Stuart Garland is Volunteer Ireland’s Training and Programmes Manager. Having worked as a Volunteer Manager for a number of years, managed a Volunteer Centre and been a volunteer himself he has a unique insight into the current volunteering landscape.
Back in September 2008 when the recession hit Ireland’s economy CEOs of NGOs were left with difficult decisions to make about staffing levels in their organisations. Many had to reluctantly let staff go. In a number of cases the first person to be let go was the Volunteer Manager. One would almost expect the next step was to fire all the volunteers, but that didn’t happen.
Fast forward 10 years – has the landscape changed? Have we learnt anything? Are we valuing our volunteer programmes?
Problems in volunteer programmes often relate to unrealistic assumptions of what the organisation thinks the volunteers want to do and how much time they have to commit, without ever asking the volunteer for their input. Unclear or no role descriptions as well as volunteer policies which read like rule books written in 1863 do nothing to speak to today’s volunteer.
Excellence in volunteer leadership is about understanding the motivations of volunteers and using active listening, mentoring, evaluation and reflection to develop and support the volunteers.
The days of volunteers committing to volunteering for the rest of their life are over, and we need to start changing our programmes to adapt. Informal volunteering is starting to surpass formal volunteering in some countries around the world.
Here’s some reflective questions to ask yourself, which might help point you in a new direction
Providing leadership for volunteers can be exhilarating, challenging, exciting, tedious, rewarding and demanding, all at the same time. Volunteer leadership is about recruiting the right people for the right roles, engaging them in the organisation and then most importantly empowering them to be ambassadors for your organisation.
Investing in your volunteer programme is not just about supporting and resourcing your volunteer programme, it’s about investing in a future for your organisation.
If you’re unsure of how well your programme is doing why not check out Volunteer Ireland’s Volunteer Health Check or Volunteer Impact Assessment? You can contact Stuart about these tools on [email protected].