This week I was intrigued to read a news story urging people NOT to waste their time volunteering.
The article proposes that individuals can ensure ‘more bang for their buck’ by sticking to their day job and donating some of their hard earned cash to the cause of their choosing, rather than giving their time and skills directly to a needy cause.
To me, The Age story highlights a people management issue, not a charity or volunteering issue.
In any role – paid or unpaid – managers must understand what motivates people, set expectations and check in regularly to see how staff are going. It sounds like in Ms Lam’s paid charity position there was a significant gap between her expectations and experience (she thought there would be no office politics etc – wouldn’t we all love that!). Unfortunately these are issues common to any organisation and it shows why managing people well is the key to any organisation’s success- charity or not. It is a classic case of poor job fit.
This issue is perhaps even more important for volunteer management, because as this article shows, a bad experience can put people off volunteering all together. This serves as a timely reminder to volunteer managers and VIOs that we need to understand what volunteers want out of the experience, set realistic expectations, manage them effectively and if they’re not happy or they want another type of experience, help set them up with other organisations through local Volunteer Resource Centres (or peaks like CFV) who can better match volunteers with volunteer experiences that align with their expectations and skills.
Sure, donating $ is great and maybe that’s best for some people. And financial support for charities is always welcome. But let’s call the reported experience for what it was: a bad volunteer experience most likely due to poor volunteer management and perhaps poor role/organisation fit in the first place. This volunteer didn’t experience any of the highs she expected and that most volunteers talk about. This shows the importance of getting it right… right volunteer role in the right organisation with the right volunteer management. Because when it goes wrong, we can lose people from volunteering for good.
This month we report on the proposed changes to the Federal Government’s funding program through DSS, withdrawing designated funding for volunteer support services in the proposed Strong and Resilient Communities (SARC) Grants Program.
Under the new SARC program there is no provision for volunteer support services to receive dedicated funding. Rather, funding will be available only for one-off projects that address ‘community resilience’ or ‘inclusive communities’. We maintain that volunteer support services are the heart of a healthy volunteering sector, providing essential services to the community, and without which the future of volunteering looks bleak.
Volunteering is freely given – but it does require investment.
We encourage you to contact your local Federal MP to advise them of your concerns for volunteering in your area should the local VSS cease to be funded to its current level.