Photograph of Stuart Garland, Volunteer Ireland

“Many Backgrounds – One Profession – Stronger Together” Just another catchy slogan or is it the reality of our sector?

An International Volunteer Managers’ Day update from Stuart Garland, Volunteer Ireland’s Learning & Capacity Building Manager.

International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD) takes place on Saturday, 5 November 2022, and earlier this year, a small group of us developed this year’s theme. In promoting the theme each year, I have great discussions about our profession with colleagues near and far. This year we want to promote discussion about the uniqueness of the Volunteer Manager role, be they paid or, in most cases, a volunteer.
Recently I was working with a national volunteer-involving organisation as they embarked on recruiting their first Volunteer Manager, a great achievement. “What exactly are the skills of a leader of volunteers, and where exactly can we find these people?” the organisation’s CEO asked me.
There’s no one place where you can learn the skillset of a volunteer manager. A lot of times, it’s a broad range of skills from a variety of different settings that makes a great volunteer manager. Reflecting on some of the IVMD social media posts this year from Volunteer Managers about their prior roles or what they wanted to be before being a Volunteer Manager really shows the diversity of skills we have in our sector.
My own experience previously was as a Youth Worker, a Youth Hostel Manager, a Flight Operations Officer and a Broadcast Programmer. None of those roles naturally led me to be a Volunteer Manager. However, I gained skills and experience in each of those sectors I have used as a Volunteer Manager. Firstly in Scouting as a volunteer, before becoming a Volunteer Manager with one of the leading homelessness organisations in Ireland.
So I do think it is the reality of our sector. There is not just one skill set that makes a great Volunteer Manager – there are many skills you need.
I often reflect on these wise words from volunteer management specialist Steve McCurley: “Your niceness will let your recruit a volunteer the first time, but only your competence will let you keep them.”
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