Saturday, 27 February 2010


I’ve had a crash course in understanding volunteering in recent weeks, since joining the voluntary sector last year. I should say re-joining, as I had a spell of seven years in the sector early in my career, except that I didn’t really learn about volunteering, as I have been recently.

In the current issue of Management Today, the Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Stuart Etherington, contributes the opinion column, and writes earnestly over a full page about voluntary organisations and charities, but completely omits to mention volunteers or volunteering. Surely this is what the sector is all about?
My current responsibilities include managing (and co-delivering and assessing) a range of SQA-accredited courses in the management of volunteers and volunteering. This has given me greater insight into how we manage people in all organisations: if we consider the motivation of those whose work is unpaid, I believe we get closer to understanding what motivates paid workers too.

We all do things we don’t get paid for at some time or other (even in our jobs). We do them because we want to, because we benefit from them in some way, and because often they’re the right things to do. We don’t always recognise these things as volunteering, but perhaps that’s at least partly because even some representatives of the voluntary sector are missing the point.

I’d love to read comments from others in the sector who recognise what I’m describing. And for everyone else, I can recommend Essential Volunteer Management by Steven McCurley and Richard Lynch.

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