November 10, 2013

What Do We Do Now?

Posted in Celebrations, Good news stories, Leading Volunteers tagged , , at 3:20 am by Sue Hine

IVMADAYLOGOThe party is over.  We’ve done with celebratory teas and garden parties and early morning speed-meets and day-long twittering.  We’ve seen the creative videos and the loads of goodwill messages via Facebook and emails.  For a few hours we connected with colleagues in relaxed and informal ways.  What happens next?

Please don’t tell me you’ve hurried back to your desk and you are now in catch-up mode.  Please make time to reflect on IVM Day, time to figure about the connections you made, and what you found inspiring.

Here’s my take on the Volunteer Wellington function I attended:

  • The crowd was bigger than last year.
  • There was a wider representation of organisations and agencies, including Board members and executives.
  • The meet-and-greet phase saw people circulating, not hanging back, connecting with people they had not met previously.
  • Absolutely no hesitation in the participatory exercise where the question of what inspires you about volunteers and volunteering was the topic for a four minute discussion.
  • And again people connected, learning about organisations not part of their regular network, finding shared inspiration in the experience of working with volunteers.
  • At the end people lingered instead of rushing to catch the next appointment.
  • They continued conversations and queued to pick up Volunteering New Zealand publications, and information about Volunteer Wellington’s new Mentoring Programme.

Now is that keen participation not inspiring?  This year I am seeing greater confidence among managers of volunteers.  They appear to be more comfortable in their leadership role, they have gained understanding and better competence in their practice.  They are starting to reach out to others in their profession, networking and finding allies for mutual support if not formal mentoring.

And that, please note, is the first condition for engendering community development.  That’s what I find inspiring about this year’s events.  There’s an awareness of a community of managers of volunteers, a readiness to shout about it and to take this strength to new levels.

Because there are still miles to go.  The gains I have observed are not universal.  There are always new managers who need guiding and encouragement.  Inside many organisations there is still a black hole when it comes to acknowledging the work of managers of volunteers and recognising the true value and contribution of a well run volunteer programme.  Widespread public applause on IVM Day is not yet happening: in New Zealand the sole media statement came from the Minister for the Community Public Sector.  She is “thankful that communities can benefit from the work of the skilled, dedicated, professional people who manage volunteers”, and gives an appreciative nod to the work of Volunteering New Zealand for providing support and professional development and training.

So what happens next is an open question.  Let’s keep the conversations going.  Let’s take the opportunity to talk up ideas and plans for more progress in the management of volunteers.

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October 13, 2013

It’s the Simple Things that Count

Posted in Best Practice, Celebrations, Professionalism, Valuing Volunteers tagged , , , at 3:16 am by Sue Hine

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We are counting down to IVMDay now.  Just three weeks to go to the big day on November 5.  There are notices about events and functions turning up on Facebook, invitations coming by email, and information broadcast about awards for best practice.  All of these are designed of course “to connect and inspire”, our theme for this year.

If you are still wondering what you could organise there’s a comprehensive list on the IMVDay website – something there to encourage everyone to action.

What I am enjoying most in the run-up to the day are the cartoons being fed into our networks.  They are reminders of the little things that add up to best practice in managing a volunteer programme, in being professional in our work.

Here are some other examples of the simple things that can help connect and inspire volunteers, and staff:

  • Saying Thank You – and you can embroider that a thousand ways:  ‘That was a job well done’; ‘I hope you are proud of your achievement’; [to staff] ‘Good to have your support’.
  • Knowing volunteers as people who lead other lives outside volunteering.  So you will remember to ask about the job interview, the sick pet, the anniversary, the workplace function, the holiday.
  • Getting some regular communication going – a newsletter or telephone tree, and even better via social media.
  • Or meetings / in-service seminars at intervals determined by the volunteers.
  • Checking out volunteer job satisfaction and interest in extending skills or experience.
  • Getting feedback from staff: ‘Is this volunteer contribution working for you?’; ‘Are there ways we could extend the service’.

OK – these suggestions are likely to be part of your everyday practice.  They are still simple and easy ways to maintain engagement with volunteers: that’s what connecting and inspiring is all about.

But let’s not forget the aim of IVMDay is to recognise how managers of volunteers enhance and enable the spirit of volunteerism – and to thank them, to give them the recognition they deserve.  In the events listed on Facebook most are organized by ‘Volunteer Centre’ groups, and no doubt there will be speeches of appreciation, and maybe there will be a few Board Members and even Executives in attendance.  I do not see as yet a national not-for-profit or community service organization acknowledging in a tangible way the achievements of the managers of volunteers in all their branches.  That would be really ‘connecting and inspiring’ for the organization and their volunteer services.

Now here is a real-life ‘simple thing’ story.

About ten or twelve years ago, before IMVDay got to be part of the calendar in New Zealand, I got invited to join my Chief Executive and two Personal Assistants for lunch at a down-town café.  It was Secretaries’ Day you see, a bit like IMVDay, for those people who do extraordinary things to keep an organisation going in day-to-day administration, the vital nuts-and-bolts stuff.  I was invited, the CE said, because I was another person on the staff who was often unsung for my work.  Well, the good food and a glass of very nice wine were duly appreciated – but what I remember best is the recognition that the work of managing volunteers is a valued and important part of the organisation’s services.  And – more importantly – recognition of the non-monetary value volunteers bring to the organisation.

That’s the in-house connection and inspiration I would want for all managers of volunteers and their teams.