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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Volunteer Management: Who are we?

I was with some colleagues from the volunteer management sector a while ago when the topic of qualifications in volunteer management came up. I, along with other colleagues, are very keen for tertiary institutions to design courses specifically for volunteer coordination or volunteer management as it is a unique sector and we feel it requires a course of its own. One person in the group by way of illustration turned to me suggesting that it would be a good idea for me to get a qualification and that a course in volunteer coordination would give credit for skills gained while working in the field of volunteer coordination. She went on to assume that I had chosen volunteer coordination for reasons of work/life balance and that because of this I worked part time.

I am by no means suggesting that there is anything wrong with this. In fact this may be quite true of many people. The hours that people work and the qualifications that people have is a matter of choice, individual choice. However what I find disturbing is that a person within our sector, albeit perhaps not at the coal face, is making a broad, generalist assumption that all volunteer managers and coordinators, or at least all of those in my demographic, are in the job because they are either winding down or making a career choice based solely on work/life balance. What does this say about our sector? Volunteer management is only the job that you have when you are about ready to retire or the job that you have when you are balancing work with bringing up a young family. If this is the mindset of people within our own sector what message are we, as a sector, sending to the general population. Is it any wonder we may not be considered as a profession by some if this is the perceived stereotypical view of volunteer management worldwide?

There was a time when I fitted into this stereotypical view. I had a part time job which entailed coordinating volunteers. I had this job when my children were young and it fitted in with the work/life balance of bringing up young children. In making generalist assumptions about volunteer managers and coordinators, what my colleague had not realised was in fact that I already have qualifications – 2 in fact; a Bachelor of Administration majoring in Information Systems and an Associate Diploma in Business. I work full time as a volunteer coordinator and have a challenging and dynamic role which I enthusiastically embrace as my career destiny. I have been fortunate to have colleagues in the volunteer management sector who are themselves dynamic leaders and their passion for advancing the sector has rubbed off on me.

Our sector is unique in that people from diverse backgrounds with many and varied skill sets can and do work as volunteer managers and coordinators. It is perhaps one of the few professions with a broad scope of position descriptions and tenures which lend themselves to varying participation rates which meet our work requirements at different stages of our lives. However let’s not forget that we are a profession and that we need to be inclusive of all jobs within our sector and to make generalised assumptions about volunteer management as a whole based only on a part of the sector is not productive in promoting volunteer management as a burgeoning profession.
I hope that this post evokes thought to the following questions
  • Who we are as a sector?
  • Where do we fit as a profession?
  • What type of messages are we giving to promote our sector?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
I value and encourage your feedback to the above questions.
So come on be brave, be bold and be a voice to encourage others in our sector.

This post was also posted on I-Volunteer.  Click on title of this blog to see this post and comments on this site.

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