HOT TOPIC – JUNE / JULY 2010
This month we welcome yet another guest Hot Topic author, Shane Fisher, to the fold.
Shane’s impact in the volunteer sector started back in 1998 leading the development of Curtin Volunteers! into Australia’s largest and most active student-run volunteer organisation. Since then Shane has also established, rebuilt, led and developed a number of other not-for-profit youth organisations and programs ranging from one that engages 300 “at-risk” young people each day, to incubation and mentoring for young business and social entrepreneurs, to an international foundation.
In his professional life he runs his own software and management consulting businesses and is also responsible for the enterprise management systems and processes for a global market research company spanning more than 60 countries.
Shane is passionate that all young people deserve access to the same opportunities he has been privileged to have had and he is an active promoter and practitioner of the “youth-led” philosophy in regard to effective youth engagement and development.
Shane’s is a Hot Topic with a difference because rather than being an essay, Shane places a challenge at the foot of every reader – to reflect on and share their own experiences
IT ALL STARTED…
… when I offered to help out a colleague who was running a large multi-cultural festival and eventually I slotted into managing the 150 volunteers on that day.
Up at 5am, erecting marquis, fencing, signage, dealing with food stalls, staffing the green room, welcoming every one of the 20,000 attendees, coordinating in with security, and meanwhile running an enormous book sale to raise money for a charity.
One of my most vivid memories was trying to lead about 50 of the volunteers to pick up and shuffle a massive marquis several metres towards the stage to protect the kids from the sun. Something so simple but having so many diverse people needing to be like one was a sight for all and got a cheer from the audience on par with lead act Yothu Yindi. And it was at the end of the night when we all sat down and poured sugar into our lemonade for that last energy hit to survive the packing up process that I reflected and realized that volunteering and volunteer management is simply amazing.
And from then on I wanted every young person to experience what I had that day.
THE CHALLENGE FOR THIS HOT TOPIC
I thought it was about time we had a simple challenge on this forum to encourage some of those “ lurkers ” out and also so we can hear about the diverse reasons that people get involved in this sector – who knows it might give us some extra ideas of how to attract more volunteers and volunteer managers. So you are all now challenged to share your own story.
1. Everyone has a story and everyone’s story is of interest to others on this forum so everyone should feel comfortable to share it
2. Your “It all started” story should be a single paragraph with around 100-250 words – so preferably not a novel!
3. Your fundamental reason for becoming involved in the volunteer sector should come out in your story. Your story doesn’t have to be an entertainment piece , I suspect most of us are just personally interested in others’ stories . But if you are keen you do have creative license – so feel free to exaggerate for dramatic effect , add humour even if it isn’t actually that funny , or perhaps set yourself a creative challenge (eg every sentence should contain at least one reference to a movie or TV title) . Do whatever you want to – it is your story!
4. Refer again to Rule 1 and get started writing your story. We want to hear (read) it …
Let’s hear what you think
Response posted by Andy Fryar, Director and Founder, OzVPM, Adelaide, Australia on June 2, 2010
I may as well kick off the responses
What can I say, I am second generation. I was doomed!
My step mother was a Volunteer Coordinator, and I distinctly remember working alongside her as a young volunteer, particularly when she pulled together some incredible fairs, fetes and special events at a large disability organisation we both used to work at. I was always struck not only by the benefits that these special events brought to the residents, but by the sheer joy and energy that the volunteers themselves gained from the experience.
I saw people helping people on many levels, and I witnessed early on, the power and multiple benefits which well mobilised people power can bring.
It’s the reason that 25 years on I am still working with volunteer groups on many levels!
Response posted by Avril Rivers, Western Australia, on June 2, 2010
Below is a poem I wrote in response to my CEO’s call for all Coordinators to stand at the AGM and tell the community group creatively about your programs. It is now 11years since I walked through the doors, the last five as a Coordinator of the program I was volunteering in and the rest as a volunteer (I still volunteer too). I left the corporate world, working directly with 500+ paid staffs that were never really happy with their job or my decisions, to working with all ages of volunteers who love being here and working with me. As a teenager in Ireland we had a visiting program for students to visit the local nursing home for an hour on a Friday, the last hour of our school time which I loved. Funny how 25yrs later I am coordinating exactly that as part of my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The people you meet, the variety of opportunities, the volunteering community and the challenges you face are great.
My 90 seconds of fame
It’s been seven years since I walked through Melville Cares doors.
I saw an advert in the local paper calling for volunteers.
I was working full time shift work, but had lots of time to spare.
I wanted to help someone else with a drive to the shops or care.
Now since last April I have taken on two new roles,
I am the Coordinator of the C.V.S. and Volunteer Support.
These roles are very rewarding and vary each day I spend,
I may be interviewing a new volunteer or matching up a new friend.
We have had support meetings with guest speakers and questions asked.
They have talked on driving habits the rules and other tasks.
One spoke on the health and heart and diet of our bunch.
One was a stroke survivor who told his story, followed by lunch.
I am working through both my programs with the encouragement of all volunteers,
Each has a special role, whether driving, visiting, day centre or weekend respite.
My C.V.S. volunteers provide comfort by becoming an isolated person’s friend.
Our drivers drive our clients to doctors, clubs, the gym or shops for the latest trend.
Melville Cares relies on its Volunteers, without them there is no Go.
They work to the best of their abilities in the areas that they know.
So my thanks and praise to my volunteers, who help to run this show.
Without their time freely given Melville Cares would not glow.
Response posted by Sue Hine, Wellington, New Zealand on June 3, 2010
Ummm… It all started when my mother dragged me in to help with preparing the Easter raffle of a doll with wardrobe. I was 8 years old and got to tie off threads on the garments and create the display box. It all came to a head when I got appointed a few years ago to a nice part-time job managing volunteers. It was going to be my way-station before retirement.
How stupid can you be – I have never worked so hard in my life. And I’ve never had such a buzz of achievement and the rewards of seeing people reach heights they had never previously perceived. I have been a volunteer ever since in a wide range of organisations, and engaged with communities in various roles. My best lessons in managing volunteers came from the best and the worst of my volunteer experiences. In one organisation I got the full screening training orientation and excellent on the job support. In another organisation the training was intensive but did not really explain the extent of required tasks, there was little advice and support available and really, I was let loose to do my own thing. Both organisations were delivering services for vulnerable people.
So I have developed a mantra for managing volunteers, a set of principles to hang on to, some key points that go way beyond doing the stuff the manuals tell us. I would like to share them, but Shane’s word limit says ‘another time’. On the other hand, we could do wonders for the profession in collating stories of career paths and experiences. Could be a great marketing tool!
Response posted by Rob Jackson, Director of Development and Innovation, Volunteering England, London, UK on June 4, 2010
When I was about 13 years old my geography teacher asked if I’d like to get involved in a project to develop a time management system for GCSE (exams school pupils take at 16 years old here in the UK) students. That was my first experience of volunteering, although I had no idea at the time that’s what I was doing.
Then, in 1994, I got a job at my University placing students as tutors and mentors to pupils in local schools. I didn’t know it but that was all about volunteer management. I loved that job and learnt far more in a year than I did at University so I carried on working in the field and haven’t looked back.
Response posted by Wendy Moore, Volunteer Manager, Brisbane, Australia on June 9, 2010
I believe that it has been my destiny to manage volunteers though I perhaps did not know this until recently.
For me I think that volunteering is in the blood. I was very close to my grandmother and people have often commented that I am very much like her. On retiring as a commercial teacher, my grandmother was asked by a friend if she could teach typing to blind people just for 6 months. So my grandmother, a generous and very giving person by nature, volunteered. Some 20 years later when she was in her 80s she was still teaching blind people to type and also taught herself Braille so that she could also teach them to use a Braille machine. So I grew up meeting lots of blind people, or visually impaired people as is more politically correct these days. My grandmother would often have her new found friends over to visit as they had become so much a part of her and our lives.
My parents were very involved in volunteering in committees and auxiliaries for schools and Girl Guide groups. Volunteering as badge testers or assisting at guide camps, being on steering committees, working bees etc. Later they were involved in community groups. My mother was involved in Altrusa , a women’s only service group who fundraised for many worthy causes and my father was involved in Nadow, an organization which assisted disabled people to get back into office work.
For me I can’t remember a specific age when my volunteering began but I know that as a brownie guide there was an awareness of assisting in the community that was very much a part of the Girl Guide culture. Later in life I not only volunteered on committees for schools, sporting bodies and other community organizations, but I also coordinated volunteers without even being aware that this was to become my destiny. Being a Volunteer Coordinator has provided me with so many opportunities to meet many different people of various ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. It has given me skills in interviewing, presenting, event management, leadership, communication, and so much more. I my job as Volunteer Coordinator.
The above is a slightly edited version of a comment I put on a blog about Volunteer Managers and what shapes us. http://djcronin.blogspot.com/2010/05/what-shapes-us.html
Obviously great minds think alike. Perhaps we should compile a book as Sue suggests.
Response posted by Fairlie Crozier, National Community Care Manager, St John, ACT, Australia on June 10, 2010
I have always loved being a volunteer myself and never even new Volunteer Management was a career option. I thought my passion for Volunteer Management was a passion for Human Resources so that’s what I did. It wasn’t until I worked in HR for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games that I realized that volunteers need HR too! I worked with such an amazing group of volunteers during the games and managed some unbelievable people. It was through this job that I discovered the profession and I have never turned back! I’m glad I did!