July 17, 2011

Management of Volunteers Project

Posted in Leading Volunteers, Management of Volunteers Project, Managers Matter at 4:33 am by Sue Hine

Six months ago, around the middle of January, Claire Teal embarked on the ride of her life, putting some wheels on a year-long discussion to create a vehicle for promoting the role and value of Managers / Leaders of Volunteers.  This week marks the end of her internship with Volunteering New Zealand, sponsored by the Department of Internal Affairs.

What happens next is contingent on the outcome of funding applications and crossed fingers for other support.

The project began as a spontaneous response to the Inspiring Leaders stream of the Volunteering New Zealand Conference in November 2009. For a year a small group representing Sporting, Volunteer Centres, academic research and direct practice interests chewed over what we wanted to do, researched and discussed, explored options.  There was never any doubt that our mission was to promote the role and value of Managers / Leaders of Volunteers.  We wanted to see them well resourced with plenty of professional development opportunities.

The publication of Management Matters in June 2010, a research study undertaken by Karen Smith and Carolyn Cordery of Victoria University Wellington, offered significant benchmarks on the state of management of volunteers in New Zealand. As elsewhere in the world, the occupation ranges from full-time and part-time paid employment to volunteer engagement in leading volunteers.  As elsewhere, the salary range, qualifications and professional development opportunities varies enormously.

Karen and Carolyn have followed this research with more on the economic value of volunteering and with a literature review What works? A systematic review of research and evaluation literature on encouragement and support of volunteering. This report illustrates good practice in managing volunteers, and highlights key success factors for participation in volunteering and the support of management of volunteers within formal organisations.

From January 2011 Claire Teal initiated a community development approach to soliciting support for the project, developing relationships and establishing networks around New Zealand.  One significant group is considering Learning and Development for Managers / Leaders of Volunteers, drawing on academic and educational expertise, Volunteer Centre knowledge and the experience and ideas of practitioners.  The focus is on finding a range of pathways for professional development. Putting a straitjacket on professional qualifications is not in our book: one size, as we keep on saying, does not fit all.

A second strand, and possibly more significant, is drawing together organisational executives to champion the cause of management of volunteers – which is really about recognising the significance of volunteer contribution to the organisation.  This enthusiastic group will do much to promote volunteering and management of volunteers throughout New Zealand.

This brief overview does not do full justice to the work Claire Teal has undertaken.  Without doubt however, she has driven the project within range of achieving its goals.

In May this year the Volunteering NZ Conference included a stream on Developing the Leaders.  Sessions for this stream were largely over-subscribed.  The Conference was followed by the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Managers of Volunteers.  Both these events engendered comments like the following:

  • It was a tremendous experience to be surrounded by people that share the same vision but at the same time have such a variety of view points, experiences and organisational practice. The obvious passion and energy for me was the ongoing highlight of the retreat. It was so gratifying to hear from others a shared believe of the importance of world citizenship and broadening our view of where we sit in the community – local, national and international.
  • The light bulb moment for me being so new to Volunteer Management is that it is a PROFESSION rather than just a job, that there are amazing, passionate, talented people managing volunteers and I have lots of colleagues! I now know that I am a Volunteer Manager and I tell people so! I have also changed my language not only to promote our profession but also to encourage volunteers to value what they do in a professional sense. It’s great to read of people taking action and capitalising on their heightened energy following their ‘aha moment’. Thanks for the inspiration.
  • I guess the thing that stands out most to me is the sense of being part of a global community of people who are passionate about what we do and what we can achieve… I know now that I have an amazing support/reality-checking network around me that ‘get’ why I do what I do and why I fight for what I fight for. That’s pretty awesome…
  • I can now better articulate what it is we’re all trying to do: make a difference/impact/change through engaging the community in the work we do.  = not a ‘soft option’ profession. Crucial.
  • We are professionals, not “just a volunteer manager”. I learn that I need to change the language I have been using to promote our profession.

Right now the following themes can be observed:

  • The project is attracting international attention
  • International trainers are quoting New Zealand as a model for developing Management / Leaders of volunteers
  • There is a groundswell of support and enthusiasm for the project within New Zealand, from organisations as well as Managers / Leaders of Volunteers
  • There is a spin-off in the way the profile of volunteering has been raised, leading to increased awareness of the political and social significance of volunteers and community organisations

From a community development perspective there are two really important messages:

  •  We are building the critical infrastructure of volunteering inNew Zealand; and
  • There is no effective volunteering without the creative, strategic input of Managers and Leaders of Volunteers.

There is a lot at stake here for organisations and the managers and leaders of volunteers.  There are more than one million volunteers who stand to gain from good management practice and from organisational recognition and support.  The gains  for volunteers and their organisations are also gains for New Zealand communities and our social well-being.

We must not allow this project to lapse.


  1. Alison said,

    No. we must not allow this project to lapse!! It has been like a life buoy thrown to us having Claire at the helm of this project. Someone who really ‘gets’ Volunteer management and the value of it all. It has been so exciting for Mangeres of Volunteers to finally think that value/money has been put toward recognising, promoting, enhancing our profession. How cruel it is to think that the project now may stall-just when it is gaining momentum and giving us all hope that for those of us leading volunteers we may finally have a voice. It is rather ironic that we who lead will still carry on leading/managing volunteers because daily we see the difference volunteers make. I don’t for a minute think/want to believe this will be the end of the project…we must not let this essential project stop here. Thanks Claire for your work so far-may it continue-you have my support. Kia kaha.


  2. Liz said,

    This is a no-brainer (ghastly phrase but it seems apt). This project has really only just started and has clealry demonstrated its worth. Having someone leading the project has allowed many of us to contribute and continue with our usual work. It is important that practitioners engage with this type of development but having Claire able to lead, co-ordinate and inspire us is vital to ensure we reach the goals set. As Alison says – thanks Claire – you have my support. This needs to continue.


  3. Gillian Peacock said,

    Thank you Sue for your words around our project work by Claire Teal through the VNZ internship.
    VNZ is very keen to see the beginnings of this work flourish in the very near future, and we are looking at ways to ensure its original intention through funding and support.

    We see the project as a great start to build the infrastructure as you mention, and build volunteering into the forefront of New Zealand society.

    Gillian Peacock
    President, Volunteering New Zealand


  4. Persistence wins the day. Thanks for your clear and also directive writing Sue. It’s keeping us all focused on the current need(s).


  5. Sue Hine said,

    This blog piece was intended as a summary of where the project has got to and the widespread support it has generated. Thank you to those who have replied in support, and to all readers. Thank you specially to Gillian Peacock for indicating ongoing support from VNZ, though as always, the tag is ‘subject to funding’.

    As in any community development enterprise small beginnings lead to great opportunities. The project’s original intentions around management of volunteers have evolved to a wider frame of reference. It now includes promoting the importance of organisational recognition of volunteer contributions as well as wider recognition of volunteers to New Zealand communities and their social well-being. Issues of leadership and volunteer management are embedded in these strands of the project – which just gets bigger and more significant.


  6. Hi Sue.

    A great post summarising some excellent work. Thanks for sharing.

    FYI the link to “What works? A systematic review of research and evaluation literature on encouragement and support of volunteering” doesn’t seem to be working – I get an error message when I click on it.


    • Sue Hine said,

      Thanks Rob, specially for pointing out the link error. That’s because it’s a PDF – so I’ll remove the link and send it separately.


  7. I also want to add my kudos to the work of the project thus far — and my sincere good luck wishes for finding the funding to continue it…and rehire Claire!

    Best to all my Kiwi colleagues/friends.



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