The AVBFB was proud to be represented at the Volunteering WA 2017 Conference recently and thanks to DFES, offer the following summary below:
The emergency services were represented with staff and volunteers from:
- Marine Services
- Strategic Volunteer and Youth Programs
- Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades Association
- Volunteer Marine Rescue Service
The conference provided a strong development opportunity for both staff and volunteers, particularly those staff and volunteers who are responsible for managing volunteers.
A number of the emergency services staff and volunteers who attended identified key learning areas as including:
- A number of sessions were held on developing leadership potential within volunteer workforces including recruitment, support and training of volunteer leaders.
- Developing the advocacy capacity of volunteer leaders and managers was a recurring theme during the conference. This is particularly pertinent considering our environment of reduced resources and increasing demand for, and on, volunteers.
- I understand there was an excellent presentation on cultural change in volunteer based organisations. I wasn’t able to attend but believe it left a significant impression on a number of volunteers from the SES and Marine Rescue.
- A presentation was provided on managing difficult volunteers. We know that this is a difficult space particularly for volunteers in management roles and the session raised some discussion and thoughts about what training would be useful for volunteer managers in the emergency services.
Stress management and resilience for volunteers
- A number of sessions were held considering the primary stressors for volunteers and how volunteer managers can support and help minimise these stressors.
- Of interest was the impact of “emotional labour” which requires volunteers to either minimise or supress emotional responses to situations and people. This can be a key source of stress for volunteers.
- Staff were also very interested in a presentation discussing strategies to support volunteer managers.
- One session was held looking at personal and team productivity. Delivered by Bankwest’s Productivity Strategy team, the session provided approaches to:
- medium- and short-term planning and monitoring for teams to assist in meeting goals and objectives
- effective meetings
- personal planning and time-management (including management of email)
Use of Social Media
- Hancock Creative and InterSpace Technologies gave a number of amazing presentations on the functionality and use of social media platforms, structuring social media strategies and the impact and approach to storytelling. This included a session looking at the use of social media for recruitment which was extremely helpful to both staff and volunteers.
Trends in Volunteering and Emerging Legal Issues
- These sessions highlighted that volunteering in Australia is dropping, while demand for volunteers is increasing as a result of the diffusing of services to the not-for-profit and community sectors. Volunteer based organisations are facing increased competition for the volunteer worker.
- The sessions considered the impact of staff/volunteer relationships on maintaining volunteer workforces and the role of attitudinal/them vs us cultures in maintaining healthy volunteer, as well as healthy paid, workforces.
- The sessions reinforced the need for collaborative management and leadership approaches for volunteer managers as well as building volunteer managers’ capacity to advocate for their volunteer workforces.
- Spontaneous volunteering was raised however not to the extent that I would have expected. Of interest was the range of issues and environments spontaneous volunteers are getting involved.
- Automation was raised and was interesting from the perspective of its potential to vary and redirect volunteering roles into the future.
- Profiled legal issues focused on health and safety as well as current case examples associated with bullying in volunteer work environments.
Volunteer Management Theory
- Throughout the sessions a good dose of volunteer management theory was provided which gave a strong foundation for our team to understand the general approach and good practice for volunteer management and workforce development.
- These sessions primarily focused on how grassroots organisations (BGUs) can effectively engage with corporate volunteering programs and get the most out of their corporate volunteers.
- A number of corporates provided information about how to access their corporate volunteering programs as well as the objectives and outcomes of those programs.
- Discussion was also held on how corporate volunteers can be converted into regular volunteers – what corporate volunteers are seeking from their volunteering experience.
Volunteering Frameworks and National Volunteering Standards
- It’s always useful to do a refresh on the National Volunteering Standards and recommendations for their implementation. Of interest is the upcoming introduction of an organisational assessment of application of the Volunteering Standards and an associated quality mark.
- Both the Cancer Council and St John’s Ambulance presented volunteer management frameworks. We will follow up with both and consider for our out-year work schedules.