New body for volunteer managers

A professional body for volunteer managers, to influence social policy, provide training, organise national conferences and approve qualifications is to be launched by spring 2003.

A consultation document, due to be discussed by a steering group of the National Volunteer Managers Forum tomorrow, proposes an "Association of Volunteer Managers", to "raise the profile, authority and influence of the volunteering managers' role".

The launch of the new body will be the culmination of a three-year lottery-funded project to establish whether volunteer managers needed a national professional association.

"This is definitely the way volunteer managers want to go," said Tammy Parlour, development officer at the voluntary sector with the National Centre for Volunteering, which is leading the project.

"Volunteer managers are already required to operate professionally, but often suffer from lower status, profile and pay than other managers and do not receive recognition for their special management skills. Volunteering and volunteers themselves are often misunderstood and underrated in terms of their contribution. The professional body will seek to adjust the imbalance," she said.

The consultation document proposes that the association, under a national director and nine regional directors, will offer high-quality training at discounted rates, organise an annual national conference to share best practice, publish a quarterly journal of volunteer management and set up a web site with special member-only areas.

It will also have a lobbying role. "A recognised and respected professional body should also have the power and influence to affect social policy.

An appropriate chairman for the association should be appointed who is able to operate at this level, the document says.

The association will approve qualifications for volunteer managers. It may also develop its own qualifications but this will only happen after the Voluntary Sector National Training Organisation has completed national occupational standards for volunteer managers next year.

Membership will be graded according to experience and qualifications to provide a ladder of progression within volunteer management. Financial backing may be sought through the Community Fund, trusts and foundations and corporate sponsors.

According to Parlour, the new body's status - whether it will be an institute that provides official qualifications or merely an association for members - remains the subject of debate. A referendum with the forum's 100 members will be held to decide the issue.

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