With the goal to challenge, inspire and empower, the multi-streamed conference agenda will cover topics related to the theme – The Power of Association – and three sub-themes.
The Power of Association
The volunteering sector faces many challenges and opportunities, as a result of the rapidly evolving and often volatile political, social and economic environment in which we operate. Volunteering is transforming. How people volunteer, the expectations of volunteers and the requirements of volunteer involving organisations are all changing and are not necessarily aligned. The demand for volunteers continues to grow but is not matched by genuine, substantive support for volunteering, especially for volunteer management and the infrastructure that supports volunteering.
More than ever, its important all those with an interest in a vibrant, inclusive and resilient volunteering sector collaborate to provide a formidable, fearless and representative voice for volunteering. Through the power of association, our collective voice is strengthened. Together we can build resilient communities and empowered and active citizens through volunteering.
Leadership and Stewardship of Volunteering
The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement provide clear guidelines for best practice volunteer management. Unfortunately, too often there is little or no meaningful investment in volunteer management. This disrespects and devalues the role of the managers of volunteers, as well as the volunteer workforce. It can put volunteers at risk, reduce their productivity, effectiveness and well-being, and impact their morale and motivation. It can also reduce a volunteer-involving organisation’s agility, and ability to meet the challenges of current and emerging trends in contemporary volunteering.
This sub-theme explored the role of leaders in building a resilient, sustainable and productive volunteer workforce. It addressed the role of leaders as the stewards of volunteering, ensuring volunteering remains true to the spirit and intent of the definition of volunteering2 and is not misused and abused.
These leaders might be paid or unpaid managers of volunteers, HR managers, Board members, the senior executives in an organisation or politicians – anyone with a role to play in improving recognition of, support for, and the quality of volunteer management.
The volunteering sector is wide-ranging in its scope. It comprises volunteer-involving organisations, volunteer support services, corporates, the 3-tiers of government as well as current and potential volunteers. It covers industries as diverse as social services, health, emergency services, sport, community development, creative industries, tourism, the environment, disability services, education, animal welfare – to name a few. It reflects the diversity of the Victorian community and is critical for the successful delivery of many services, programs and activities we take for granted, and which contribute to the wellbeing and richness of the Victorian community.
Given the importance and scope of volunteering, and the limited investment in and resources devoted to support volunteering, it is critical the sector collaborates to optimise outcomes. This sub-theme explored the factors that contribute to and support successful collaboration, and showcased examples of collaborations that advance volunteering.
Valuing and Repositioning Volunteering
It is widely acknowledged volunteering makes a very significant economic, social and cultural contribution to our community, yet volunteering and volunteers are often not valued in a meaningful way.
Funding from all levels of government to support volunteering (as opposed to activities that rely on volunteers) is very poor. It can also be very difficult for volunteering to attract philanthropic or sponsorship support when it is competing for that funding with the services volunteering supports.
Even though volunteers make up a significant proportion of the workforce in many industries, often the impact on that volunteer workforce is not considered in policy debates, changes to programs and service delivery models, or sector reform. In addition, many organisations (even those with a significant volunteer workforce) do not invest in the management of their volunteers like they do with paid staff.
Further, perceptions of volunteering and volunteers are often limited and outdated, and don’t reflect contemporary volunteering. Even volunteers undervalue their contribution and impact – too often describing themselves as “just volunteers”.
This sub-theme explored how volunteering can be repositioned to reflect and acknowledge its true value and contribution to the Victorian community; how volunteering can attract funding when it is competing for funding with the services it supports; why volunteers and volunteering are not valued in a meaningful way and what we can do about it; and how volunteering can be repositioned as an active community building activity and volunteers as active citizens.
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