I'm really excited about this blog post in which we hear from our New Zealand colleague Claire Teal about the work Volunteering New Zealand is doing to support and develop volunteer managers. Their work is innovative and exciting and, in my view, provides a model that we other countries could (should?) replicate in their own contexts in order to raise the profile of the important role leaders and managers of volunteers play in society.
But enough of my views, over to you Claire...
, our answer to that question has
literally been to put a line in the sand and say we either need to accept that
change will happen as a result of those demands, or stop demanding. We knew,
through two conferences (2009
and 2011), some major research assignments canvassing over 800 New Zealand
managers/leaders of volunteers and a whole lot of talking that there were some
clear priorities for action here. Those clear priorities just needed to be
outworked in a way that respected and reflected
both the huge diversity of roles and the differing levels of desire for
increased opportunities and recognition present in our field. The work we’re
doing at Volunteering New Zealand around this is still very new, but the
response we’ve received so far from managers/leaders of volunteers, wider
organisations, and stakeholder groups as a whole across the country indicates
that we’re on the right track. New
So, what has our approach been?:
- To focus on the total inseparability of individual development for managers/leaders of volunteers from development of the groups and organisations they work within.
- To respond directly to what New Zealand managers/leaders of volunteers have said they want, without making anything compulsory or forcing it on those who aren't interested (but at the same time trying to bust the whole ‘volunteer managers of volunteers will get left behind’ myth. Who says these people don’t want to take charge of their own professional development?! Then why do we always assume they don’t?).
- To collaborate as much as possible, by doing all work through national working groups, by getting on the road and facilitating workshops for managers/leaders of volunteers around the country, and by seeking feedback every step of the way.
As I said, our work is still new, but in three years we’ve covered a lot of ground.
Many managers/leaders of volunteers seem to at the idea of a qualification because they see it as one clear leverage point from which to demand the status and recognition they deserve. Maybe one day our work here will progress to a qualification, but right now we’ve pulled back from the qualification debate to focus on the questions managers/leaders of volunteers are actually asking about their professional development. Things like:
"As a manager of volunteers, how do I find out what training and study opportunities I should be looking for to help me develop the skills I want to develop? Are there even opportunities out there?"
To use their words,
volunteers want a learning pathway that they can use for their own,
individual professional development. A pathway suggests movement, and to show
movement, you need something to act as a marker or baseline. To create markers,
we've been working on a set of competencies for all New Zealand
managers/leaders of volunteers. They are high-level, not task-focused, and they
map out four key areas of skills/values/attributes that managers/leaders of
volunteers demonstrate in their work. Our goal is to work these competencies
into a self-assessment tool that will make it easier to find the
best-suited-to-you learning and development options that already exist,
including assessment/recognition of prior learning. This will result in
managers/leaders of volunteers being able to make informed choices about their
own professional development from the day they enter the field through to the
most advanced level. New Zealand
The competencies are still under feedback and consultation in
and so there is a high chance what you see below will change. However, here’s a
quick sneak preview of a little bit, so you can see how we’ve structured them: New Zealand
Base Knowledge Applied
Leadership Within Organisations
Managers of volunteers demonstrate organisational vision and values, and influence people to achieve them (both paid and volunteer staff)
You know the organisation’s vision and values
You apply the organisation’s vision and values to your own and other’s roles and tasks
You seek input from the team into current and future activities, and how best to align these to the organisation’s vision, values and strategic direction
You engage with others from both within the organisation and across the community to get their input into strategic direction and ideas for collaboration
Developing ourselves as managers/leaders of volunteers is one thing, but what about the groups and organisations we operate within?
Again, our method has been to draw another line in the sand and say hey, it doesn’t actually matter if organisations are big or informal, or if the manager/leader of volunteers is paid or a volunteer themselves. If you are serious about effectively involving volunteers, then you need to be serious about recognising, resourcing and supporting both these volunteers and the person providing the skilled leadership they need.
To speak into this, we are developing best practice guidelines for organisations. These aren't guidelines for how to manage volunteers well. They are tips and strategies for groups and organisations to use to ensure everything to do with volunteers (manager/leader of volunteers and volunteers, and all they do) is recognised, resourced and supported as a vital part of the organisation. Obviously, implementing these guidelines effectively means engaging across organisations much more widely than ‘just’ with the manager/leader of volunteers. It requires buy-in from Chief Executives and Boards, Senior Management, and so on. As an incentive, we are creating a category of Volunteering New Zealand Champion Organisation; organisations to hold this title will be those who can demonstrate commitment from a whole-of-organisation foundation to the principles of the best practice guidelines.
As I said earlier, we see a total inseparability of organisational development from individual development. We can have the most highly professionally developed managers/leaders of volunteers in the world, but if our organisations still don’t get what we do, then what have we really achieved?
This is very much a once-over-lightly look at what we volunteer management advocates are up to in
. I know (and many
times, am reminded the hard way) that this is a contentious topic. There is no
set template for what management/leadership of volunteers looks like in New
Zealand or anywhere else in the world, and it’s hard to introduce change and
development into the ‘field’ without many people assuming you want to create
one. Trying to grow and develop management of volunteers means balancing the managers/leaders
of volunteers who do want to see the field develop and those who might not be
as interested in this, or are concerned about its implications. It also means
encouraging both ends of the continuum and everyone in between that the
stand-point we all hold is okay! New Zealand
At the end of the day, we are all in it for the same reason - because we believe in the power of volunteering and we want to ensure the best possible experience for volunteers we work with.
Claire is a passionate advocate for the important role Managers and Leaders of Volunteers play in the design and delivery of effective volunteer programmes. She brings nearly two decades of experience working in the Community and Voluntary Sector in both paid and volunteer capacities to her role as Programme Manager at Volunteering
. New Zealand
Previously she worked as Service Manager at the Central City Branch of the
Citizens Advice Bureau, leading
the volunteer team and taking a key role in the development of several
collaborative community projects. Prior to this, she held roles as a statutory
social worker and in community engagement in primary health care. Wellington
Claire is currently Deputy Chair of Volunteer
on the Leadership Team of Women in Leadership Aotearoa, and on the
International Volunteer Managers Day Committee. In 2011, she was an invited
international faculty member at the Australasian Advanced Retreat for Managers
of Volunteers. This year, she is a participant in the Leadership Wellington
Leadership Programme. New Zealand