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Volunteer Engagement: Defining the Future of the Profession

Volunteer Engagement: Defining the Future of the Profession

e-Volunteerism readers raved about Part 1 of Erin R. Spink’s presentation on "Volunteer Engagement: Defining the Future of the Profession."  Posted in the last issue, one reader called it "a brilliant, educational and provocative article,” while another noted that it “challenges current thinking."

In this issue, Spink presents Part 2 of her study on volunteer engagement, a continuation that readers will no doubt discover is as provocative as Part 1. In her second installment, Spink focuses exclusively on the history of the term, and concludes that a proper definition of volunteer engagement is not only necessary and practical but a step that will help define the future of the profession

To read the full article

Mon, 04/18/2011
“Matching the motivations, dreams and goals of an individual with the motivations, dreams and goals of an organisation – when you get those closely aligned then, I think, you've got a very motivated group of people because it's not work, it's life.” Adrian Moorhouse, former Olympic swimming champion and now Managing Director of ‘lane 4’. CIPD Podcast on Talent Management (2007) Erin's paper is helpful in progressing thinking in territory that is inexplicably unchartered – the notion that the principles of employee engagement can be applied to volunteering. Current thinking in the volunteer management profession can be a little 2-dimensional in this area, often with the presentation that HR is essentially bureaucracy and an anathema to volunteer management ipso facto. However, if we as a profession can develop academic research in this area, then I’m sure we will find conversely that the principles of volunteer engagement can be applied to employees! There is something of a people management secret that lies at the point where the management of volunteers and the management of paid staff overlap, and as Erin so helpfully presents, this ‘secret’ is around the notion of encouraging paid staff to volunteer their discretionary effort and talents in a way that furthers the aims of an organisation. This fundamental area of people management embraces the principles and ethos of volunteering. Therefore we need to research how world class volunteer-involving organisations manage both its paid and its volunteer staff. When a volunteer-involving organisation gets this right, it can be ‘world class’ in every sense – creativity and innovation are matched in equal measure with resource provision focused on delivering key outcomes, as the organisation strives to pursue its vision amidst the complexities of its external environment. Volunteer-involving organisations that get this right are able to bring out the talent of their people and encourage both paid staff and volunteers, to offer their ‘discretionary effort’ for the cause. Such organisations are able to fully utilise the skills and interest of volunteers by matching these with both current and developing work-streams. The ‘latent talent’ that exists at many levels within volunteers frequently allows organisations to take opportunities otherwise unattainable if this talent had remained untapped. Similarly, paid staff are also encouraged to volunteer discretionary effort if the underpinning facets, highlighted by Purcell’s research (2003) are in place. Namely: effective line management, HR policies that fully engage with people, and an organisation to believe in. In this sense, world class volunteer-involving organisations apply the principles of volunteer management to not only its volunteers, but also to its paid staff. It encourages people to volunteer their talent, their time, their intellect and creativity, and their commitment and loyalty…. “because it's not work, it's life!” So thanks Erin for the work you are doing in this field – it gives a sense of confidence that one day we will be able to contribute to the wider people management agenda (which can only benefit the volunteer management profession), with the notion that quality people management is volunteer management!

Tue, 05/03/2011
Thank you Steve, for once again sharing your thoughtful reflections! I agree with you that as volunteer engagement professionals, we have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the engagement of all people, both paid and voluntary.