At the risk of sounding like an old Monty Python sketch, when I started in the sector in the 1990s we had no email, broadband internet or Skype. This meant that the early years of my career were often marked by the kind of professional isolation usually associated with volunteer management. I was the only person doing that role in my (very large) corner of the organisation and the only peers I was really able to connect with were my colleagues across the UK or other volunteer managers whom I met at conferences. International exchange was well outside my reach and only possible with the aid of a very healthy travel budget, the visit to these shores of an overseas expert or a letter to a print journal on volunteerism.
Today there is little excuse for volunteer managers to feel isolated. The internet and social media provide myriad ways to connect easily and cheaply with colleagues around the world, often in real time.
Connecting with each other is important. Just recently, 220 leaders and managers of volunteers convened for the Association of Volunteer Managers annual conference. Yet few of us connect internationally despite our modern world providing an opportunity unparalleled in history for us to connect with our peers in other countries. Far from being a nice aside to our roles, I know from personal experience that seeing the issues we face reflected in the mirror of a different setting and culture can be an incredibly valuable learning experience.
So, with International Volunteer Managers Day being marked this month (5 November), I want to share some tips to get you started on learning from volunteer management in other countries:
Keep an eye out for Thoughtful Thursday posts on Ivo and Twitter (using the hashtag #ttvolmgrs). This weekly Twitter chat often includes posts from colleagues in other countries. Send them a tweet or reply to a comment and say hello.
On the subject of Twitter, look up the hashtags #VolMgmt and #LOVols, both recently chosen as social media hashtags for any conversations around the globe that relate to the leadership and management of volunteering.
Check out the resources available on the Energize website that signpost to volunteer management groups and networks internationally.
Subscribe to some of the great newsletters and journals produced internationally. Perhaps you should start with the Volunteering New Zealand newsletter because that body is doing some awesome work around volunteer management. And take a look at e-volunteerism.com, an international journal on all things volunteering.
Don't forget our near neighbours in Europe. Check out the European Volunteer Centre and the Volunteurope networks, both of which hold events that needn't cost the earth to attend (well, at least until 2019!) thanks to low-cost airlines.
International Volunteer Managers Day is all about education through celebration – educating others about the importance of the role of those who lead volunteers by showcasing the great work we do to support and empower volunteers to change our world for the better. Let’s make it truly international and resolve to connect more with colleagues around the world so our voice and the voices of volunteers become even louder on 5 November 2017.
Rob Jackson is a volunteering consultant