Volunteer Leadership

18 July 2014

Developing Leadership

Volunteer leadership is about innovating and influencing to create positive change.

We talk a lot about management when it comes to supporting volunteers but rarely do we talk about becoming leaders in our field. Is this because we fear the word? Or is it because we don’t think our organisations want us to become them?

I don’t think this is the case. I think it is because it is hard to pin down exactly what volunteer leadership exactly is. There are a slew of theories and quotes and acronyms trying to explain leadership to the corporate and public worlds. But how valuable are they to us when dealing with volunteers? Only partly useful I think.

Supporting, managing or leading volunteers is different because at the end of the day we want our volunteers to have a great experience and, ultimately, to make a difference so we have to take a different approach.

So where to start? By asking ourselves four simple questions:

  • What are our beneficiaries’ needs?
  • What are our volunteers’ needs?
  • How are we making it easy?
  • What difference are we making?

Well we say simple but when you actually get into it, it can get pretty complex! The key to getting the right answers is involving your beneficiaries and your volunteers not only in answering them but in creating the framework for asking them in the first place. The buzzword at the moment is co-production but at the heart of it is a powerful concept; empowering people to create solutions to the problems they are facing.

You’d be surprised at the innovative ideas that can come out of some simple questions.

If you are interested in volunteer leadership you might want to check out our Developing Leadership in Volunteer Programmes Course that looks at issues such as co-production, the changing face of volunteering and changing an organisational culture.

Iain Delworth

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