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Mapping Our Field: What Is Volunteer Management at the Start of the 21st Century?

Mapping Our Field: What Is Volunteer Management at the Start of the 21st Century?

The future of volunteer management as a profession is a hot topic on both sides of the Atlantic, if not in other parts of the world. As evidence, consider the fact that the inaugural issue (Fall 2000) of e-Volunteerism featured several articles dealing with this subject.

If our field is to have a future that managers of volunteers sign up to, then those of us working in these roles must engage in the debates taking place around us. This requires an ability to plainly convey where our field is now to clearly articulate a vision of the future.

Here lies the issue I wish to address.

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Sun, 01/28/2001
I found the article very interesting and helpful conceptually. My own background is with a national canadian health charity. It is a topic I would like to understand and be able to talk about more clearly. Rob's ideas are a good beginning. The volunteer management paradigm begs many questions that are on my mind as a staff person concerned about organizational development. I think that much of what goes on between head office and the field (e.g., chapters), between staff and volunteers (working together or within the larger system) in a larger NFP organization, is "poltical"...Volunteer Management is affected by things like power dynamics--who has/doesn't have it--staff or volunteers? local or head office? where is the individual volunteer in the organization? When developing a volunteer program that has consistent vision, values, policies, procedures, strategic issues, as Rob describes, become more important. I guess this is building the infrastructure. But it is strategic and those staff who implement the direct service volunteer management activities need to have and promote the values of the organization... And those who develop the vision, policy, etc, need to be sensitive to the issues related to direct service.

Sat, 10/09/2010
Dr. Safrit and I started the Institute for Leadership and Volunteer Management to address the career progression Rob describes. We offer one 20 hour. segment on Volunteer Management, which includes an indepth look at building and managing a volunteer program. The other three 20 hour sessions are designed to go beyond this to program development and management. As Rob indicated, we concentrate on higher level management skills such as strategic planning, program planning, outcome evaluation, board development and leadership. It has been interesting over the years to see responses to the course. Some participants love the idea that this is a profession with a career path and they jump at the opportunity to explore and develop higher level management and leadership skills. While other participants have told us they don't want to move away from the direct work managing the volunteers. They are not interested in higher level management positions. I like Rob's discussion. But, as is the case in all careers, not every volunteer manager can/should move into a program management position. Different skills are required. Sometimes the wonderful people skills needed at the direct management level are not the skills needed for program management. I do beleive there is a career path, but as is probably the case in all careers, not everyone can make the upward transition. My personal frustration with much of the training/education offered for volunteer management today deals only with the direct managment skills. I think it is sad we do not focus more on program development, needs assessments, strategic planning, organizational development, change management, outcome measurements, etc.