Working with people can be challenging. As busy volunteer managers, we can sometimes find ourselves focusing on the mechanics or processes of volunteering and not giving enough thought to how we, and the people we lead and manage, are feeling.
As a volunteer manager, you’ll probably have to wear lots of different hats every day. You could be a co-ordinator, a recruiter, an IT fixer, a creative, a teacher, a listener, and a public speaker – all in the space of an afternoon! These sorts of tasks require a great range of skills and behaviours, and represent vital support for our volunteers. Because we provide so much of this kind of support, we’ve seen our volunteering achieve new levels of professionalism, freeing our volunteers to contribute more of their specialist talents and time to an organisation they love. But, as we learn more about volunteering, we’re discovering an additional skill set, all about working with emotions. Recent research has suggested that the ability to work with emotions effectively is ‘likely to be the determining factor between those who succeed in harnessing the commitment, energy, and support of volunteers, and those that are seen as less effective’.
Between 2013 and 2015 university academics undertook commissioned research to explore the question ‘To what extent is the management of volunteers similar or different to the management of paid staff?'
The research findings shed light on just how complex the volunteer-management relationship can be. A group of volunteer managers, leaders and consultants then came together to turn these findings into learning objectives, and then develop interventions to meet these objectives. The Toolkit is just one result of that work.
This toolkit was developed from a research project within the conservation and heritage sector. However, the learning developed within this context can be relevant and appropriate for other contexts too. We have tried to ensure that the toolkit can appeal to the widest possible range of voluntary organisations and have made use of critical friends in the sector to test the applicability of the activities. However it is still a work in progress, and we do not claim to have the answers. This is designed to be a helpful tool to open up spaces for conversations about the importance of emotions in managing volunteers.
Anne-marie Greene is Professor of Work and Diversity at the University of York Management School, University of York.
Jenna Ward is Professor and Academic Dean at the Faculty of Business and Law, Coventry University.
Ruth Leonard, Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers. The AVM is an independent membership body that supports, represents and champions people in volunteer management in the UK regardless of field, discipline or sector.
Annabel Smith, AVM.
This website is supported by funding from the University of Leicester’s Economic and Social Research Council funded Impact Acceleration Account.