I am quite interested in the standard assumption that Volunteer Managers should have been volunteers themselves. Not that I necessarily think that is wrong, its just that I wonder how many other jobs have a similar requirement. For instance do we ask candidates for fundraising roles how much money they personally give to charity, or whether they have ever done a sponsored fun run (for all I know those may be standard questions, I’ve never been involved in recruitment for a fundraiser!).
I just think it adds an interesting extra dimension on to the requirements for the role. I don’t think I have ever met a Volunteer Manager who has not previously been a volunteer, and the majority seem to currently be volunteers as well, but if this is a required piece of professional development rather than a free choice, it could potentially be seen as an extra burden on an already low paid and unstable role.
On a similar topic, I have seen quite a few adverts for volunteer management positions that have suggested that previous experience of being a volunteer is AS important as previous volunteer management experience, and that does worry me. Having been a volunteer, and experienced how the way you are managed affects your work, is an extremely valuable experience, but it does not teach you all you need to know about being a volunteer manager. We would never suggest that anyone who has ever been an employee could automatically just step into an HR role, so it is illogical that we do the same with volunteering.
There are of course lots of volunteers who manage and support other volunteers, and do have the relevant experience, but there are also lots of gardening, retail, helpline, museum etc etc volunteers who do not. I wonder if we need to be clearer that being a volunteer and being a a volunteer manager (paid or unpaid) are two very different experiences.
Thank you for taking the time to hare your responses.
To take the discussion on a step, if we are going to change things for the better we need to have a clear idea of how we would tell if someone is competent enough to be a ‘good’ or ‘effective’ volunteer manager.
Sheila commented that “This would never happen within any other profession- can you ever imagine a Head of HR or Head of Finance being appointed without the relevant skills, knowledge or experience as qualifications?”
No I can’t, but then those posts would usually be filled with people with some form of formal credentialing of their competence.
So how might we gauge this for a volunteer management role?
- Is it because they have been/are a volunteer and so can be a volunteer manager?
- Is it because they have a piece of paper saying that have completed some formal qualification (NVQ etc.) in volunteer management?
- Is it because they have x years experience in such a role?
- Is it because they have a degree (in anything!) and so can ‘qualify’ for a volunteer management role?
- Is it something else? What? Why?
Lots of people will apply and be grateful to have a job in the current environment, Unfortunately it is likely to be someone who may be very highly qualified, but not necessarily in the field of volunteering as, and this has already been highlighted by a few others, volunteer management is not as highly recognised nor valued by some senior managers or organisations.
This is when the problems begin, volunteering is not managed successfully from the top down coupled by then being led by someone who is supposed to champion and lead on this within the organisation, but has no idea how this is done. Volunteer management is then further devalued and rated even lower as as happened in many organisations and viewed as an admin role. The salary is then decreased and the position placed at a low scale.
The person appointed can use transfereable skills along with all the theory in the world, but without the practical knowledge and experience the quality of the volunteering for the organisation, staff and its volunteers is of a very low standard.
Recently I’ve supported some organisations- large and small where the volunteer managers were rolling out volunteering progammes and none of them had heard of the NOS or IiVA. In some instances the person appointed had been redeployed from another role within the organisation and had volunteered years ago, so it was felt they would be OK in the role. In others they had the condition that the organisation campaigned about an/or been a volunteer for the organisation- but no real experience to deliver a Volunteer Management programme. In a few cases they had been appointed when very experienced Volunteer Managers didn’t even get through the selection process for the interview- in one case the feedback was that they couldn’t possibly understand how the organisations service users felt, in another the feedback was they were too qualified in volunteering and they really wanted a fundraiser.
This would never happen within any other profession- can you ever imagine a Head of HR or Head of Finance being appointed without the relevant skills, knowledge or experience as qualifications? I think we need to really look at ourselves, our expectations, how we campaign to raise the profile of Volunteer Managers and how we can change things for the better with all of the opportunities around.[Top]
Despite the many thousands of pounds given over the last few years to volunteering lead bodies, there has been a resounding failure in raising the profile and status of volunteer managers in organisations.
This is seen clearly by comparing salaries, and also by looking at how in these austere times almost all investment being made is in fund raising with no thought as to how organisations can best utilise those funds if there is no one leading and implementing the organisations strategy with regards to volunteering.
Even in those organisations where the most senior person with direct responsibility for volunteers works to the CEO, AVM has had feedback that those people are salaried at up to 25% LESS than colleagues on the same level within the organisation.
AVM receives no funding, other than membership fees (which average at £25 per year per member), we have no staff and our board operate as volunteers, within our own time – sometimes with support from our employing organisations. We have had some successes – for example the statement recently released by Skills Third Sector about the values of the skills of volunteer managers, and the agreement that those undertaking the new apprenticeship in managing volunteers will need to be mentored by an experienced manager of volunteers.
With more members our voice is more powerful so think about adding your voice in our continued attempt to campaign and speak out on key issues affecting people who manage volunteers. https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/
It is key to speak out now, there is a new £30 million fund just released and we need to make sure it is invested in ways which enhance the work that we do and ensure that we and our colleagues are properly supported and rewarded for the work that we do.[Top]