June 23, 2013
What a blast! What a storm of praise, press releases, and parties. Interviews erupted all over news media and the internet, whether it was in print, on radio, television, or webinars and Youtube clips. Facebook and Twitter were full-on with accounts from Volunteer Centres and volunteer organisations. They just kept on coming. National Volunteer Week has never been like this!
Even when a destructive Antarctic storm roared “like an express train without a driver” through the country volunteers could still capture a headline:
Emergency Volunteers in Action for National Volunteer Week
Was all this hype over-the-top? Too much? There can never be too much promotion for volunteering! Even non-volunteers in my brief informal poll have picked up key messages about the social and economic contribution of volunteers to New Zealand.
Government recognition came from the Prime Minister and MPs, and local councils issued press statements in support. The Minister of Health presented five awards to volunteers in the health and disability sector for outstanding achievement. There were more awards from the Minister of Police for public safety volunteers. There was recognition from all sectors – sport, health, emergency services, public safety, schools, conservation, and social services. There were awards, certificates, ceremonies and celebrations – for long service; outstanding achievement, and for excellence. A volunteer expo promoted local organisations to attract new recruits; there were displays in libraries and community centres. Promotion and publicity was innovative and creative throughout the week.
I was not tracking everything, and my engagement in the week’s events was confined to Wellington. Here is my selection for the Top Twelve features of the week (not in any particular order):
Best headline: Let’s Celebrate People Power (Wellington City Council)
Best reported quote: (On TV1 Breakfast Show) Maya said she volunteers on crossing patrol because she a young leader at the school and volunteering is what leaders do.
Best innovation: Volunteering NZ daily webinars, on Resourcing the community with partners; on Te Reo, the Language of Volunteering in Aotearoa; on Recognition and Rewards; on Reimbursing Volunteers; and on the Rights of the Volunteer. (Now available on VNZ’s YouTube channel)
Best story: A fishy story, one that illustrates the best of volunteer service and awarding recognition.
Best TV interview: Dr Louise Lee, on employee volunteering (plus associated press releases)
Best plug for management of volunteers: Conference presentation on Volunteer Recruitment (Dr Karen Smith)
Closely followed by : Competencies for Managers of Volunteers (coming in early the previous week); and the launch of on-line Guidelines for Managers of Volunteer Services, from Hospice New Zealand.
Best Thank You message (specially for going beyond individual volunteer contribution): New Zealand Fire Service –“Your tireless commitment to protecting lives and property has helped to build safe, strong and caring communities. We are also grateful to whanau, friends and employers for supporting our volunteers to be on call to help, whenever help is needed.”
Runner-up: “Volunteers – thank you for your smile” – Auckland Council.
Best function: Nikau Foundation Corporate Challenge celebration – to see the suits sincerely committed to joining with the volunteer sector, and being impressed by what volunteering can achieve.
(There were a lot of other functions up and down the country, but I could not get to all of them!)
Best under-the-radar recognition: a School Newsletter acknowledging volunteer contribution to the sports programme: “…. thanking the staff, parents and members of the local community who give up their time to share their talents and experiences with our students.”
Best testimonials for volunteering: a compilation of feel-good stories direct from volunteers, presented by Volunteer Nelson.
Best Action Plan: Our Volunteer Capital, Wellington City Council’s effort to recognise and grow volunteer groups, launched this week.
For recognition of multi-volunteer roles: Taupo Hospice
So National Volunteer Week and all the public recognition for volunteering is done and dusted for this year, even though we all know volunteering does not stop with the end of this week. Go follow-up the links here to catch up on the week’s happenings, or just to re-live the experience.
I would like to think ‘recognition’ of volunteers continues on in the form of regular ‘appreciation’. Recognition is that formal stuff; appreciation is the daily acknowledgement, the regular thank you to each and every volunteer no matter how large or small their contributions might be. You show your appreciation in behaviour, your tone of voice, the gesture, the time you take to listen with attention, and the way you communicate and keep in touch with volunteers. Appreciation is remembering a volunteer’s name, including volunteers in organisational planning and development, understanding the ‘added value’ and ‘service enhancement’ and the role volunteers play as ‘ambassadors’ for your organisation in the community. Volunteering is indeed People Power: He Tangata! He Tangata! He Tangata!
This post is the last for a few weeks: I am out of the country until August.
June 16, 2013
National Volunteer Week is upon us. The stories about volunteers will unfold through newspaper spreads and press releases, and celebratory functions will be held all over the country.
This feast for volunteering goes international every year, and now it is New Zealand’s turn. Here, Volunteer Awareness Week has morphed into National Volunteer Week, taking a broader account of the ‘volunteer industry’. In Wellington corporate volunteering gets due recognition for example, and there are at least a couple of workshops specially to support managers of volunteers. Watch out for Volunteering New Zealand’s latest innovation: a daily webinar on different topics related to volunteering.
Why do we do this, every year? What’s the rationale for putting such energy and expense into appreciating volunteers and the business of supporting volunteering, for one week every year?
I could presume we do this because:
- Volunteers and volunteering are ignored the rest of the year
- The news media don’t give much attention to good news stories
- Organisations are focused on service delivery and overlook how much the work of volunteers contribute to those services on a regular basis
- Any excuse for a party!
- Opportunity for self-promotion of organisations and Volunteer Centres
- It’s a great exercise to recruit more volunteers to the ranks
There might be some elements of truth here, but not enough to justify an annual blast of publicity. We do a great deal of appreciation and recognition throughout the year, in large and small ways, both publicly and privately. So why do we still need to hold an annual week in praise of volunteering?
I’m having trouble finding rational answers to this question, specially when I hear volunteers saying:
Volunteer work is as non-negotiable as brushing your teeth. You just do it. Being part of the community isn’t something that you tack on to life – it’s a really important part of life.
Volunteering gets into your blood. Like you can’t live without it.
If volunteering is so every-day and ordinary, so much part of our lifeblood, why the need for an annual fanfare?
Maybe the point about recruiting more volunteers is a good enough reason, because total volunteer numbers represent only one third of our population (though the data is probably under-reported). Because many organisations find they are constantly short on volunteers, and long in demand of services provided by volunteers. It’s not unreasonable to showcase opportunities to attract interest in volunteering – except recruitment and retention of volunteers is an on-going practice which cannot be left to an annual drive.
Maybe a promotional week is something bigger than the detail of recruitment and recognition. Maybe it’s the real opportunity to remind people about values of community, service, and the importance of Civil Society. We might be labelled as non-government or non-profit organisations, and relegated to the less-than-noble title of Third Sector, but by heck if we were not around the political and economic sectors would be missing the third leg of the stool that represents the sort of society we enjoy.
Maybe it is coincidence that CIVICUS has published a new report on the role that civil society plays and the conditions that enable it to do so. It is certainly timely.
Civil society plays multiple roles. We bring people together. We encourage debate, dialogue and consensus building. We research, analyse, document, publish and promote knowledge and learning. We develop, articulate and seek to advance solutions to problems. We engage with people and organisations in other spheres, such as government and business, to try to advance and implement solutions. We directly deliver services to those who need them. Sometimes we do all of these things at once. We need to assert that these are all legitimate civil society roles. [p 33]
This is what we do, all year, every year – right? And if you, as an organisation or as a volunteer, are struggling to be heard – take heart that you are not alone in the world:
The value that civil society brings always needs to be proved, documented and promoted – and the argument for civil society continually made: “While the assumption of the need for strong government and private sectors is today generally not questioned, the need for a strong civil society is not always so readily assumed.” [p44]
The report is worth reading in full to appreciate the global trends we are experiencing in New Zealand.
Maybe there is no definitive explanation for holding a National Volunteer Week. For now and for this week all I need to know is the answer to the question : What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! That is the start and the end-point of volunteering and community development, and of Civil Society. It is people!
June 9, 2013
Yes, in a week’s time New Zealand will have its turn at turning a spotlight on Volunteering. It is a time for national celebration of the work of volunteers, their organisations – and for the people responsible for managing volunteers. So what’s with the promotional banner adopted for this year? Volunteering NZ’s briefing explains.
“Hutia te rito o te harakeke Kei whaea te kōmako e kō? Kī mai ki ahau; He aha te mea nui o te Ao? Māku e kī atu He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.”
If the heart of harakeke was removed, Where would the bellbird sing? If I was asked What is the most important thing in the world? I would say: It is people, it is people, it is people.
Harakeke is one of New Zealand’s oldest plant species. We call it flax, but really it is a lily.
Harakeke supports a community of birds, animals and insects.
Harakeke is a fibre plant sourced by Maori to use in all parts of domestic life and community living.
Harakeke is surely the symbol to represent volunteering, to signal the weaving between all peoples and their connections with community and the land.
[Read more about the history and uses of Harakeke here.]
Look closely – see the interlacing weaving, see the linked arms of community, of people, creating a badge of honour. Volunteering is by People, for People, and about People.
In the run-up to National Volunteer Week volunteers are going to great lengths to parade the world of their work.
Go Volunteers! And please, take notice of what their managers are doing every day, in every way, to create the best possible experience for volunteers.
June 2, 2013
Recognition and appreciation of volunteer work throughout community organisations is something managers do every day in lots of different ways. This month Volunteering New Zealand is heading into National Volunteer Week (June 16-22), a brief time to celebrate the contribution of volunteers to all parts of New Zealand’s social and cultural life.
There are other annual opportunities for public acknowledgement, from national honours to local civic awards and community-sponsored medals. Two standout nation-wide programmes come via TrustPower and Kiwi Bank (as principal sponsor of New Zealander of the Year Awards). Both programmes are competitive, involving nomination and judging at both local and national levels in a range of categories.
TrustPower Community Awards are run in 24 regions, and they cover five categories: Heritage and Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Arts and Culture, Sport and Leisure, and Education and Child/Youth Development. Supreme winners in each region then vie for the title of National Awards Supreme Winner. For 2012 the winner was Kaibosh, a Wellington-based organisation dedicated to daily redistribution of left-over food.
The catalogue of winners at regional level is an eye-opener on the range of community organisations and their achievements. The Men’s Shed scored in Tauranga; in Dunedin the winner was the Neurological Foundation Southern Chair of Neurosurgery; a theatre group from the small town of Katikati took out honours in Western Bay of Plenty; and the ecological restoration project at Maungatautari was the winner for the Waipa District. Runners-up and commendations are recorded too.
TrustPower’s award for Youth Community Spirit recognises secondary school students’ service to school and the community. From the achievements noted in the citations these young people are the emerging leaders for a new generation.
New Zealander of the Year Awards focus more on individuals than organisations. There is a top award for New Zealander of the Year, and others for a Young New Zealander and a Senior New Zealander. Then there are the Local Hero awards identifying everyday people doing extraordinary things in their local communities. All of these engender significant local and national publicity, and recognition for individual and collective achievements.
In addition, the Community of the Year award provides groups with an opportunity to be recognised for their holistic contribution, rather than a focus on a particular sector. The small town of Paeroa is the winner for 2012, for its determination to retain an active events calendar and to enhance heritage attractions.
The heart of this community really lies with the large number of volunteers whose can-do attitude has seen the town develop to be a safe and vibrant community. The contribution and energy of a large number of groups is in contrast to the small population. It is this strong sense of community that is the key to the towns continuing growth and proves what can be achieved when residents share a common goal and work together harmoniously.
That’s a real illustration of what the spirit of community volunteering can achieve.
A study of winners and finalists for Community of the Year could reveal significant data on success factors – like leadership, collaboration and cooperation, strategic planning and implementation – because the achievements of Paeroa and other communities do not happen without effective leadership and management of a volunteer programme.
There’s no huge prize money offered from these award programmes, but the publicity and kudos will generate increased awareness to be translated into donor and funder interest and volunteer applications.
And when you scroll through the list of present and previous award winners it is very evident there are more things in community services and community development than NGOs filling the breaches in government health and welfare services. So when we join the functions lined up for National Volunteer Week let’s give a nod to the way leaders and managers of volunteers make all things possible for volunteers.