A DECADE OF OzVPM
I simply can’t believe that it has been a decade since I first had the idea to create the OzVPM network.
Never did I believe that ten years later OzVPM would still be so well utilized; and not once in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that it would be the vehicle by which I would have opportunities to travel extensively around the world, to write books, to facilitate workshops, to get involved in many exciting projects and most important of all – to meet so many amazing leaders of volunteers in the process.
Beginning with the launch of the OzVPM newsgroup on June 9, 2002 – which was closely followed by the development of our website a short time later, OzVPM was born. Probably the largest catalyst for the development of OzVPM was the absolute dearth of resources that were available to volunteer managers in both Australia and New Zealand at that time.
Volunteer Centers around the country were generally still very caught up in the mindset that their major business was volunteer recruitment and referral; and while there were certainly some resources around, for the most part, Volunteer Centers didn’t necessarily see the provision of volunteer management resources at the top of their priority list.
The internet, or more specifically the plethora of electronic resources that we now have access to at the click of a button, were still only just emerging, and it is probably fair to say that our north American colleagues were still seen to hold all the cards when it came to more ‘advanced’ volunteer management thinking.
In short, I saw a need to find some ways for volunteer managers in our region to have access to a greater spread of resources and training – and to avenues through which they could better communicate with one another in order to share both the pleasure and the pain of supporting volunteer effort.
Instrumental in helping to make all of this happen at the time was Susan Ellis of Energize fame and the resources that Energize had created over the preceding decades. Right from the outset, Susan was generous with her time, her advice, her friendship and her never failing commitment to making a global difference to our sector. Creating partnerships at first with the Energize bookstore and linking this to OzVPM was critical to our success as it made it possible for Australasian VPMs to be able to get their hands on quality publications locally, for the very first time.
Partnerships have continued to be a key theme over the last ten years as we have continued to find avenues through which volunteer managers in the Australasian region could develop professionally and have access to tools that made their jobs a little easier. Links and partnerships with the online journal e-volunteerism and the online training program Everyone Ready being just two of these. In more recent years, our exciting new partnership with the team at Volunteer2 in Canada and the distribution of our quality database through Australia and New Zealand has been a terrific and successful new initiative.
And of course I can’t write about partnerships without the great opportunities that have availed themselves out of our long standing partnership and with Martin J Cowling and his company People First Total Solutions. Our work with Martin has seen us help to bring a plethora of international volunteer management experts to Australia and NZ over the years including Susan J Ellis, Steve McCurley, Linda Graff, Rob Jackson, Jayne Cravens, Rick Lynch and Fraser Dyer. Most notably, however, this partnership has seen the development of the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management which in itself has been a catalyst for the emergence of several new volunteer management leaders in our region.
In addition to the above, other major highlights for me over this period have also included:
- Being the first person from the southern hemisphere to be invited to join the faculty of the Institute of Advanced Volunteer Management in the UK. Our involvement with CSV and IAVM between 2004 and 2010 was a terrific learning and growing opportunity.
- The involvement of OzVPM in co-hosting the first Asia Pacific Volunteer Leadership Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2008
- The chance to co-author Volunteer Management: an essential guide
As you may be able to tell, our anniversary has me spending some time reminiscing, so please allow me to indulge for a little longer on this trip down memory lane to talk about all the things that I have seen change over that period – and perhaps just as importantly – talk about some of the things that have not changed much at all.
So what’s changed?
One of the biggest changes – and one I have already referred to above, has been the growth of the internet and its associated resources. The ease of access to tools that are readily available online now is mind blowing with blogs, wikis, social media, e-books and online training all being increasingly used to develop volunteer management. Associated with this has been the development and affordability of portable devices such as iphones, ipads and laptop computers. No longer is professional education only the domain of the few who can afford it.
Another significant change in this part of the world has been the growth of government involvement in the volunteerism world. A decade ago the South Australian government were about the only group around the country with an agenda to get directly involved in the creation of government ‘offices’ for volunteering. Now days most states have a Minister responsible for volunteering, and it could be argued that government are increasingly shaping future directions of the volunteering landscape.
What hasn’t changed?
For the most part, organisations still don’t see great value in volunteer management as a vehicle to drive successful volunteering. There appears to still be a myth that volunteers are able to generate their own leadership and that if you suffer a shortage in team members, that all you need to do is focus on recruiting more! Sadly, volunteer managers themselves (generally) also continue to remain a quiet lot, reluctant to speak out about workplaces that often underpay and undervalue their efforts.
More broadly, getting leaders of volunteers to share their experiences, concerns and problems with others via hot topics, blogs and newsgroups is certainly something that has made little headway in the past decade.
One final aspect of volunteering that appears to have not changed significantly are volunteer demographics. In spite of truckloads of literature being published about the impending impact of baby boomers, Gen Y and Gen X, I would hazard to guess that as a general rule our volunteer workforce is not significantly different to that of a decade ago.
So there you go – a few birthday observations to get you thinking about what may have – and what may not have changed in the last decade for you.
To celebrate our 10th birthday, we are offering to give away to one lucky reader a $100 gift voucher from our bookstore for the best response to this hot topic.
All you need to do is post a message in the box below that shares a personal OzVPM story or experience.
Let us know how the OzVPM network or an interaction with our Director Andy Fryar has made an impact with you sometime over the last 10 years.
It may be as simple as a one liner you heard at one of our workshops, or the result of reading a book you purchased from our bookstore. Perhaps you made connections through our newsgroup which made a huge difference in your professional life?
Please help us to celebrate and take a few minutes to share your stories in the response box below – who knows, it may just be worth $100 to you!