November 5th is International Volunteer Managers Day, a day that recognises the contribution of Volunteer Managers in mobilising and inspiring volunteer effort.
The International Volunteer Managers Day website says: “Volunteer Managers change lives — both the lives of volunteers themselves and of those served by well-led volunteers. It is a life-changing profession. Volunteer managers provide the leadership and direction that allows people to build a good and just society and to mend the social fabric. Without professional leadership, people’s time, talents and efforts could be wasted.”
In a recent survey we asked Service Development Officers in NSW about the role of Volunteer Managers, amongst other things.
The respondents asserted that the role of volunteer manager was critical to the success of the volunteer program. They identified a number of challenges for volunteer managers:
- Without a Volunteer Manager the respondents noted that leadership of the volunteer program often defaulted to a senior nurse (Nurse Unit Manager of the Clinical Nurse Consultant). The larger the volunteer cohort the less sustainable this arrangement, particularly when the vacancy is protracted.
- Even where funding existed for a Volunteer Manager role, some respondents acknowledged that the demands on the position outweighed the resources that could be afforded. This resulted in undue pressure on the Volunteer Manager.
- Even where funding existed for a Volunteer Manager role and was adequate for the requirements of the service, some respondents acknowledged that the skills and ability of the Volunteer Manager was crucial to making the service work.
All Service Development Officer respondents said that they would like to see an increased commitment to staffing and other resources to provide a service that meets growing needs and to adequately support volunteers.
At least one respondent suggested that employing an assistant to the Volunteer Manager might be a cost effective solution to capitalising on the specialist skills and abilities of the manager.
Pic: Palliative Care Volunteer Manager Arlene Roach South Western Sydney LHD with some of her graduating volunteer in June 2015.