Charity leaders are often not aware enough of the impact of volunteers and neglect their management, Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said yesterday.
Vicky Browning was speaking at Association of Volunteer Managers’ annual conference where she told delegates that chief executives are also not aware enough of "the machinery that is needed to create that impact”.
She said that volunteer managers need to show chief executives how their volunteers contribute to a charity’s overall strategy.
Browning said that volunteer managers know a lot better than chief executives about the impact of volunteers, and said they need to show chief executives the importance of their roles in the context of their wider charities. She said they need to speak strategically with their leaders, and emphasised the importance of managing upwards.
Browning said that the way volunteer managers can “win the ear of their chief executive” is to help them solve their problems.
She said: “Chief executives are basically selfish. They want you to help them more than they want to help you, when it comes down to it. They want you to help them overcome the hurdles to move the charity forwards.”
She gave advice on what she called her “secret sauce for getting chief executives to eat out of your hand”. This included sharing strategic insight with leaders. She said volunteer managers need to build a business case for volunteering and be clear about the costs involved. As well as use research and evidence to identify the impact it will have, and manage upwards to show this.
Volunteer managers should ‘stop whining’
Browning said that organisations that are based around a model of volunteering and fail to support volunteer managers “in capturing the potential of their volunteer workforce are selling themselves short”. She said that is why it is “important that volunteer managers learn the secret of how to convince chief executives to take them seriously”.
She said that “with so much evidence around us of the value of our volunteer workforce you might think chief executives would feel a bit guilty about neglecting their volunteer management function, but they are not”.
Browning said she spoke to some chief executives, who remained anonymous, about what volunteer managers could do to get the chief executives to recognise the importance of their role. Although purely anecdotal, answers from chief executives included: “Stop feeling like victims, step up and act, and stop being the person in the background whining about how no-one appreciates you. It is up to you to talk about what you have done, how you have done it, and the impact it has had”.
But she did say they all had the same message: “Volunteer managers focus too much on volunteers themselves and not enough on purpose.”