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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Volunteer Manager’s Mission - seek out strange new worlds

I attended a seminar at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) in Brisbane, recently.  I will be honest, I was a little apprehensive.  For whatever reason, I thought that I wouldn’t fit in.  Usually when I am talking to people and the topic of conversation turns to what work do you do, I say “I’m a Volunteer Coordinator” and then hold my breath and wait for the reply of “how nice” followed by an awkward silence or a quick change of subject, because people are generally unfamiliar with the role and feel uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say next. 

So it was with some trepidation I entered the AIM building.  I was greeted in a friendly, yet professional manner and shown where I could either sit and wait or browse through the library and bookshop while I waited to be taken to the seminar room.   The event coordinator, Simone, noticing I was by myself and perhaps a little nervous, made me feel a bit more at ease with a polite conversation and you guessed it, asked the dreaded question, what do you do?   Imagine my surprise then, when after giving my usual reply, Simone responded with “that must be challenging”, finally, someone who understood my role.  Yes being a volunteer coordinator can be challenging.  A person who coordinates events would know this.  The role of coordinating or managing volunteers is challenging, because to do it well requires matching the skills, abilities, talents and needs of people to tasks, ensuring also that tasks are appropriate and meaningful.  To get the balance right requires flexibility, understanding, empathy, multitasking, organisation and time management skills to name just a few.