It is the day after the 20th International Volunteer Managers Day. For the last 36 hours I have proudly read Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts highlighting the incredible work and impact of leaders of volunteers across the world.
I have been in volunteer management roles for over 18 years. That is an eternity considering the average Australian will have 5-7 careers in a lifetime. It is a profession I am passionate about, committed to, and that still ignites a fire in my belly.
But in those 18 years I have noticed that there is a lot that has not changed. Conversations I was having with my peers, frustrations I was experiencing and challenges I faced are exactly the same.
I recall attending the 2009 Australasian Advanced Volunteer Management Retreat facilitated by Andy Fryar and Martin Cowling. At this retreat I met, for the first time, inspiring leaders in our sector who remain mentors and trailblazers; Rob Jackson, DJ Cronin and Tony Goodrow. And when I look back at the conversations we had at that retreat, the sessions that were facilitated and the goals we set at the end of our time together it strikes me that they remain gaps in our sector and profession that no one has stepped up to fill. People have tried, but there has not been enough momentum or follow through to ensure that conversations we are having today are different from those we were having 5, 10, even 20 years ago.
In April 2011 Andy Fryar and DJ Cronin both wrote blog posts imploring leaders of volunteers to voice our opinion, to lobby and consult with governments, funding bodies and peak bodies, to comment and engage on blogs and articles and social media posts about our sector to create a community of practice, a common body of knowledge and to elevate our profession. And as DJ referenced in his blog post, more than 20 years ago, in March 1998, the grandmother of Volunteer Management, Susan J Ellis wrote “My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy “doing” that we won’t make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”
The theme of International Volunteer Mangers Day this year was “Change the Tune.” It feels apt; it is time for us to change the way we speak about our profession, it is time we advocate and stop complaining, it is time for us to collectively move the profession of volunteer management forward. No single person can do this alone. We must take responsibility for our place at the table, we must be brave, we must be vocal, we must engage and participate. We must make a commitment to ourselves to step up to ensure Volunteer Management is seen as a profession that engages highly skilled and knowledgable practitioners, and to ensure that we are not still having the same conversations in another 20 years.
I will change the tune by no longer admiring my mentors and the regular voices of our sector from the sidelines. I will join them by adding my voice to the choir – I will write, I will present, I will contribute to policy positions and advocate widely, I will participate in research to further our profession, I will tweet, I will connect, and I will shout from the rooftops that Volunteer Management is a highly skilled profession that harnesses the power of the people and facilitates life-and-world changing action.
Will you join me? What will you do to Change the Tune?