A Decade of OzVPM

Andy Fryar June 7, 2012 12
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!









  1. Vicki July 10, 2012 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Well you just reminisce away Andy! 10 years – sincere congratulations. Such achievements and paving the way for so many VMs. You are an inspiration to us all. I have certainly appreciated the journey that you have and continue to guide me on!

  2. DJ Cronin June 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Ten years of OZVPM
    Now what can one say
    Except congratulations
    Three cheers and Hooray
    Ten years of wisdom
    Fun, thought and debate
    Time and commitment
    Put in by our mate!

    Debate that’s had us all
    On the edge of our seats
    Friendships created
    At inspiring retreats
    Through you we met Martin
    Susan and Jayne
    And so many others
    (This poem’s getting lame)

    Though this verse has nothing to do
    With timber and loggers
    Thanks for inspiring
    Volunteerism bloggers
    Thanks for Hot Topics
    And workshops galore
    Ten brilliant years
    So please give us more!

    More thought and discussion
    More networks created
    Innovative thought
    And issues debated
    Thanks Ozvpm
    For all that you’ve done
    For making a difference
    Cheers Andy – well done!

    • ozvpm_andy June 26, 2012 at 7:21 am - Reply

      Thanks DJ – it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears just to read that :O)

  3. Susan J. Ellis June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Hi, Andy, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to OzVPM!! Apologies for coming late to the commenting, although I am squeezing in under the wire still in June. My tardiness, however, in no way reflects my admiration for your hard work and genuine accomplishments on behalf of the volunteer field in Australasia and around the world. I celebrate the decade with you!

    Thank you for your nice comments about Energize and me. Developing our strong and warm long-distance relationship has been one of the most rewarding things in my professional life. You have been a rock in your service on the editorial team of e-Volunteerism and have contributed mightily to the resources of Everyone Ready and to the advanced education level of leaders of volunteers everywhere. Thank you, too, for inviting me to be part of the very first Australasian Retreat on Advanced Volunteer Management — which, I have said publicly before, was one of the top experiences of my entire career. And I have enjoyed watching the Retreats mature and grow.

    As I think about our friendship and collaboration, a few things flash before my eyes:

    1. Meeting you in person for the very first time in Adelaide as you paced in front of the hotel waiting to rush me into the hall to speak to the national volunteering conference.

    2. Telling you over and over that you were my and Steve McCurley’s “retirement plan.”

    3. Holding your second set of twins in my arms, then on my lap, and most recently having them stand next to me in more than a decade’s worth of photos.

    4. Watching the fireworks at Disneyworld in Florida together and commenting on how tremendously lucky we were to have such opportunities to travel far and wide, and then to also meet up in person in so many different spots.

    I could go on, but I’ll wait for your 20th anniversary to share more publicly!

    You are a shining light of commitment to the profession of volunteer management. Thank you for all your contributions. And for being such a good friend, too.

    To the future…!
    P.S. — I think the new look of the website is wonderful.

    • ozvpm_andy June 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      Thank you Susan! …here’s to many more years of achieving great things together

  4. Mike Feszczak June 14, 2012 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Response posted by Mike Feszczak – Chair of the SA Local Government Volunteer Management Network.
    Congratulations to Andy/OzVPM for raising the profile, improving professionalism and supporting both individual and groups of volunteer managers across our region.
    We have found Andy, and the commitment he demonstrates on a daily basis, to be an inspiration for the development of volunteer management in Local Governement in South Australia. He is the ‘Guru’ for so many issues, an example being the growth in the number of Local Councils relying on him and Volunteer2 as the standout Volunteer Database.
    I look forward to developing my skills through the next volunteer managers retreat and following Andy’s and OzVPM’s lead in our efforts to develop Volunteer Management in Local Government.
    Best wishes. Mike

  5. Jayne Cravens June 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    In the last 10 years, I have sat in-person at oh-so-many volunteer management/volunteerism conferences, hearing the same old same old, not really learning much – and, by contrast, online, have been inspired and challenged by OzVPM again and again. While too many charities, volunteer centers, government agencies & consultants were still wringing their hands over the ever-growing Internet and ever-changing times and any conflict whatsoever, OzVPM was boldly going forward, with questions, debates and discussions about volunteer engagement that went so far beyond the usual, that pushed boundaries and enlightened. You could have charged for this group, Andy, and you didn’t; you donated your time to build and support this community, and through OzVPM, have helped make so many, many of us to become better supporters and engagers of volunteers. We were friends for years before we met up face-to-face in-person on the same point on Earth (and it wasn’t even in Australia!), and I’ve used that friendship and OzVPM as an example of how very real, very human and very valuable online relationships are (or can be). It’s been through OzVPM that I met you, Martin, DJ, so many, many other wonderful people… Thank you for OzVPM, and here’s to another fabulous 10 years (and more!).

    • ozvpm_andy June 13, 2012 at 12:47 am - Reply

      And as one of our most consistent contributors Jayne – thank YOU for the amazing debates that you have help to create over the past ten years :O)

  6. Martin J Cowling June 6, 2012 at 1:02 am - Reply

    happy birthday
    i remember sitting in my office at The Smith Family getting a letter from you with lots of the sparkly paper to help celebrate your launch. Is it really a decade ago? Well done on ten years!

    At the time, I had no idea I would launch off and set up People First. It was your encouragement to do that which I appreciate!

    The news group has been an important resource for me so I want to say thank you for hosting that. Of course, the bookstore has been vital and undertaking the Retreat which somebody said yesterday was the most important event on the calendar. I do know our dreaming about that definitely underestimated the powerful effect it has had on many lives. Lives of people from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the USA.

    My funniest memory of course is the number of times people have mixed Andy Fryar of Ozvpm and Martin J Cowling of People First up. Despite the differences in height, hair and eyes, people often thank me for a training Andy has done or tackled me on a comment I have made. It has been interesting to have people ask how my kids are (I have none, Andy has five). Despite the fact on some things we work closely together, we dont share identical opinions or views. Although we both share a passion for good volunteer experiences and good engagement/management of volunteers.

    Finally, I have appreciated Andy, your friendship. Thank you.

    • ozvpm_andy June 6, 2012 at 1:08 am - Reply

      Thank you Martin – I’ve certainly appreciated your friendship, guidance and sense of humour along the way. We have made a good team …and the partnership is still 10 years young! :O)

  7. Wendy Moore June 5, 2012 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I may be considered, by some, to be relatively new to the field of volunteer management, having been in my current job for around only 5 years.

    My association with OZVPM began in 2009 when I started responding to OZVPM hot topics, after some encouragement from a colleague in the volunteer management sector. In 2010 I attended the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management held in Handorf, South Australia. It was a unique opportunity to meet with other volunteer managers and coordinators and hear from leaders in the field of volunteer management. What I gained from the retreat was a new found confidence which empowered me to have a voice and to grow in my chosen career of volunteer management.

    Andy, you mentioned one of the biggest changes in the last 10 years has been the growth of the internet, blogs and other social media. I must admit that I didn’t quite know what a blog was until 2010. After the retreat I followed in the footsteps of DJ Cronin and created my own blog. Initially I created a blog on something that I felt I knew something about and that was dear to me at the time, parenting teenagers. With the experience gained from designing a blog, writing posts, placing comments and following stats I felt that I was ready to start another blog; this time on matters relating to volunteer management http://wendy-moore.blogspot.com/. The purpose of this blog was to support, encourage and inspire people in the field of volunteer management, through sharing information and ideas to take our sector and boldly go where no one has gone before. As I grew in confidence, I also wrote comments on other people’s blogs relating to the volunteer management sector and volunteering.

    Andy you mentioned an aspect of volunteering which has not changed significantly is the demographics of volunteers. However from my own experience I have noticed a significant increase in the number of episodic volunteers. Many of these volunteers are university students, Gen Ys or Gen Xs. Volunteering is changing. Therefore in order to capture this group of short term or intermittent volunteers it is important to have volunteer programs which are flexible enough to be able to incorporate this type of volunteering with more traditional forms of volunteering.

    Whether someone has been in the field of volunteer management for 5 years or 45 years, it is the knowledge gained, the experiences learnt and the confidence grown which motivates and inspires individuals to encourage others in the field of volunteer management. In doing so, these individuals become aspiring leaders themselves. We need more leaders in volunteer management to move our sector forward, to encourage others to come on an amazing journey of growth and evolution of volunteer management into the profession that it deserves to be.

  8. ozvpm_andy June 5, 2012 at 12:41 am - Reply


    Hail to Andy and OzVPM!

    Happy 10th Birthday indeed! May you be as jubilant as the present celebrations on the other side of the world.

    There are a lot of thanks in order for this occasion, and here is my litany:

    • Thanks for bringing the cause of managing volunteers to light

    • Thanks for creating a medium for sharing information, a collegial colloquium

    • Thanks for making OzVPM Antipodean, relevant for our part of the world

    • And thanks too, for helping us connect with a global network and resources, especially with IVM Day

    • Special thanks for creating with Martin Cowling the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Management, for the challenges and inspiration you delivered

    • And always I thank you for the thoughtful Hot Topics that described and affirmed the role of Manager of Volunteers, raised the questions that needed asking, and showed me new ways of thinking.

    In your reflections you note the opportunities for professional development created via internet and social media technology. I’m sure you will be saying something in the near future about what technology is doing to volunteering and how managers of volunteers are dragging the chain on seeing the opportunities for recruitment, new roles for volunteers, and new ways of communicating.

    You also comment on ‘the growth of government in the volunteerism world’. What will this shaping of the volunteer landscape do to our sector? I am reminded of your thesis on the Three-Legged Stool (Hot Topic October-November 2009): on a wider scale the volunteer sector is the third leg of the stool made up of Government, Private Sector and Civil Society. I don’t want that stool to fall over any time soon.

    Another Hot Topic that keeps on resonating is presented by Liz Scarfe (April 2008), lamenting the lack of personal power in management of volunteers.

    You have written about this too, in The Rants and Raves Anthology (Energize, 2003) under the chapter heading Not ‘Just’ a VPM. Ten years later (well, almost) I still hear such sighs and lamentations, indicating how organisations, funders and government continue to lack real understanding and appreciation of volunteering and the role and skills of the manager of volunteers.

    So there is plenty to keep you and OzVPM going for a few more decades.

    Sincere best wishes – Sue Hine

Leave A Response »