<![CDATA[Fish Quay - Blog]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 12:24:56 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Falling on Deaf Ears? The Psychology of Giving Advice]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 16:50:02 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/falling-on-deaf-ears-the-psychology-of-giving-adviceand how it relates to working with volunteers
Those who manage, lead, or work alongside volunteers often give advice to their teams, and may be surprised and perhaps frustrated when it's not acted upon. This can happen both in situations where volunteers have a lot of independence and authority to act on their own, but also when we try to encourage less experienced volunteers to make their own decisions.

In turn, volunteers may offer us helpful advice. Do we always receive it well?

In my article in e-volunteerism I explore why understanding the ‘psychology of giving and receiving advice’ can help volunteer managers improve volunteer leadership practices and encourage people to act on their advice. 

Subscribe to read the full article at https://www.e-volunteerism.com/volume-xvi-issue-2-january-april-2016/feature-articles/Falling_on_Deaf_Ears.
<![CDATA[Destroying the Evaluation Zombie]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 22:55:53 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/destroying-the-evaluation-zombieAll too often evaluation can be seen as one of those annoying jobs that has to be done to tick a box. The project is finished, the event is over, the programme of work is complete and you’re ready to move on, but evaluation feels like the zombie that has to be staked through the heart before you can turn your back.

Stop! If that’s your opinion of evaluation I think you’ve got it all wrong, and here’s why.

Evaluation is a vital part of any piece of work. It helps you measure success and see your achievements, as well as helping you understand how to improve in the future. If job satisfaction is important to you and your colleagues (whether paid or unpaid) you’ll all benefit from seeing the impact you’ve made and knowing how you can build on it.

And evaluation is not some add-on that you ignore until the ‘real’ work is done. You need to think about it from the beginning, make a plan, and act on it throughout. As I have discovered to my peril, it’s no use deciding that you need to talk to participants at every event when three quarters of the events have already happened. 

Have a plan

The first stage of evaluation is to think about what the aims and objectives of your work are. I’m constantly amazed at how often this doesn’t happen despite being essential for both project planning and evaluation. This is how you will measure success. Try evaluating a piece of work that had no clear aims and objectives and you soon realise you have no way of knowing how well (or badly) you’ve done.

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, think about how you can monitor it. It’s important that you try to include measures relating to each of the aims/objectives of the project. This is likely to include:

  • Quantitative information. For example the number of clients you worked with, number of visitors at an event, participants in a workshop, clicks on your website, hours spent doing an activity, how many people would recommend you to a friend.
  • Qualitative information. What did people get from taking part? What difference did you make to the lives of your clients? How did the partners involved feel about the event? What change have people experienced as a result?

Qualitative information is often thought of as impartial and is generally easy to analyse and present. However, it can be dry and often doesn’t say much about the actual impact of the work.

Quantitative information, by contrast, can be difficult to assess, open to different interpretations, and hard to present, but can really speak to people about impact and individual successes of the programme.

A good evaluation will include a mixture of quantitative and qualitative information.

Get creative

Next you have to think about how to collect the information you want. This could include questionnaires, surveys, counting numbers, looking at clicks on your website, …, the list is endless. Think about how practical it is as well as whether it will actually get you the information you want.

A word of warning - it’s not always possible or practical to get it all. For example, if you send out a questionnaire you might get a very low response rate which won’t give enough data to be of any use. Or your website might not be technically advanced enough to track the user information you want to measure; or counting the number of people attending a street festival might require a lot of staff presence on the ground which is financially unviable, etc.

If a particular measure won’t work or isn’t manageable, try to be creative and think of another way of collecting information that will enable you to assess performance against that aim or objective.

Collect the information

It goes without saying that you need to make sure you collect the information identified as you go through the programme. It’s no use looking back and realising you’ve missed the opportunity, you need to be on top of it. It can be useful to build evaluation activity into the project plan and/or to have a lead person responsible for the evaluation who can make sure it doesn’t get pushed aside through the life of the project.

Think about how you present it

Once you’ve got all the information you need you will need to analyse it and think about how you’re going to present your findings to others.

A good starting point is to look back at each aim and objective and assess each separately. That way you can see where your successes were and which areas may need to be improved in future.

Think about using graphs, charts and tables to present your findings, as well as text. This can make it easier for people to take in the information and can break up a report.

Don’t keep it to yourself

Now you’ve evaluated your project, share it with the world! If the evaluation report is very long and makes for dull reading despite your best efforts, write an executive summary or think about pulling out the conclusions, or producing a separate document of just the graphics and a few key points.

  • Send it to everyone involved in the project so they can see its successes and the potential to build on it. 
  • Write a blog or a web article summarizing the findings. 
  • Tweet about it. 
  • Find a human interest angle and send a press release to the local media. 

Charities can be good at telling people what we’re going to do or what we’d like to do (if only you’d give us the money…) but sometimes aren’t so good at reporting back on our successes.

And voila, the evaluation zombie has become a trusted critical friend.

<![CDATA[Lies, damned lies, and statistics]]>Mon, 16 Feb 2015 15:09:44 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/lies-damned-lies-and-statisticsI love a statistic. Even more than that I love people who investigate statistics, get under their skin, and debunk a few of the less helpful ones. (One of my favourite radio shows is More or Less, a Radio 4 programme that investigates statistics that have been in the news each week).

Statistics can be useful but they need careful interpretation and shouldn’t be used in isolation or they can be more of a hindrance than a help.

It has often been said that you can prove anything you want with statistics and it’s certainly true that you can read them many ways. I am often involved in discussions about how to measure the success of volunteer programmes. A figure often discussed is the volunteer drop-out rate. This is attractive because it’s a single figure, should be quite easy to measure (assuming your organisation holds data on who volunteers and when they stop) and at first glance seems like a good measure of how much people enjoy their volunteering – after all, if they don’t enjoy it they will vote with their feet and leave. However, this statistic, like so many others, needs to be interpreted carefully.  There is often an assumption that a lower drop-out rate is better, whether that’s in comparison to other charities or to previous years. Unfortunately a comparison like this fails to take into account all sorts of factors. For example, say Charity X specialises in engaging people who are not in education or employment in volunteering as a way of gaining skills, confidence and experience. We would hope that many of these volunteers might leave to go on to other things, such as paid work or progressive voluntary roles. So a low volunteer ‘drop-out’ rate may not be a good thing – it could show that people are not developing in the way we hope and are therefore staying in the programme. That said, a high drop-out rate may not necessarily be good either – maybe people aren’t going on to other opportunities, maybe they’re dropping out of the system and just not engaging any more. So other factors need to be taken into account, for example why people left and what they went on to do next. Just considering the statistic doesn't give us anything like the whole picture.

In my blog More than just fundraising I mentioned my frustration with the use of numerical measures as the way of judging a charity, for example by considering how much of each £1 is spent on fundraising or how much is spent on overheads. Aside from the wider issues of judging charities this way (eloquently explained by Dan Pallotta in his TED talk) the numbers themselves are not the immovable and definitive measure we sometimes think they are. Using the example of the proportion of money spent on overheads, the way this is calculated can vary widely. Charity A might count all their central office costs as an overhead, while Charity B allocates a proportion of these costs to each project. The money is therefore counted as a project cost rather than an overhead. (Incidentally I think Charity B is right to do this – after all, the projects wouldn’t exist without the support and activities of the central organisation, which are based at the office). So even if their spending is identical, Charity A might look like it spends a much higher proportion of its money on overheads than Charity B. The statistic doesn’t show the whole picture.

And the same numbers can be presented (or interpreted) several ways – for example, some funders and donors see it as a really positive thing that each £1 they invest in a certain non-profit is turned into £4 or £5 or £20 by their chosen charity. Others might criticise the proportion of each donated £1 that is used for fundraising, regardless of the fact that it results in a 4, 5 or 20-fold increase in the money available to help the cause. Numbers can be read many ways.

This is not to say that statistics cannot be helpful – they absolutely can, and I’m a big advocate of recording and monitoring data relevant to your organisation and your programmes and using it to help you understand what's going on, monitor progress, and measure success. Coming back to volunteer drop-out rates, one charity I worked with asked volunteers to stay with them for at least a year in order to provide stability to the young people those volunteers supported. By comparing the number of volunteers dropping out within a year from area to area and from year to year they were able to focus their efforts where they were most needed, monitor the success of the organisation in meeting this target, and refine their volunteer recruitment and support to encourage more volunteers to stay for this time. A successful use of a statistic in real life but it was not used in isolation – it was just one measure and one consideration in how successful the programme was – and many factors were considered alongside the raw statistic, such as key events that might have affected a large number of volunteers in a certain patch.

Recently I came across a quote regarding statistics by from Aaron Levenstein: “Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” I think we would do well to remember that.

<![CDATA[More than just fundraising]]>Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:22:29 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/more-than-just-fundraisingWiden the discussion – there’s much more to charities than finance

As 2015 dawns I find myself reflecting on the past year in the voluntary sector. A lot of emphasis in the last 12 months seems to have been placed on the financial aspects of charities. Questions about chief executives’ pay have dominated many debates, while major viral fundraising phenomena have drawn huge amounts of attention from the general public – think of the no-make-up selfie and the ice bucket challenge.

While some other aspects of the sector have made the news (e.g. discussion about the rights and wrongs of the government’s ‘volunteering’ schemes), the first thing most people think of when they think of charities is fundraising. I know from personal experience – 9 times out of 10 when I say I work in the charity sector people automatically assume I’m a fundraiser. When I mention some of the other things I do – volunteering development, project management, training, etc. – they look at me blankly. People simply only think about charities in connection with asking for money rather than how we get down to the fundamental business of helping people (or animals, or the environment).

You may wonder what the problem is with that. But to me, focusing solely on the financial side of charities misses the point.

By only considering finances people try to judge charities on financial criteria alone: What percentage of charity A’s funds goes on administration? How much of every £1 fundraised is spent on more fundraising? What does the man or woman at the top earn? How much does the charity raise in a year? Rather than looking at the bigger picture including outcomes: How many people has charity A helped and in what ways? What does charity B bring to the local community? What progress has been made towards charity C’s goals over the year? What would happen (or not happen) if charity D didn’t exist?

Whether consciously or subconsciously people end up using financial criteria to decide whether or not to support a particular charity or even charities in general. Whether you’re an individual with £1 to donate, or a corporation looking for a charity of the year, or a government minister deciding which sectors to support with government incentives you have to decide some how which charity to support. And if you only look at finance your decision is based on only part of the story. Moving the conversation away from fundraising and changing the image of charities from the person in the street shaking a bucket is essential if people are to be able to make informed choices about who or what to support.

While we can’t change the stories the media pick up on, or the things that capture the public’s attention, I do think we need to make one of our resolutions for 2015 to try to do just that. 

<![CDATA[silence]]>Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:52:27 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/silenceWhy are we surprised when potential volunteers don’t get back to us, and does it matter?

One of the most common complaints I hear from volunteer-involving organisations is that many potential or new volunteers never respond or suddenly stop responding to emails and phone calls.

Often, I would argue, we only have ourselves to blame. On other occasions I believe there should be no blame at all – these drop-outs are unavoidable and actually a good thing.

Our fault?

When you apply for a job it’s common not to hear anything back unless you’re shortlisted for interview. Sadly many volunteering enquiries also go unanswered. So someone could apply for 5 jobs and hear nothing back, and enquire about 10 volunteering opportunities and get two replies. Why, then, are we surprised that if they’re not interested in our volunteer role when they learn more about it they simply ignore us? We’ve taught them that it’s fine to ignore someone.

Another common reason for sudden silence is a lack of support or information. I have known potential or new volunteers to stop responding when:
  • it took the organisation weeks or even months to reply to their initial enquiry
  • they haven’t been provided with information about the role(s) available and what they involve
  • they haven’t been made to feel welcome (e.g. by being introduced to others, shown where they can get a coffee, greeted at an event, etc.)
  • they simply haven’t been told where they need to be and when (sadly this happens a lot with committees, who assume that because their committee meeting dates are advertised on a website or in a newsletter new volunteers will automatically attend)
  • they’ve missed a session or meeting and are worried about going back. Giving a new volunteer a call to check they’re OK and see why they weren’t there can make them feel valued, reassure them it’s OK to come back, and enable you to identify any concerns they have.
  • they haven’t been given anything to do or, conversely, they feel bombarded with tasks they don’t want to do/feel ill-equipped to carry out

Part of good volunteer management is to support people through the early stages of volunteering – from when they enquire right through to when they’re a fully-fledged volunteer (and, of course, beyond that). We need to get things right.

Unavoidable drop out?

On the other hand, in my opinion, any healthy volunteer programme should have some drop out during the recruitment process (whether that’s a formalised process or not). It’s natural that some people will decide a role isn’t for them when they find out more. In fact you could argue that it’s good to try to put people off by being upfront about the realities of the role as early as possible.

An example of this which I often quote is the RNLI. I live at the coast and I once thought, “Maybe I should volunteer for the lifeboats.” I followed this up with a visit to their website, which quickly put me off the idea. Why? I read this…

“Imagine for a moment that you’re part of the crew on a lifeboat. It’s 2.30am on a freezing January morning and the pager’s just woken you from a deep sleep in a snug warm bed. You then head out to sea in complete darkness and 10m waves rise and fall around you, ready to swamp you at any moment. Strong gale force winds throw the lifeboat around like a toy. A fishing trawler is in difficulties 23 miles out to sea.
Still want to volunteer? Read on…

(from http://rnli.org/howtosupportus/getinvolved/Volunteer-zone/Pages/Volunteer-opportunities.aspx?tab=Lifeboat-crew-member)

That put me off, and rightly so. I read that with horror so I’m not the right person for them. Much better to save everyone the time and effort of enquiring when it’s not the right role for me.

A less life-threatening example is the children’s reading charity Beanstalk, who I worked for until recently. They require volunteers to go into their local school twice a week, for 1.5 hrs each time, for a full academic year. At every stage of the recruitment process they ask questions like, “Are you intending to look for full time work in the next year?” “Can you commit to 3 hrs a week during school terms?” It’s natural that some people will drop out as a result of these questions and this is a good thing. To provide consistency and stability to the children they read with, volunteer reading helpers have to be able to give that level of commitment. It’s much better that people who can’t do that drop out sooner rather than later (or are directed towards another role with the charity).

Facing the facts

So we shouldn’t always beat ourselves up about every potential volunteer who never makes it to being a volunteer. But we should think about what happened and introduce good processes to prevent avoidable drop-out and the inevitable disappointment it causes all round.

<![CDATA[ Support? Yes. Control? No.  ]]>Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:37:51 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/-support-yes-control-noMany organisations struggle to relinquish control over their volunteers. They try to micromanage them for fear that not doing so could lead to terrible consequences…

But how much control is really needed? And what are the consequences of getting it wrong?

During my years working with volunteers I’ve seen some of the results of micromanaging volunteers:

·      volunteers become stifled
·      skills go unused
·      volunteers become disengaged
·      they feel undervalued
·      they become overburdened with paperwork and reporting
·      volunteers are seen as a nice “add on” but people believe that really you need to pay someone to get the job done

In the worst case volunteers vote with their feet and leave because they can’t do what they volunteered to do.

Many people seem to think that the alternative to micromanagement is no management at all – simply throw volunteers out there and see what they do. But this just isn’t the case.

Volunteers will flourish in an environment where they are given support, information, guidance and resources to carry out the role they have chosen to do. There can be plenty of contact with staff (or with senior volunteers) without there being an attempt to control or know the tiniest detail of everything every volunteer does.

Some time ago the head of volunteering at a large, volunteer-led charity was asked why they trusted volunteers to build relationships with the local press without any controls or checks on press releases by staff. The response was that the huge volume of excellent press coverage gained by volunteers made it well worth dealing with the very occasional (although sometimes serious) issue of bad or incorrect coverage, i.e. the benefit outweighed the risk. If they stopped volunteers speaking directly to the press they would lose out on a lot of great coverage.

I believe this is something more charities should consider. When deciding whether a volunteer can do something we sometimes just think of the risk, but we should think about the benefits too, and also of the risks if they didn’t do it.

If we have the right volunteers doing the right roles with good support we should be able to trust and empower them to get out there and do it. This is now common practice when managing staff, and the same should apply to volunteers. If you trust a suitably trained and supported staff member to do a certain task you should trust a suitably trained and supported volunteer to do the same task. We are all humans after all.

<![CDATA[ Can the army learn from the voluntary sector? ]]>Wed, 15 Jan 2014 17:24:40 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/-can-the-army-learn-from-the-voluntary-sectorThe restructure of the armed forces has been in the UK news for some time. It seems less and less likely that the army reserves can recruit enough new reservists to meet its targets and fulfil its contribution to the restructured force. In fact in December The Times reported that one recruitment target had been slashed by almost three quarters. Elsewhere, it was reported that the online recruitment system isn’t ready and has fallen nearly 2 years behind schedule, that applications have been lost in the system, and that people have been waiting as long as nine months to see if they have passed basic security checks to join the force.

In a Radio 4 interview, a man who had recently tried to sign up to the reservists cited the following difficulties:
-       No one at his local army reserve office knew how he could go about applying (they ended up telling him to go home and look online).
-       The online application form blocked his application when he couldn’t answer one of the first questions. There was no way to move on and come back to that question later.
-       There was a lack of response on a phone line.

This is big news because it affects the paid workforce of the UK’s military forces.

However, if you are involved in the voluntary sector it may all sound familiar. These are issues that we have been aware of and fighting against for many years now in our efforts to recruit sufficient skilled volunteers for charities and non-profits (and yes, I know that reservists aren’t volunteers, but there are similarities).

Fantastic progress has been made, with many charity sector organisations now leading the way in effective and efficient recruitment – if only the army had come to us we could have pointed them in the right direction!

Unfortunately there are still volunteer-involving organisations trying to recruit volunteers without getting the right things in place. Like the would-be reservist above, would-be volunteers can’t get through to the right person, the system doesn’t always work, and there can be long delays.

The army has now launched a £3million recruitment campaign to boost both regular and reserve forces. Very few voluntary organisations could ever afford to do likewise, so we have to get it right to capitalise on each and every individual who considers volunteering with us. Even with £3million, the army may still find it hard to recruit if people can’t get through the application process.

So come on voluntary sector, if you had the ear of the head of the army, what would be your top tip for how to improve recruitment?  

And could you learn anything from this affair to help you in your volunteer recruitment? 

<![CDATA[Getting it right – creating a positive volunteer experience]]>Tue, 17 Dec 2013 17:43:53 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/-getting-it-right-my-own-experience-of-being-a-volunteerSeveral years ago I was given the chance to have some time off work each fortnight to volunteer. I jumped at the chance. I wanted to get involved with a group of people I’d never worked with before and I chose Newcastle’s West End Refugee Service (WERS).

I enjoyed what I did, but after a few months I changed jobs and could no longer find the time and so, reluctantly, I left WERS. Just recently I found I had more time to volunteer again. I had no hesitation in getting back in touch with WERS to see what I could do for them now.

Why? Because my first experience of volunteering with them had been so positive:

  • They always responded quickly. I went from initial contact to volunteering in just a few weeks.
  • They had clear information on the roles available and what commitment each required, but they were also flexible when I could only volunteer once a fortnight not once a week.
  • I was invited for an interview. I was a little scared. The volunteer coordinator was friendly, reassuring, had loads of time for me, answered all my questions and set me at ease.
  • I was given a pack with all the policies and procedures in as well as some tips of what to do and what not to do when working with refugees. This was really valuable to me.
  • They provided training that helped me understand the situation of those I was working with and the value of what I was doing. The training fitted in around work, and there were several opportunities to attend it. 
  • All expenses were paid as a matter of course, and were paid very promptly. I never felt bad for claiming expenses, it was just assumed that volunteers would do.
  • On leaving I was sent a card thanking me for my efforts, signed by the office staff, even though I had only been there for a few months.
  • After I left I was sent the regular e-newsletter, which helped me stay connected.
  • When I got back in touch they treated me like an old and valued friend.

I learnt a lot from my experience at WERS, and it’s something I have carried with me to the organisations I’ve worked with since then. Sadly, I’ve found very few that couldn’t learn something from the list above.

So I’d like to say thank you to WERS for giving me such a positive experience, and to challenge everyone out there who works with volunteers to think about the following

  1. Would the volunteers you work with come up with a similar list of positives for your organisation?
  2. If not, what could you do to improve things?
  3. What will be the challenges and how could you get around them?

It’s that resolution time of year, so perhaps health checking your volunteering could be one of yours? 

<![CDATA[If we’re always connected, when will we have our eureka moments?]]>Wed, 13 Nov 2013 11:11:09 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/if-were-always-connected-when-will-we-have-our-eureka-momentsLast week while listening to the radio, the presenter gave quotes from two great men – one who said he did his best thinking on the toilet, and another who said that his greatest ideas came to him while polishing his shoes. There’s something about downtime that seems to enable our brains to get to work on a problem and come up with answers.

But if we’re always connected, when does our brain get this downtime?

Ask yourself this, in the last 24 hours how much time did you spend doing nothing (and not asleep)? It was probably very little – I estimate mine to be about 30 minutes. We’re always on our phones, checking our emails, watching TV, updating Twitter, etc. etc. Even previous bastions of ‘nothing’ such as waiting for the bus or going to the toilet can now be filled with networking, connecting and communicating.

In volunteer management forums I hear a lot of talk about ‘reclaiming time for yourself’, and I agree that this is a very good thing. But people generally use the phrase to mean taking time to catch up on that reading you have to do, to make contact with a colleague, or to get up to date with the latest news.

To me, it seems we could be missing a trick here. Could we become more productive, have greater ideas, and work through problems faster by actually taking some time to genuinely do nothing? There is certainly research to back up this idea – check out Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education or this article Why your brain needs more downtime. When we’re doing nothing, our brains aren’t idle. They’re active, with parts of the brain firing up that aren’t used when we’re focused on a task.

There’s also a lot of experiential evidence to support this, from people who meditate to those who simply take a bit of time out. Try going for a walk (without your ipod), eating a sandwich (without your laptop or even a good book in front of you), or maybe polishing your shoes (without the radio or TV for company) and you can experience it for yourself – it’s amazing what scoots round in your head.

So, is doing nothing a luxury we can’t afford, or an essential that we’d be crazy to miss out on? Is being connected always better?

<![CDATA[ We should all remember, remember to sing the praises of volunteer managers ]]>Tue, 05 Nov 2013 10:12:28 GMThttp://www.fishquayconsulting.co.uk/blog/-we-should-all-remember-remember-to-sing-the-praises-of-volunteer-managersPicture
5th November is International Volunteer Managers Day, an annual day that recognises the contribution of volunteer managers around the globe.

I’ll admit it, when I first heard about it I thought “not another international day of something-or-other. Aren’t there enough of those already?” I was challenged to think about it more deeply though when fellow volunteering consultant Rob Jackson spoke up in favour of the day and invited me to write a blog post about it.

The bigger picture

I first turned my thoughts to other “days”. The ones that immediately came to mind were International Women’s Day, Nurses’ Day, and World Aids Day. These three seem to sum up what most “days of” are about:

-       shining a light on a marginalised group
-       bringing our attention to a group of people providing an important service
-       or shouting about an important cause that needs its profile raising.

But how can volunteer managers compare with that?

Are volunteer managers a marginalised group? Are we providing a service? Do we need our profile raising? In my opinion, the answer to all three is a resounding yes.

In need of recognition

Last week I met a volunteer manager who had had to fight to have her job graded on the same level as those who managed staff, because she “only” managed volunteers. This is backed up by evidence elsewhere which shows that volunteer managers often aren’t on the same grade as those who manage paid staff. As a result, volunteer managers often miss out on a place at the table for important discussions and decisions. In this sense, we are marginalised.

What about providing a service? As the website of International Volunteer Managers Day says, volunteering can’t survive in a vacuum. Volunteer managers are not the extra bit on the side. We’re essential. We enable volunteering to happen by developing positive volunteer roles, providing day to day support, and ensuring volunteers have a positive experience. In short, we enable volunteers to volunteer. I’d say that’s a pretty good service.

As for profile raising, if you say to many people that you work for a charity they will immediately assume you’re a fundraiser. People just don’t think of supporting volunteers as a role. What’s more, in this age of austerity, a lot of people unfortunately see volunteering as a cost-cutting exercise and believe it is free. They don’t see the costs involved in supporting volunteers or the value of supporting volunteers well. The profile of volunteer management needs raising.

To me then, it seems that volunteer managers are worthy of their own international day, but what does that really mean? And what can it achieve?

It’s up to us

Few international days produce concrete outcomes, but the successful ones do go hand in hand with improvements in the situation. That only happens because of hard work and action, all year round, and on the international day in particular.

If we are going to capitalise on this opportunity and make International Volunteer Managers Day mean something we have to do something. We may not be going to march to Downing Street to demand change, or run TV adverts shouting about our cause, but if we want the day to achieve something we have to make it happen.

Hold an event, tell your friends, blog about it, but most of all spread the word to volunteer managers, volunteers, other charity workers, and, most importantly, beyond! Not just on IVM day, but all year round. Only that way can we raise our profile, reduce marginalisation, and be recognised for the important service we provide.

For my part, on the day itself I’ll be tweeting, posting on Facebook, and generally shouting about it to anyone who’ll listen! And I’ll keep going for the rest of year too.

What about you?