September 30, 2012
In just five weeks’ time the International Day for Managers of Volunteers will be upon us. Planning has started already for the day’s performances.
You can find out more on the website, including resources and articles and a great list of ideas for promoting managers of volunteers. Or track the international buzz on the facebook page – there’s a couple of jazzy you-tube clips to view as well.
In New Zealand the day will begin as usual with a breakfast session hosted by Volunteer Wellington. A lot of focus will then turn to the start of Volunteering Auckland’s two-day conference, Let’s Get Connected. A highlight on the first day is the launch of Volunteering New Zealand’s Best-practice guidelines for volunteer-involving organisations, to be broadcast per webinar.
I talked about this year’s slogan a couple of months ago: Leaders of Volunteers: Who Else Could Do That? Now take a look at the poster and see just what an awesome person the manager of volunteers can be.
For example, the Community Organiser (known some decades ago as Professional Dissenter) and the Social Entrepreneur might be unfamiliar labels – but that’s what you do when getting people to work together in a team, or for your cause. Right?
You may have doubts about being a visionary, but by heck you are always looking ahead and figuring the next steps in a programme, or how to engage the super-skills a volunteer is offering. Come on – you know you are a Seer.
And when you add up all the labels on this list, there’s only one summary: Miracle Worker.
You are a Miracle Worker because
- you create something out of nothing more than the offer of goodwill;
- you can bind together diverse interests, personalities and cultures to work in a common cause;
- you own a know how / can do belief in the organisation’s vision and mission; and
- you are an achiever, despite many people lacking full understanding of volunteering and what your role entails.
Now all of this is fine and good, and we can roll over for another year. Except don’t you just wish we could see a few more steps towards regular recognition and support for professional development? In New Zealand the Best Practice Guidelines are a start, and watch out for the Learning and Development Pathway to come early next year. But these are practice issues, and I am thinking more about the professional association that could speak as one voice on our behalf.
In our region that association is AAMOV – the Australasian Association for Managers of Volunteers.
Professional associations for managers of volunteers have not had a good track record over past years, but do not let that put you off. You want to get recognition, acknowledgement of your training and qualifications? You want your expertise recognised in a halfway decent salary? You want somebody to be able to speak out on your behalf, to be a champion of your occupation? Support AAMOV so they can support and promote your interests.
Because it is through collective strength that we can make achievements in
- promoting best practice for Managers of Volunteers
- providing pathways for professional development
- providing opportunities for peer support
- developing strategic relations with government, non-government organisations and the business sector.
The annual AAMOV Manager of Excellence Award offers an example of best practice, and one small step towards public recognition of the importance of good management of volunteers.
Let’s celebrate on November 5, as the poster says, the work of those “who inspire, empower and manage the spirit of volunteerism around the world”.
September 16, 2012
There may not be too many people who recognise the heading for this post as a quote from an early 20th century Welsh poet. It is from a poem I learned early in my schooldays, lines that jaunted along in sing-song rhythm, though the theme pretty-much passed over the heads of nine and ten year-olds.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
These words are all too relevant in a Time-Poor 21st century. We are too busy doing, so focused on tasks that we overlook that other pressure to take stock, to think about the way work and what we might do better.
Don’t just do something, stand there!
I found this line a few years ago when reading about a ‘learning organisation’. Managers of volunteers, (and many other professional occupations) are also ‘learning organisms’. That is, our professional development is bound up in critical thinking, experiential learning and self-awareness – a cycle of action and reflection.
Well – Volunteering New Zealand’s on-line training programme for Managing Volunteers is a good place to start reflecting on experience. Last week a spirited bunch of people completed another 6-week course. They took on weekly assignments designed ‘to make you think’. They shared their replies on-line, including a lot about themselves and how they went about managing volunteers in their organisation. They learned from each other, and about their own skill-sets, drawing on life experience and previous employment positions. Their feedback showed they were encouraged and heartened by their participation in the course.
That’s the value of Professional Development for you, something I keep on promoting. (You can read more in my blogs on Professionalism.) You see, being professional does not always mean pinning the credentials of academic qualifications on your wall. Certificates of competency are not always the best measure of the quality of your work. But when you take the time to think, to reflect on what you are doing and what could be tweaked to improve volunteer experience or the volunteer programme and what you might need to accomplish any change – that is the mark of a true professional who understands the importance of ongoing development.
So don’t wait till it’s time for your next performance review. Make time now!
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(The poem is Leisure, by W H Davies)
September 2, 2012
You are never too old to learn, or to be reminded of the meaning of volunteering. No, not the definitions: I am talking about being re-awakened to the nature and philosophy of volunteering.
A few weeks ago my inbox received the text of a presentation at a VolunteerFest in Victoria (Australia). It was not more worthy praise for volunteers, nor about the psycho-social motivations for volunteering, and certainly not a piece of puffery about volunteers being the glue of society, the salt of the earth and all those other high-flown phrases. And yet it was all of those things.
The author / presenter is vivian Hutchinson who has been a mover-and-shaker around community development and social enterprises in New Zealand for a very long time. He is also a thinker, and his writing has made me sit up and recognise a few more truths about volunteering. Here’s my take on what vivian is saying, about the key triggers to understanding the nature of volunteering.
Citizenship: The reductionist pressures of political and economic exigencies turn us into ciphers, as voters or consumers. It erodes (along with a number of other factors) our sense of community. Hutchinson says:
This is a reduction of our humanity, and it is a cultural loss … because this strips away our ability to speak authentically to each other about the craft of working together for the common good.
When our sense of citizenship wanes the strands of Civil Society are weakened. It means we take less interest in government and local body elections. It gets so much harder to protect and preserve our communities for future generations.
Engagement: In managing volunteers we like to talk about ‘engaging’ volunteers, rather than ‘recruiting’ them. Hutchinson’s criteria for engaging volunteers are Choice, Without Constraint, and Without Expectation of Reward. Of course! No question. Until you pick up on his take on Generosity.
The key economic resource being provided by the volunteer is not your spare time, and it is not your free labour. Nor is it any personal desperation for connection or participation. The key resource here is your generosity. And the irony is that — while being generous — it is important that you do not to give away your awareness of its value. [emphasis added]
I wonder how many volunteers ever think of ‘value’ when they give so freely their time, skills and energies. There is much evidence of selflessness in volunteering: I just want to give, without understanding what is given, and what yet might be received. Right now there is a counterpoint emerging in the efforts to measure a return on investment in delivery of community social services. Yes, evidence of effectiveness and outcomes and results is important, but monetising volunteer contribution is a sure way to diminish and degrade everything that volunteering and citizenship represents. Which leads to Hutchinson’s last point:
A felt sense of Community:
The generosity of volunteers builds links of connection and resilience, and a felt sense of community — all of which are critical assets for hard times. The challenge here is to really value these assets, and to see our generosity as something that is not just nice, but it is indeed critical.
Now you can see how the elements of Community, Generosity, Engagement and Citizenship are all interwoven. We need the whole package, and must not allow bits to be siphoned off for other interests. As encouragement I am noticing increased promotion of ‘neighbourliness’ and ‘community resilience’, not altogether prompted by natural disasters and the incidence of crime and violence.
One more quote is directed to the leaders and managers of volunteers in community organisations:
The leadership act here is to remember that generosity is generated through invitation, not dictate. You are gardeners in a voluntary landscape. Your job is to grow the active citizenship that makes up this landscape, and to foster the community assets that emerge from this deeper engagement.
Go the gardeners! Go dig for the riches in our communities, nourish the soil for volunteers, and reap the harvest of active citizens and community-builders participating in the process of change.