Several years ago when I first started out desiging and delivering training for volunteer managers, I noticed there appeared to be a set of training subjects related to managing volunteers that were consistent.
You know the ones I mean: Support and Supervision, Handling Problem Volunteers (!!), (I need a separate blog post for this title), Volunteers and the Law - and this one - Recognising and Rewarding Volunteers. In my naivety and in wanting to give people what they said they wanted - I fell into the pattern of offering these topics too. And this was OK for a while. But over time, I realised things were changing and that we had the opportunity to develop our thinking further - much further! And this is what I want to focus on for this week's Thoughtful Thursday.
I think I've said before that I'm delighted and proud to say that there has been lots of change and development for volunteer management over the last ten years. And yet, in many ways - some things are still the same - and what I mean is that we are still stuck in our thinking about how we approach this stuff. I know I can be too. But that's what's great about something like Thoughtful Thursday and the other brilliant ways we can connect, learn and share in order to develop ourselves and the profession. We can take time out to challenge oneanother in a way that is not too scary and encourages us to reflect and make changes.
Indeed, one of the things that hasn't changed so much is that I still get asked to deliver training on Recognising and Rewarding Volunteers, and this baffles me. Why? Are we really so unimaginative that we need a training course to help us think up ways to say thank you? I'm not saying there's no mileage in getting together with others to thrash ideas around and to gain some inspiration - of course we need to do that, but the problem is that I know from experience that people will come to training like this with the expectation that there's a formula, a set of approaches that Good Practice says they need to follow in order to say thank you to their volunteers. And for me, this is where I think we need to step beyond the guide books and toolkits and consider just what it is we're doing here.
We need our structures and our processes in volunteer management. They give us a framework and something to pin things on - plus they help to gain that all important buy-in across the rest of the organisation. But, we need to put the people, the volunteers, back at the heart of what we're doing, because without them - we can't deliver! In many ways, our success as a volunteer manager and leader lies in the simplicity of developing effective and true interactions with our volunteers. Getting to know them. Building relationships. Seeing them as individuals - not just as a group or a label. And, for some brilliant inspiration on this subject, I'd like you to check out DJ Cronin's recent blog post where he talks about the ART of 'paying' volunteers - highlighting our true currency and therefore our approach. He refers to the ART as "Acknowledgement, Respect and Thanks". And that's it! Really simple, yet brilliantly effective.
Which brings me back to Thoughtful Thursday and our focus for this week as we lead in to the start of Volunteers Week tomorrow. A week where amongst other things, we often take specific time out to thank our volunteers and this type of recognition is important. However, let's make sure we don't fall into the trap of recognition being just about a particular week or another topic on a training course. Let's also remember to do this stuff as a natural part of the way we lead and manage and we're interested to hear about how you do this.
To help get you started - perhaps you have your own acronym - as inspired by DJ's ART blog for thanking volunteers? If so - please share it with us. Or, perhaps you'd like to capture the true essence of what you believe it's all about in 140 characters via twitter using the hash tag #ttvolmgrs As usual, full expanded thoughts can be shared right here on ivo using the comments section below.
And, to keep things connected - make sure you check out Volunteering England's Volunteers Week twitter chat tomorrow too!
We look forward to hearing from you - learning and sharing in this amazing, modern, innovative and interesting way! (No formal training course required)...