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Star Turn?

Having worked in the volunteerism field for eight and a half years I have come to accept the fact that we get paid poorly and treated with less respect than other professionals in the voluntary sector. However, every now and then something re-awakens my desire to campaign hard to change this and educate others about the essential nature of our work and our importance to the survival of the voluntary sector.

Take today for example. I was leafing through the “Guide to careers in the voluntary sector” supplement that came with a recent issue of “Third Sector” (this is a trade publication for the voluntary and community sector here in the UK).

My first observation was the inclusion of “Volunteer Recruitment and Development Manager” as a job choice. Great! OK, the article made out that we are some kind of second-rate HR managers, but the volunteer management field was in there (for a change) and that’s what counts.

Then I looked at another position advertised for a “Celebrity Supporter Manager” — a post some large UK charities have that, normally based in the communications department, oversees the organisation’s relationship with famous people who lend their name in support of the cause that agency is addressing.

The salary band for this Celebrity Supporter Manager position was £34,000 to £36,500 ($54,700 to $58,700 US) compared with the Volunteer Recruitment and Development Manager’s salary band of £12,000 to £26,000 ($19,300 to $41,800 US).

That made me think. Why do others get both paid well and recognised for doing similar jobs to Volunteering Managers, yet when we use many (and more) of the same skill sets we get such poor pay and status?

You see; Celebrity Supporter Managers do indeed do very similar work to Volunteering Managers. Don’t believe me? In April 2001, Professional Fundraising magazine published a piece on the role and function of a Celebrity Support Manager.

Let’s compare what that article said with what Volunteering Managers do and look at the evidence:

  1. “Celebrity support has always been important to the voluntary sector.”True, but more important has been the support of “ordinary” volunteers, often enabled and facilitated by a Volunteering Manager. After all, without volunteers, quite often there is nothing for the celebrity to support.
  2. “Charities are becoming more strategic in their approach to celebrities seeking to exploit the limited time they get with them for maximum impact.”Key here, it is argued, is the need to demonstrate a clear link between the cause being supported and the celebrity doing the supporting. Furthermore, targeted recruitment of celebrities is advocated.One of the significant factors in volunteer management success is demonstrating to volunteers that there is a clear link with the work they are doing and the impact of that work on the cause the organisation is addressing. As we embrace the baby boom generation as volunteers this will become even more important as these people are more demanding about how their time is used to further a cause.

    Likewise, targeted recruitment of volunteers has always been the most effective means of reaching people. Knowing whom it is that you need to volunteer, where to find them, how to reach them (e.g. word of mouth) and what to say to them is the backbone of volunteer recruitment. However, we have a harder job than our Celebrity Supporter Manager colleagues as our supporters could be anywhere in the country/world and so are harder to track down than celebs, who can be found in any copy of Hello, OK etc.

  3. “Developing relationships with agents who handle a number of clients and they can therefore represent a gateway of celebrity opportunities….”Anyone who has ever worked with any brokerage or intermediary volunteer recruitment body (e.g. Do-It, Experience Corps, Millennium Volunteers, Volunteer Bureaux) will be able to teach Celebrity Supporter Managers all they need to know about this — and more!
  4. ” potentially damaging situation for charities is when they depend on a celebrity for the success of an event and the celebrity pulls out at the last minute].”Not as potentially damaging as a volunteer or volunteers not turning up and so a drop in centre can’t open its doors, or a young care leaver doesn’t get mentored into work, or a meal isn’t delivered to a housebound older person, or a lifeboat can’t go out to rescue someone, or a Samaritan isn’t on hand to deal with a distressed caller…

As you can see they are similar jobs, but one person deals with public figures and one person enables vital services to be delivered with and to the public — quite often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the public.

Which one do you think deserves more respect and the higher salary?

About the Contributor: Rob Jackson

Rob Jackson has worked in the volunteering movement since July 1994. He has led and managed volunteers and volunteer programmes in education, advice, fundraising and children’s services settings at local, regional and national levels.

In April 2005, Jackson joined Volunteering England (www.volunteering.org.uk). During most of his six years there, Jackson served as Director of Development and Innovation and successfully generated over £1million of income, led a merger with Student Volunteering England and oversaw the delivery of a number of strategic development projects in the volunteering field. Jackson also provided the secretariat to the ground breaking Volunteer Rights Inquiry (www.volunteering.org.uk/3rpromise).

Jackson has strong links with the fundraising world, including a period working as Head of Fundraising Strategy for the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and chairing the Institute of Fundraising working party that developed the UK’s first code of good practice on volunteer fundraising.

Jackson now runs his own business: Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd (www.robjacksonconsulting.com), providing consultancy and training services on a range of topics, with volunteerism remaining at the core of his work.

Jackson also writes, speaks and trains management internationally. He is an active volunteer, serving as: chair of governors at his sons’ school; as founder and moderator of UKVPMs (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UKVPs, the first email networking resource for UK based Volunteer Programme Managers; and as a member of the editorial team for www.e-volunteerism.com, an international journal on volunteering issues.

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