Yes there are some real funnies, yet all of them have more than a tinge of irony, that we have to laugh at the misfortunes of the occupation of Manager of Volunteers.

There is more dry humour to be found among the Myths of Volunteer Management, the tall tales that claim:

  • Volunteers are free
  • Anyone can manage volunteers
  • You don’t need much time to manage volunteers (aka do it off the side of your desk)
  • You don’t need staff to manage volunteers (aka volunteers manage themselves; volunteers will just show up)
  • Volunteer management is a luxury we can’t afford

Fortunately I can get over such insults by chasing a link to professional advocacy where there is sound advice and references to helpful information.  If I have the energy to follow them up.

Right now I have to deal with a Clear and Present Danger.  There is a special management seminar in my workplace, but my name is not on the invitation list.  When I ask why I am told it’s because I do not have people reporting directly to me.

OK – I have worked hard to engage other service managers to be responsible for day-to-day performance standards when   volunteers are working on their patch.  That’s after I have done the recruitment and training and administration, and all the nuts and bolts of managing a volunteer programme.

But when something goes wrong I am surely going to have the fingers pointed at me, to be held accountable for a volunteer misdemeanour.  And nobody else is going to put up their hand to undertake annual reviews and satisfaction surveys and exit interviews and all that stuff that keeps our Volunteer Programme up-to-the-minute in delivering quality services.

I am feeling aggrieved at my exclusion from management development.  Just how much head-battering against brick walls do I have to suffer?

Maybe, somewhere, there is a Lonely Hearts Club equivalent for Managers of Volunteers.  Maybe, sometime, I will be able to link with others, to unite in creating a voice to express our concerns.  And to get some measures of change.  Like:

  • Getting Boards and Committees to understand and undertake fully the responsibilities of governance
  • Getting Boards and Committees and Executive Managers and even government agencies to ‘get’ volunteering – to know and understand and to appreciate what goes into volunteering and the volunteer contribution to the organisation
  • Getting all these players to recognise and acknowledge (especially via remuneration and organisational status) the role and function of the Managers and Leaders of Volunteers.

You think I am asking too much?  You think I am over-the-top?  You think I’ve got a dose of sour grapes?  Think again!

I am not talking about personal grievances.  I’m talking about the tragedy for communities and their social well-being.  I’m addressing all those players who don’t know what they are missing when they fail to recognise and to properly value the work of volunteers.  In business terms I could say these organisations are ‘haemorrhaging’.  They are not getting anything like the
potential return on investment for their operations.

That is source of the real sadness I am feeling.

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