October 19, 2014

Raising the Bar

Posted in Best Practice, Leadership, Management of Volunteers Project, Managing Volunteers, Organisation responsibilities, Professional Development, Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers tagged , , , , , at 1:50 am by Sue Hine

raising-the-bar[1]

 

Volunteering New Zealand held a workshop for managers of volunteers in Wellington last week. Raising the Bar was the first of a number to be held around the country, drawing on the Best Practice Guidelines to ask What does Best Practice look like and how do we get there?

My long memory recalls the origins of this workshop, the tiny germs of ideas that got translated over time into a working group, to a VNZ project, to publishing the Guidelines, and now to working on getting them implemented.

Back in 2009 the VNZ Conference theme was Volunteering Unleashed, and there were two streams: Volunteering Tomorrow and Inspiring Leaders – two sides of the same coin you might say.  With presentations like ‘Unmasking the role of volunteer management’ and ‘Awaken the hero leader in you’ there was plenty to inspire and unleash imaginations for future effort.  At the final session I asked “What happens next?” to which there was a smart reply: “What would you like to happen?”

A few weeks later a meeting was convened with a bunch of other people who were asking the same question. The Management of Volunteers Development Group was born, if not right then, but over the next few meetings.  I’ve written about its progress several times:

Getting to Go; Management of Volunteers Project; Creating a Learning Pathway; and The Fruits of Our Labours

Raising the Bar was the theme for VNZ’s conference in 2011, and a principal stream was devoted to ‘Developing the Leaders’.  Sessions covered a range of regular practice for managers of volunteers, and included focus on leadership – because managing volunteers is nothing without leadership.

The present round of workshops on Raising the Bar is another step to encourage managers of volunteers to take on strategic leadership, and to advocate for implementation of the Best Practice Guidelines.  At the same time there is a parallel effort going into nominating champions of managing volunteers, the executives of organisations that demonstrate and promote understanding and recognition of volunteering and its management.  Yes, we need to promote these champions so others may raise their sights, to include the value of volunteers and their managers in their vision.

The workshop this past week raised a real buzz, a community of managers of volunteers sharing concerns and their ideas and information, using the material of the Best Practice Guidelines. There was plenty of diversity in this group, both in size of organisation and in sector interests.  The old hands mixed with the newbies, and there was learning for everyone.

At the end of the day what happens next is up to participants. They’ve got their take-home message and intent for action, but we’ll have to wait to see results.  Strategic leadership for change and development takes skill, courage and determination.  And time.

How high does the bar have to go? We’ll know when we get there, for sure.

Advertisements

June 22, 2014

Cheers for NVW 2014

Posted in Celebrations, Organisational gains from volunteering, Recognition of Volunteering, volunteer experience tagged , , , , at 3:38 am by Sue Hine

3974101-40345-word-celebration-with-fireworks-for-new-years-or-independance[1]

 

From start to finish National Volunteer Week 2014 has been an outstanding success in achieving widespread promotion and acknowledgements for volunteer contributions to organisations and communities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Day after day sector organisations offered press releases, postings on social media and accounts of events to mark the week.  There was a huge increase in the numbers of organisations going public, and in the range of organisations – the small, the large, the national and the local groups.

 Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te tangata.

(With your contribution and my contribution the people will live.)

This whakatauki represents the fundamental nature of volunteering.  It highlights the cooperative work of individuals and the sharing of skills, knowledge and experience that can make a difference in our communities.  And this is what the published tributes are saying:

Thanks for taking a moment to connect with us

Thank you for your passion, for all your hard work and thank you for your time.  You have helped us keep more hearts beating for longer.

Thank you for making our work possible

We recognise the talent and dedication of our volunteers

Ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference

They say it takes a village to raise a child, by volunteering at Playcentre we’ve found that village.

Then there are the events, the awards and the displays.

There were static displays at public libraries promoting what volunteering can offer and how to connect with an organisation.  There were community fairs where organisations could display information about their work.  The first Employee Volunteering Awards were presented in Wellington, the outcome of another sponsored Corporate Challenge for the region.  In other centres there are certificates of service to be presented, and local ‘Volunteer of the Year’ awards to be announced.

Special mention has to be made for the Wellington Sportsperson of the Year whose work is based on a philosophy of ‘attract, retain, develop’ in working with volunteers.  That’s a pretty good summation of the purpose for good management of volunteers.

Another special mention goes to Kiwibank who went all out to produce a couple of videos on Facebook, on staff who volunteer.  “Everyone contributes”, says one winner, “Giving back is natural, and it’s good to find work values are in line with my own”.

Prime-time TV grabbed a head-start on the week with a news item about Coastguard volunteers, outlining their work and the training involved.  Volunteers talked about why they volunteer and why they stick with it.

Volunteers at VNZ’s office were kept busy compiling a record of all the media items.  If you missed anything you can probably find it here.

So congratulations to Volunteering New Zealand for promoting the celebrations we have enjoyed this past week.   I did not get all last week’s wishes met, but one day, some day in the near future, we might reach a point where shouting out for volunteers happens every day, not just one week in a year.

June 15, 2014

National Volunteer Week 2014

Posted in Celebrations, Civil Society, Good news stories, Volunteer Centres tagged , , , , at 4:39 am by Sue Hine

NVW 2014

Volunteering New Zealand have done it again!  Here’s another National Volunteer Week banner, together with a message to inspire volunteers and their organisations.  You can learn more about the whakatauki and its theme here.

The buzz about NVW has started already, with postings and notifications for events to come.  And some nice little tasters, like this piece from Volunteer Wellington’s June newsletter:

According to recent OECD statistics people in this country spend an average of 13 minutes per day volunteering, compared with four minutes in other countries.  The stats go on to say this results in higher ‘happiness’ ratings plus longer life expectancy.

Nice one – New Zealand leads the way in yet another field of endeavour!  It’s worth reading this OECD report for its background introduction, as well as finding out more on the data.

Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Studies show that time spent with friends is associated with a higher average level of positive feelings and a lower average level of negative feelings than time spent in other ways.

Helping others can also make you happier. People who volunteer tend to be more satisfied with their lives than those who do not. Time spent volunteering also contributes to a healthy civil society.

A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as access to jobs, services and other material opportunities.  […]  A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation.

It’s a long time since I have seen such well-rounded reasoning for building strong and healthy communities, and how volunteering is part of that healthy status.

Volunteering NZ reviews other global and local reports which indicate a downward trend in volunteering and in monetary donations.  No explanations for these trends are offered.  Nor can I find explicit definitions of volunteering that informed the surveys.

In the week ahead I’m hoping to read some great stories about volunteers and volunteering, about the good experience they enjoyed, and the difference they made for people or the environment, and the fun they had in the process.  I’m hoping there will be stories too about good relationships between paid staff and volunteers, and praise for staff who support volunteer effort.  And that’s where the managers of volunteers might get a tiny acknowledgement.

And maybe, somewhere, even in a postscript, there will be a nod to the nature of volunteering, and what it represents, and why volunteering is important in our communities and within organisations.  That is worth thinking about, in the course of this week.

November 24, 2013

A Letter to Volunteering New Zealand

Posted in Good news stories, Leadership, Managers Matter tagged , , , at 3:56 am by Sue Hine

collab korero

Dear Volunteering New Zealand –

Now that the conference is over and a welcome summer break is on the horizon I hope you are reflecting with pride on what a remarkable year 2013 has been for the community and voluntary sector, and particularly for VNZ.  Indeed, over the past three years progress in promoting understanding and practice in volunteering and management of volunteers has been amazing.

The Management of Volunteers Programme may have been an initial spur through engaging with individuals and organisations across the sector.  It was like we had been waiting for someone to take the lead and provide the forum to plan and implement what we were looking for.  Thank you for rising to the challenge, and for the resulting publications.

VNZ’s enhanced promotion and publicity throughout this year has boosted the core business of promoting and valuing volunteering.  Communication technology has been exploited to showcase issues and achievements, and to publish local and global news.  Attracting volunteers and interns for projects and research demonstrates to the wider community your confidence in volunteer skills and attributes to support your work programmes.

You are illustrating the practice of collaboration and partnership most visibly in sharing office space and in the partnership agreement with ANGOA, Social Development Partners and Community Research.  The Collaborative Kōrero* conference this week was another step in show-casing how working together can produce outstanding outcomes.

It was a bold move to call for questions, inviting participants to shape the content, rather than people like me submitting abstracts on their pet topics.  The Conference Committee did well to distil a programme that covered standard concerns (recruitment, technology, HR vs MV, and measuring impact) yet giving space and a novel approach to listen and discuss these topics in different ways.  I look forward to revisiting plenary sessions on YouTube.  The Kōrero continued outside the workshops, swapping stories and learning from each other.  I wonder if anyone has noticed the conversations were not so much about volunteering, or civil society or fundraising and marketing – the focus was squarely on responsibilities of managing volunteers and leading volunteer programmes.  As the by-line says, “great volunteer programmes do not fall out of the sky”.

I think you would be the first to admit that none of these successes have happened in isolation.  They drew impetus from improved use and scope of technology, on the surge of corporate social responsibility and business volunteering, on developing working relations with government ministries, on (sadly) events like Christchurch earthquakes and the Rena oil spill, and on international connections through attending conferences and on-line networks.

At your AGM earlier this week I was surprised there were no supporting comments from the floor for the work you have done and the achievements that were noted in reports.  So I have taken time and a few more words to express my appreciation.  Of course there is still much to do, and I wish you well for the good ideas that will turn into projects and further successes.

Sincerely –

Your Independent Advocate

June 23, 2013

Volunteer Recognition (4) The Week that Was

Posted in Celebrations, Good news stories, Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers tagged , , , , , , at 4:37 am by Sue Hine

NVW-Website-Banner-1

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.

March 3, 2013

The Fruits of Our Labours

Posted in A Bigger Picture, Best Practice, Management of Volunteers Project, Professional Development, Valuing Volunteers tagged , , , , , at 3:15 am by Sue Hine

harvest-and-preserves-23441280255023VyNQMarch is the month for the beginning of autumn in my southern hemisphere, though current sunshine levels have not yet arrived at the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.  We are getting close however, to harvesting a project begun more than three years ago.  In a couple of months Volunteering New Zealand will publish the Learning and Development Pathway, a guide to professional development for managers of volunteers.  This document will sit alongside the Best Practice Guidelines for volunteer-involving organisations.

The need for skilled and competent managers of volunteers has been a universal catch-cry for decades, alongside attaining due recognition and appreciation for the work entailed in enabling volunteers to play such a huge role in delivering community services.  We are not alone in raising the concerns we have in New Zealand.

The project started from a vision that Managers/Leaders of Volunteers should be valued, well-resourced and competent professionals.  Research and stories of experience was showing managers of volunteers were (and are) struggling for recognition and for resources for professional development.   The flow-on effect was that volunteers may not get the best possible experience from their work, thus impacting on job satisfaction and recruitment, and not least on the services they provide in community organisations.  We were also keen to put paid to the self image of being just a volunteer or just a volunteer manager, phrases which carry the imputation of lesser value than others in the organisation.

What took us so long – in getting to start the project, and then three years of consultation and debate?  The original cry was Enough! following a Volunteering New Zealand conference.  Then we engaged in a collective debate to determine goals and lots of sharing skills and knowledge.  It was an empowering process, encouraging people to respond to the challenges and to think about breaching some of the barriers.  Good things take time, and given the diversity of volunteering and community organisations it was important to discuss plans as widely as possible.

Of course getting a learning pathway to publication stage is not the end of the mission.  Follow-up promotion will be needed, pressing for acceptance and action on recommended practice.  There are plenty of opportunities to meet a range of training needs, but maybe some persuasion will be needed for organisations to see the benefits of supporting professional development – through fee reimbursement or paid study leave, for example.  Managers of volunteers who may be reluctant to take on formal study, can note they could gain credits via Assessment of Prior Learning (APL).

So what will we be seeing in a year’s time?  At the very least, there will be wide-ranging conversations about recognition and training for managers of volunteers.  At the very least, organisations could be acknowledging the relevance and importance of their volunteer programmes, and considering how to enhance them.

Whether by small steps or big strides Volunteering New Zealand has started something that could end up being a whole lot bigger.

February 24, 2013

Cultivating Volunteers

Posted in Marketing, Valuing Volunteers, Youth Volunteering tagged , , , at 4:18 am by Sue Hine

496983747_bade419493Just two months into the year and already there are plenty of agendas being talked up, plenty of rising anxiety levels in community sector organisations, accompanied by what sounds like, and feels like, a sinking lid for programmes and practice.  Paying for criminal checks on volunteers, getting the charities legislation reviewed and the prospect of new contracting and funding arrangements through ‘social bonds’ are just three of the big picture issues.  I shall leave them to other platforms for the moment.

My matter for this week is not as the headline suggests, the community gardeners.  Nor am I presenting yet another promo for best practice volunteer recruitment.  The niggle at the back of my head is the continuing interest in courting Gen X and Y to engage in volunteering, as though it was a new and untapped resource for organisations short on volunteers.

I wrote about Youth Volunteering a bit over a year ago, being enthusiastic about all the evidence of increases in young people’s involvement.  And they continue to be involved, even as part of whole family volunteering.  More recently Volunteering New Zealand has published a paper on UN Youth NZ; Labour Party youth are on a roll this year to connect with local community groups; in January  United Nations announced a trust fund to support Youth Volunteerism.  There is no end to the ways young people can be involved in their communities, and you can see this even at early school years when class projects open children’s minds to community and community needs.

Here is my ‘yes but’ question:

Are we cultivating volunteers or promoting the cult of youth?

The rise in youth volunteering is capturing attention at a time when retirees, the ‘baby-boomer’ generation, could be expected to join the ranks of volunteers in droves.  They are not, for various reasons: they continue in paid employment; they are full-time care-givers for grandchildren; they are travelling the world and ‘pursuing other interests’.  Yet there are still enough older people – and we can see them working in our communities every day throughout the year – to be a significant proportion in volunteer statistics.  This is the expanding age group that is proving such a burden on governments and age-support organisations throughout the western world.  To which I would say: “if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them”.

My plea is for inclusion, for all population groups.  I am thinking of skills that older people can offer from their employment experience.  I am thinking of tolerance and acceptance of difference that comes with age and experience, along with a raft of communication and relationship skills.  Of course they do not have these skills on their own, and nor is the wisdom of age always informed by tolerance.  But neither do young people hold all the answers to achieving organisation goals through volunteering.

Dissonance between age and youth is as old as time.  This is not the time to pitch one in favour of the other.  Volunteering could be the much-needed space where young and older New Zealanders come together to learn from each other and to appreciate the perspectives of different generations.  That’s where leadership for the 21st century could come from.

Disclaimer: Please do not think I am carrying personal angst in writing the above.  By conventional dating I belong to the Silent Generation, those who never spoke out, who accepted everything thrown at them.  I like to think I have moved with my times.

………………

PS:  Comment per email sent by Salle-Ann Ehms:
As always, your blog is very thought-provoking. In the light of inclusiveness, I thought that you’d appreciate this photo I took last week-end. It’s not the best shot but I love the contrasts; youth-aged,
caucasian-asian, able-disabled, but what I most love is that none of those things are really relevant, the caring is palpable. Love it!

October 28, 2012

The Spirit of Managing Volunteers

Posted in Best Practice, Leadership, Managers Matter, Organisation responsibilities, Professional Development tagged , , , , , at 4:06 am by Sue Hine

I rather like this crib of a World War II poster, now doing the rounds in cyberspace in a whole lot of variations.

I can raise a smile at the slogan which is a contradiction in itself.  How do you keep your cool when the job of managing volunteers is chaotic most of the time?  Even the bold red colouring suggests keeping calm is about keeping the lid on stress that is best kept out of the chaos.

Lest you think I am indulging in cynicism, let me start again.

In the list of knowledge, skills and attributes for a management position I have never seen any hint of a required ability to manage stress (in self and others).  Yes I know stress comes with the territory whatever the field of management, but why should it be reported so frequently by managers of volunteers?

There could be a number of reasons:

  • Position responsibilities have not been properly scoped, leading to task overload
  • The appointee is not adequately qualified or experienced for the position
  • No proper induction
  • No professional development programme
  • No volunteer policy to give meaning and direction to the volunteer programme
  • Senior management fail to understand and appreciate the value of the volunteering

These factors are organisational matters: feeling stressed and overwhelmed under these circumstances does not derive from personal shortcomings.

Raising questions about extending part-time hours or engaging administration assistance too often gets the reply (after the standard ‘lack of resources’ response):  Make a case to justify increasing the budget for the volunteer programme.  It’s not hard to guess what happens then: I haven’t got time, and I’m too tired.  A few months later there is another notch to score in rate of turnovers for the position.

We could, in the face of adversity, Keep Calm and Drink Tea.  Or we could Keep Calm and just Carry On.  Volunteers deserve more, and they need good management and effective leadership.

There is no denying the role is diverse and demanding.  The art of multi-tasking, being multi-skilled and with demonstrable leadership qualities turn the job into something that could be called ‘multi-management’.

That’s where a tool-kit of Survival Strategies is useful.  The load gets lighter when it is shared:

  • Engage volunteers for administration support
  • Establish volunteer team leader positions for support and communication with volunteers
  • Recruit or train-up volunteers to interview new applicants, or introduce group-screening
  • Seek out allies within the organisation to help promote and advocate for volunteers
  • Check out Volunteer Centre training opportunities and make a point of attending
  • Find a mentor, or join a mentoring group

Adopting some or all of these strategies will then give a little space to address organisation shortcomings regarding volunteering and its management.  Further help will be available very soon: Volunteering New Zealand will launch Best Practice Guidelines for Volunteer-Involving Organisations on International Volunteer Managers’ Day, November 5.  Join the webinar to learn more.

Nobody has ever said being a manager of volunteers is an easy job.  But there are many people who love the work, and who make it a long career.  It’s worth the effort to make it worthwhile.  That’s the spirit of managing volunteers.

June 17, 2012

Let Us Now Praise Volunteers, and Those that Begat Volunteer Organisations*

Posted in Best Practice, Celebrations, Good news stories, Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers, volunteer experience tagged , , , , , at 3:20 am by Sue Hine

We’ve been talking up Volunteer Awareness Week for weeks.  Now let’s unfurl the banners, deliver the speeches, do the award presentations and the street parades, and read with pride the full-page spreads in our newspapers and the online affirmations about community organisations and the work done by volunteers.  Let the party begin!

Let us also hear the voices of volunteers, recording the delight they find in their work, and the personal and professional gains they make through their volunteer experience.

Volunteers involved in New Zealand’s biggest exercise in event management, the Rugby World Cup have a few things to say, in a recently published report:

“My fellow volunteers – they were all wonderful people and extremely generous with their time and energy – this feeling spread amongst the team, so everyone stayed motivated and fed off the energy of others.”

“The whole experience, from the information road shows to the training and captain’s run, was amazing. So well organised, totally positive and supportive, I truly felt like an important person in a team for an important event. I was VERY proud to tell people I was a volunteer for RWC 2011!”

At Volunteer Centres around the country the work of recruitment and referral of volunteers is their core business.  The quotes that follow are drawn from Volunteer Wellington publications.

“Volunteering has given me a chance to merge properly into the local community”

“Volunteering was a great stepping stone to help get from A to B, to make the big transition into paid employment.”

“Volunteering makes me a better person to be around.”

“It’s interesting, varied, challenging and rewarding too.  I’d recommend volunteering to anyone.”

I am told more stories from a community organisation involving large numbers of volunteers in a wide range of roles:

“I got a job, and I’m studying at Polytech, all because the organisation gave me confidence to believe in myself and my abilities”

“I’m working as an ESL teacher now – all because I volunteered and the organisation acted as my referee”

Then there are the corporate volunteers, where businesses support employees to volunteer in the community.  It might be for a fund-raising event, or a day-long conservation project working on improving a particular environment, or offering professional expertise to an organisation.  Here is what the organiser of one company’s volunteer projects says:

“This is a community-minded company.  The people here care about the community and volunteering.  My bosses leave me to make it happen.  It is very much their interest that drives our volunteering: it is their way of giving back to the community.”

I raise a flag too for the unsung volunteers in our communities, the huge population of informal volunteers whose voices are not often heard in public, nor their deeds loudly proclaimed.  These are the people who look out for their neighbours, the clusters of small organisations who take the initiative to restore a waterway, to plant a hillside, those who run a sports team, develop a programme for young people, or the young people themselves who fundraise to help the cause of their choice.

If you ask them why you are likely to hear statements like these:

“It’s what you do – it’s part and parcel of living in this community”

“Giving is also receiving.”

“It’s easy to write a cheque, and it’s much more satisfying to give your time and skills to doing something money can’t buy.”

This week is also a time to acknowledge the organisations that give volunteers such opportunities.   Here are a couple of testimonies from volunteers, drawn from Volunteer Wellington newsletter (Dec/Jan 2012).

“Volunteer work has to have purpose and be well managed, so that people know where they stand and how they are making a difference.  Then they will be committed.”

“The people and managers at all the places I volunteered gave me a feeling of belonging.  I always felt I was treated as one of the staff – properly equal.”

These are samples of the stories you will hear from volunteers.  They come from different directions, representing different interests and different reasons for volunteering.  They are also the stories about building communities, contributing to that interlocking honeycomb pattern that is our logo for this week.

So the joy of volunteering, the learning, the life path development, the social networks and the individual achievements illustrate the importance of (1) a switched-on manager of volunteers, and (2) an organisation that understands and fully appreciates the true value of volunteer contributions.

Volunteers + the organisation + good leadership and management = Building Communities  

*  Those who notice the adaptation of a biblical quote will also recognise that Volunteering has biblical dimensions.

 

May 27, 2012

Creating a Learning Pathway

Posted in Best Practice, Leading Volunteers, Management of Volunteers Project, Managers Matter, Professional Development, Professionalism tagged , , , , , , , at 4:16 am by Sue Hine

Those of you who receive the Updates on Volunteering New Zealand’s Management of Volunteers Project will notice a gathering momentum.  The Learning and Development work-stream, charged with creating a professional development pathway, is making good progress towards a significant milestone.

As a reminder, the two key areas of the group’s work programme are:

  1. To identify key competencies for leaders and managers of volunteers
  2. To establish a process for enabling Assessment of Prior Learning (APL)

The part that has taken the most time and effort is figuring out how to frame Competencies.  A whole issue of e-volunteerism (October 2011) devoted to ‘credentialing’, with contributors from all around the world, could not produce a consensus.  It was not simply a matter of establishing options for certification, nor in identifying particular tasks or skills.  Much of the debate roved around the meaning of competence and its application to the business of managing volunteers.

The Learning and Development group is not engaged in determining the detail of what knowledge, skills and attributes signify competencies for managers of volunteers.  That way overlooks the huge diversity in organisations, responsibilities, communities and sector interests.  There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula.  Prescription could also become stifling for people wanting to move beyond standard practice, for people wanting to carve out new territory in leading volunteers.

The principal concern for the group is to identify a learning pathway, a road-map that offers clear entry points, recognition of prior learning, indications for further learning, and for leadership extension.  The pathway is open to all non-profit organisations, will offer something to all managers and leaders of volunteers, regardless of scope and scale of the organisation.

Think of a motorway with on-ramps, and passing lanes, and exits to different destinations.  Think of short journeys for immediate and relevant development needs, or taking the long road to a higher goal.  This learning pathway will have signposts and markers for different options, and room for personal choice and direction.

The Wellington Leadership Group met a couple of weeks ago to consider a draft proposal for the motorway. We are impressed with the breadth and depth of the work that has gone into compiling the documents. We are excited by the range of ways the model could be used, and how useful it will be as a development guide for both new and experienced managers of volunteers.

The draft competency framework will be available for consultation in a matter of weeks.  Getting feedback is one small step towards the significant milestone that will benefit all managers and leaders of volunteers inNew Zealand, and their organisations.

Next page