I heard many interesting things there. One that caught my attention was the statistic that only 6% of volunteer managers do their volunteer management role full time. A quick show of hands at the conference showed that most of those attending belonged to that 6%.
And that got me thinking… Where were the other 94%? And, more widely, who is currently speaking for the world of volunteer management? Is it representative, and if not, how can we get others involved?
Looking at discussion boards, Twitter and blogs, a lot of those talking about volunteer management do appear to be involved full time (although I’ll admit that my research method isn’t exactly robust, being mainly based on job titles). Certainly the proportion involved full time seems to be a lot higher than 6%.
Time is likely a factor. Take attending the conference as an example. If I work 10 hours a week and spend 1 day at a conference that’s 70% of my working week. However, if I work 35 hours a week and spend 1 day at the same conference that’s only 20% of my working hours. That makes it much easier to justify that use of time to myself, to managers, to volunteers, and to anyone else who might be scrutinising what I do. The same is true of blogging, tweeting, and generally getting involved in anything beyond your immediate day to day work – it takes a higher proportion of your time if you only work part time in that role.
But is it the whole picture? I don’t think so, although I’m not claiming to have all the answers. I think other factors probably include
- a lack of awareness of the wider debates and ways of getting involved
- not seeing yourself as a ‘volunteer manager’ (I’ve been thinking a lot about this title, and will probably write a blog on it in the future)
- not valuing the debates and discussion currently happening on volunteer management and related subjects
- not seeing how all this relates to you
- thinking that your contribution isn't valuable
How do we get around this? One way could be to target those organisations that specifically work with smaller charities, which are less likely to have staff working full time as volunteer managers. There are a few out there, for example the Small Charity Directory and the Small Charities Coalition.
Another could be to target volunteering organisations. Many volunteer managers are volunteers themselves, and may be more likely to connect through a volunteering organisation.
A third is to raise the profile and importance of volunteer management as an occupation and sector in its own right. Do that, and those who balance volunteer management amongst many other elements of their role may be able to prioritise volunteer management and start to engage more widely.
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts and ideas. Does it matter if we’re not representative? How can we address the issue? And are you one of the 94%, proving me wrong by reading my blog and joining the debate?