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Building Your Support Network for Leading Volunteer Involvement

By Steve McCurley & Rick Lynch
From Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community, INTERPUB GROUP CORPORATION, 2011, ch. 17, p. 320

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The smart Volunteer Program Manager also needs to build support from the wider community of volunteer-utilizing agencies, communicating with other Volunteer Program Managers and sharing information and resources. 

Admiral Hyman Rickover expressed this need best: “All of us must become better informed. It is necessary for us to learn from others’ mistakes. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Volunteer Program Managers who are not involved with a local DOVIA  (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) or a member of a national volunteer organization, is choosing to ignore the wisdom of others, making their jobs and their lives a lot harder. To see how much you can gain by belonging to a professional association see the Association for Volunteer Managers in the UK, the most energetic group of Volunteer Program Managers on the planet.

Volunteer Program Managers also need to build better connections within their own organization. The primary “problem” in volunteer involvement right now does not lie in finding new volunteers, it lies in enabling those who are already involved to accomplish productive work.

In the past ten years volunteer jobs have shifted to within agencies, placing volunteers more in contact and working relationships with agency staff. In many agencies, the primary coordinator or supervisor of volunteers is not the Volunteer Program Manager, but the staff person with whom the volunteer works with on a day-to-day basis.
Most of these staff have little or no experience in working with volunteers. 

This is a pretty silly situation. The primary worry of Volunteer Program Managers should at this point be “staff competence,” the ability of staff to handle the highly technical resources that volunteers represent. This need increases dramatically as we draw from volunteer professionals who expect to be treated in a professional manner. Smart Volunteer Program Managers need to spend a little less time with their volunteers and a lot more time and energy enabling staff to make creative use of those volunteers.

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