Celebrating International Volunteer Managers Day
November 3rd, 2022
As the peak body for volunteering in NSW, International Volunteer Managers Day represents an important date in our annual calendar. Held on Saturday 5 November, this year’s theme “Many Backgrounds – One Profession – Stronger Together” speaks to the richness and diversity of our state’s volunteer managers, and the sector as whole.
To mark this special occasion, we had the pleasure of speaking with Tahera Nassrat, CEO of the Afghan Peace Foundation, about her vast experience managing volunteers, navigating challenges, and “finding the hidden talent in the refugee sector”. Operating throughout Western Sydney, Tahera’s organisation is entirely volunteer-run, working with refugees and immigrants, particularly those who have experienced wars and persecution, to enable them to improve their quality of life and promote their social and economic inclusion.
What is your favourite part of your role?
Delivering the difference in what we do. I enjoy the personal interactions with the community. It helps me understand the similarities and differences among communities and to find the hidden talent in the refugee sector. I intent to dig, find and represent the talents across the globe to empower them to stand and get recognition. Once this is done, I feel I made a change in life of someone – this is my favourite part.
What are your biggest challenges as a volunteer manager?
To get the most value out of volunteers. Sometimes it’s hard to find someone who can deliver and meet the deadline. At the same time, you cannot pressure them. Attracting and maintaining the talent of volunteers who can become real assets to your organisation is not as easy as it sounds. The most common issues I have faced – and is also very challenging for volunteers – is being overworked, undervalued, and stressed.
How do you ensure that volunteers are in roles that match their skills?
We always communicate to identify their area of interest before we can assign a task or send them to a project. We have an open platform with more flexibility to choose and run.
How do you know whether the volunteers are happy in their role(s)?
By delivering on the objectives that we seek out to achieve, this indicates that our volunteers are happy and performing to their best ability.
We also have wrap up meetings after each project and allow them to share their experience and give us feedback – allowing us to know if they are satisfied or not.
What do you think are the most important differences between managing volunteers and managing employees?
Employees are paid to meet deadline and deliver, whereas volunteers are donating their personal time. The lack of sensitivity towards this relationship is the failure point in so many cases.
Employees are motivated by wage increases, whereas volunteers are motivated by a sense of ownership of the project or the satisfaction of contributing to the community. Volunteers need more attention in comparison to an employee.
Do you have any advice for anyone hesitating to become a volunteer?
Volunteering is the key to a successful career. The biggest mistake individuals make is not considering taking volunteer opportunities. Volunteering allows them to identify their strengths and weaknesses and learn and gain experience without judgment.
Do you have any advice for volunteer managers new to their roles?
Volunteer managers need to offer delegation and clarity. They must motivate volunteers by providing them with a non-judgemental platform to experiment freely. Appreciation in the form of “thank giving” is also a must.
Do you think you have a diverse volunteer team? What can you do to increase diversity in your volunteer team?
Our volunteer teams are always diverse. We believe and welcome diversity. This allows us to bring in new talent and experience into our projects, which makes us different in the community.
How important do you think is a volunteer’s background?
I personally believe it’s an added value on the project and organisation. Having diversity and cultivating rich culture and experience allows the community to learn, respect and accept the differences and work cohesively as a team.
How can a volunteer manager help to make the environment inclusive for people from all backgrounds?
The change must start from us. We need to allow the community to see what change can be achieved through a diverse group. This allows them to witness first-hand the differences we can make, so gradually this would become a norm. Organisations that choose a diverse approach and cannot go wrong.
To learn more about the Afghan Peace Foundation’s core missions and their important work, visit their website.