A Call to Action on Behalf of Our Profession

By Susan J. Ellis

The Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA) is no more.  As of this morning (March 1st), it has been dissolved, victim of a missing $300,000, executive falsehoods, board mismanagement, and member complacency.  That's the bad news – and it is bad.  The good news, however, is that we collectively now have an incredible opportunity to create a better association that supports the leaders of volunteer efforts with vision and cutting-edge thinking.

I am not interested in rehashing the AVA scandal here.  If you were a member, you received the official notice/explanation; if you were not a member or somehow did not receive the notice, click here to read it.  It's legitimate to be angry both at the failed leadership and about how poorly the situation was communicated.  However, there are some very important things we can learn from the demise of AVA that can guide us in doing things better in the future.  I hope that some distance will allow everyone to examine these issues less emotionally in the coming months. 

Whether or not you were a member of AVA, please keep reading this Hot Topic.  I am strongly asking each of you to DO SOMETHING in response to what I honestly feel is a remarkable opportunity.

What's Happening Now

The following is a recap of what I know to date about what is being done right now to move forward.  Nothing is official and everything is being done by interested people in a volunteer capacity.  Everyone agrees that from this point on, ANY PERSON considering her/himself part of the profession of volunteer resources management is welcome to come forward and join in!  Prior membership in AVA is NOT required.

New Place on the Web for Information

The AVA Web site has closed down.  But a new site, largely still under construction, has been opened through volunteered help.  It is www.vmweb.org.    Here is where information will be posted about the interim and permanent new homes of The Journal of Volunteer Administration, the certification program, and the substantive content of the former AVA Web site.

New Discussion Board to Discuss Next Steps

Most important, the site has a new online discussion board, VMforum.  This is the best place to hold open discussions about what should happen next.  CyberVPM will remain in operation, quite rightly continuing its focus on volunteer management issues.  Let's all try to separate the two lists appropriately:  Have a question about volunteer program management? Post to CyberVPM.  Have a thought about professional association reorganization?  Post to VMforum.

Updates on new developments since this Hot Topic (VMweb did not fulfull expectations, but other activities have taken over).

Meeting in Seattle in June

Thanks to the hospitality of the Points of Light Foundation, a meeting will be held at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Seattle, June 18-20, 2006 (http://www.volunteeringandservice.org/).  The exact day and time are yet to be announced.  The conference registration brochure will describe the meeting this way:

In the wake of AVA's dissolution many of us are asking, "what now?"  This meeting provides an opportunity for any and all to consider some options for continuing to advocate and support our professional identity.  The specific agenda will be shaped by on-line conversations prior to the conference, and probably led by an external and impartial facilitator.  All are welcome to attend –'both former AVA members and non-members.  Registration for the entire conference is encouraged, but not required.  The Points of Light Foundation has generously arranged the space and time for this gathering.

Further, Points of Light is offering a reduced conference registration fee at the nonprofit member rate of $500 to any person who was an AVA member when it dissolved, to encourage and enable participation in the meeting.

Everyone to Help Publicize

All of us with relevant Web sites will do our best to publicize both the online discussion group and the Seattle meeting, so as to encourage the widest participation possible. 

State and Local Networks to Speak Up

It is hoped that state and local associations/networks of volunteer program managers – both those who had officially affiliated with AVA and those who did not – will put this whole issue onto a meeting agenda and designate representatives to speak for their groups on VMweb and at the Seattle meeting.

Possible Second Meeting in Philadelphia in September

ASDVS (for directors of volunteer services in healthcare) will be holding their annual conference in Philadelphia in September.  This is a potential site for another convened meeting and would offer a chance for people in the east to talk face-to-face, too. 

If anyone knows of other actions going on, please post them as a response here and to VMweb – be sure to explain how any interested person can participate and help.

Updates on new developments, 3 August

A Note on International Concern

It's clear that this crisis is of priority importance to American colleagues.  Even though AVA dreamt of being international, over 90% of its members came from the US and it was clear that the demands of operating globally far exceeded capacity.  Nevertheless, I invite our international site visitors to join in the conversation here.  You have so much to share from a fresh perspective, and we are all in this profession together.

When it started, AVA was the only kid on the block.  Today there are both strong and fledgling professional associations in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Scotland, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, and other places, including the European Volunteer Centre that links associations throughout that continent.  Ironically, the US has become the only major country with a strong volunteer tradition without its own association!  So my dream would be to start (unapologetically) a new American association and, in a few years, go to the many burgeoning national associations around the world and suggest a "world congress of national associations" – to work together, not to be one organization.

In next month's Hot Topic, I'll spend more time offering a scenario of what a single-nation professional association can do, as well as how many strong national bodies can interact internationally.

What YOU Can Do

So, this is your chance to step up to the plate.  Here are some specific actions anyone can take simply out of a desire to be involved in what happens next.

  1. Sign up for the VMforum discussion board and share your thoughts!  Return regularly and continue to comment.  Also offer to serve in any capacity you are able. 
  1. If you are a member of a local DOVIA or state association, arrange for time at your next meeting to discuss what's happening and how you can respond.  AVA was never successful in creating a productive relationship with the local level, but now new organization could get going by working from the grassroots up. 
  1. If you are an officer or member of one of the field-specific national associations (health care, justice, hospice, literacy, RSVP, government programs, etc.), now is a great time to talk about the problems of fragmentation and to dream up new models of collaboration.
  1. If you are part of a national organization serving the field, such as Points of Light, Hands On Network, VolunteerMatch, and others, now is also the time to speak up on your ideas for collaboration with those in the volunteer management profession.
  1. Talk about all this with colleagues – including those who have not been well represented in AVA in the past:  officers of all-volunteer organizations, national service clubs, alumni directors, captains of volunteer firefighters, people who run youth sports.  Our field is so much bigger than nonprofit agency-related volunteer programs.”
  1. Think out of the box.  What can you envision for the future?  What do you want from a professional association?  For example:
  • Do you think we should start a new membership association, merge with another association(s), or become part of an existing national organization?
  • Do you think the new effort should be focused solely on North America, even on just the United States?
  • Should an ad hoc steering committee be formed from the meeting in Seattle to get something off the ground?  Would you give time and/or money for such a venture?
  •  What were the best things about AVA that you'd like to duplicate?
  • What were the things you really disliked about AVA that you'd like to avoid?
  • What has never been done by a professional association in our field that you'd love to see?
  • What do you see as the relationship between a national association and the many local DOVIAs, state associations, and other professional networks already in existence?

There has never been a better time to practice what we preach:  volunteer!  Get involved.  Pay attention. Speak your mind.  Offer to help.  Look forward, not back.  Get the conversation started!

Respond here now, on VMforum throughout the coming weeks, and see you in Seattle in June!

Updates on new developments, 3 August

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