Want to “change the tune” of your volunteer management career? Consider mentoring
International Volunteer Managers Day is coming (5 November) and this years’ theme is “change the tune”.
As a Director (volunteer) at the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), the achievement I’m most proud of was setting-up and piloting a mentoring scheme for volunteer managers.
I think many mentors and mentees “changed their tune” through participating, so I’m taking this opportunity to tell you a bit about it…
What did the scheme look like?
We launched the scheme in January 2019. Twenty AVM members volunteered, half of them as mentors, half as mentees.
The scheme took place entirely online, enabling volunteer managers all over the UK to participate.
We delivered webinars introducing the scheme and ran an online “speed-networking” event through Zoom. Then we set up a Slack group, helping the group to break the ice and get to know each other.
Mentors and mentees self-matched, and although some reported this bit as being a little tricky (one mentee described the feeling as being like a teenager trying to get a teacher to like her..!) on the whole, the self-matching approach was well received, with comments including:
“I felt it was really important for the mentors/mentees to match themselves, and in fact more so for the mentees to seek out what they are looking for. A bit like the Bumble dating app, its putting the ‘power’ of the relationship where it needs to be, for them its with women, for us its with the mentees.”
Jenny Betteridge, Strategic Lead Volunteering, Sport England (mentor)
Did mentoring change anyone’s’ tune?
Generally, feedback was really positive, from both mentors and mentees. 100% of survey participants said they were extremely or very satisfied with the scheme, and all said they would recommend it to others.
The majority of participants said the scheme had helped them to progress in their career, and several of the mentees said having a mentor had helped them to find a new role:
“My mentor helped build my confidence, drive and motivation to find a new role”
“I was transitioning in to line-management at the time of the scheme and I would say this mentor relationship had a direct (and positive) impact on how I approached this…”
Calleigh-Marie Lawrence, Volunteer Support Executive, The Charity for Civil Servants (mentee)
Almost all mentors and mentees said they felt being part of this scheme had created a sense of being part of a strong volunteer management community of practice, or a place for mutual learning:
“My experience has been totally positive. My mentor has vastly more experience than me in Volunteer Management but we both have the same challenges.”
David Little, Volunteer Coordinator at Carlisle Carers (mentee)
“the ‘mentor/mentee’ relationship can and should switch – plenty to be learned down what can be a two-way street”
Shaun Crummey, Head of Volunteering, Absolutely Cultured (mentor)
…and both mentors and mentees said participating in the scheme had improved their leadership and management skills:
“It was a huge learning curve in what it means to be a manager…I learned a lot about my strengths” – Mentee, anonymous
“I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor. I got to work with someone whose experience gave me new insights into the current workplace. Their challenges made me think in new ways about the best way to support them as they found their own solutions. I’d definitely do it again and would encourage others to mentor a colleague as well.”
Rob Jackson, Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd (mentor)
Benefits also extended to employers, with one mentor commenting:
“My employer is supportive and mentoring meetings have been part of my working hours. Certainly viewed as part of my CPD.”
Damian Sherwood-Johnson, Volunteer Development Coordinator, Sistema Scotland (mentor)
The scheme ran for six months, and although AVMs involvement has now ended, many of the pairs have continued their relationship. That’s one of the great things about mentoring – it often out-lasts schemes or jobs.
So, I think mentoring is a great way to change your volunteer management tune, both for mentors and mentees. I speak from personal experience too: in setting up this scheme I’ve found my own mentor, and I also mentor another volunteer manager. I find both relationships incredibly valuable.
AVM has changed its tune too: although providing a mentoring scheme has been a goal of AVM’s for a long time, now, we’ve turned that goal into reality. We’ve also got better at delivering services online/ avoiding the London-focus – watch this space for much more of that.
So, if you are a volunteer manager and you want to change your tune, give mentoring a go! AVM plans to develop the scheme in 2020. It’s open to all AVM members. If you’d like to participate, you can register your interest here: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/mentoring/
Angela Wilson is a former Director at the Association of Volunteer Managers and Head of Volunteering at MS Society. Follow her on Twitter: @Angelawilson