• Tracey O'Neill

Introducing... our Global Professional Association for Leaders of Volunteer Engagement

2020 has been a year of unprecedented, but not unexpected change in the world of volunteering. Volunteerism has surged ahead in the areas of remote / work-from-home volunteering, the use of technology to facilitate volunteer opportunities and informal volunteering. Leaders of volunteer engagement have proven how the complex skill set we each possess has seen us able to pivot and adapt, continue to facilitate volunteer engagement and impact despite not being able to meet with our teams in person or deliver our traditional programs and services, and create new opportunities that allow communities to support organisations that help them to change their world and communities, despite the many restrictions they have faced.

So “What’s Next?” for leaders of volunteer engagement as we continue to live through the immediate and longer-term impacts of the global pandemic? For me a glaring gap in the advancement of volunteer engagement here in Australasia has been the absence in recent years of a strong, active professional association – an association that supports and facilitates professional development opportunities, networking, standards of ethical practice and research in our field. What has filled this gap for me in 2020 has been my relationships with professional associations and networks from other countries who have enabled me to connect with some incredible peers, attend some amazing professional development opportunities, join informative and supportive network meetings, learn about cutting edge research, participate in conversations about social issues that impede some people’s participation in volunteering, and has even seen me recognised by a professional association in the USA with a Leadership award (thank you once again Al!ve).

Connecting with global peers (who have all been incredibly welcoming, encouraging and flexible) has been the most impactful thing for my career, my sanity, my professional development and my ability to cope this year. I got up at midnight to attend a virtual conference on risk management in volunteer engagement, I recorded a podcast interview with a colleague in the USA (who I met on social media), I have facilitated many global network gatherings with leaders of volunteer engagement (one that had people attend from from 6 countries and 4 continents), and have attended network meetings hosted in North America and Europe (I’m yet to attend a Scottish network meeting at the #VolunteerArms, a virtual pub for leaders of volunteer engagement, but it’s on my list!).

For me, what’s next, what we need now and into the future, is a way to continue connecting our sector globally. And while I would desperately love a strong and active professional association in Australasia, I feel that we can’t miss this opportunity to create even stronger bonds across the world amongst leaders of our profession. What I hope for next is a global professional association for leaders of volunteer engagement to unite us, help us create a common language, unified impact measures and shared and collaborative resources, training and research.

In her book ‘The Disruptive Volunteer Manager; a step-by-step guide to reframing, redefining, reshaping and re-imagining volunteer management,’ Meridian Swift wrote about her vision for the Leaders of Volunteer Engagement and Impact Association (LoVEIA), an “international agency lobbying for volunteer engagement professionals. It supports all other volunteer management associations and standardises volunteer management through common terms, practices and the institution of a volunteer management support hotline.” I loved this idea when I read it before the global pandemic, and it resonates with me so much more now I have experienced the benefits of global connection during this year.

So what would a global professional association do? Here are some of my ideas to add to Meridian’s;

  • Bring together leadership groups from all professional associations across the world to ensure consistent language, practices (with flexibility to be suitable for each local community), ethical standards and impact measures, and to support those associations who are struggling with engagement and leverage in their own jurisdictions

  • Develop a set of global ethical principles and standards for leaders of volunteer engagement to adhere to in their practice

  • Facilitate mutual membership options for leaders of volunteer engagement to access benefits from a range of professional associations

  • Encourage and support global training by advertising opportunities across the world with various time zones and languages listed, and encourage local professional associations to vary the times they offer their training to be accessible to as many leaders of volunteer engagement as possible

  • Host international networking opportunities at various times to aid the development of global connections and professional relationships

  • Facilitate global virtual mentoring opportunities

  • Champion and sponsor the Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA) to set a global benchmark in volunteer engagement practice and skills

  • Offer sponsorship and scholarships for leaders of volunteer engagement to attend and present at conferences outside of their home country

  • Help facilitate job swaps for leaders of volunteer engagement wanting the opportunity to practice their profession in a different country

  • Take over the coordination of International Volunteer Managers Day and website, having a central place to share celebrations of IVM Day, and related blog posts, online

  • Implement and present annual IVM Day Leadership Awards to leaders of volunteer engagement who have demonstrated excellence, innovation and led trend-setting practices in our field

Our profession’s response to COVID has demonstrated our skills and expertise in transformative leadership, adaptability and outcome-driven practice, and our ability to use our network and connections to continue to learn, grow, pivot and adapt. I would love to see the seeds of a global professional association for leaders of volunteer engagement continue to grow as our international connections strengthen. What would you like to see a global professional association facilitate and support? And will you join me to make it happen?

#InternationalVolunteerManagersDay #LoVols #volmgmt #IVMDay #VolunteerEngagement #Advocacy #VolunteerManagement

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