Home Button CDP Button News Button Resources button Horace button Contact Changing Ireland


Ten essentials for Volunteers
- to run an effective management committee
By Pádraig Kelly, West Training

1. Dust down the Memorandum and Articles and read it through. It may be a lengthy document but it is important as it sets the ground rules and is the legal framework for your Project. If as a member of the Voluntary Management Committee you don’t understand it or can’t get to grips with it, don’t be shy and ask someone who will explain it to you. Rest assured that you would not be alone in finding it difficult to grasp the meaning of legal documents. Be aware of your duty as a director of a limited company and a registered charity.



 

2. Understand the terms and conditions of contracts you have entered into. There are usually three contracts:
-The contract the Project has for core funding. Be aware that your contract is to implement an agreed work plan and that the contract places financial and legal obligations on you.
- Your contract with staff - understand the terms and conditions under which they are employed and the legal obligations you have as an employer.
- Find out the terms and conditions of the contract you have with the owner of the premises that you are renting for the Project.
There may be other contracts for grants or funding that your Project may have been successful in accessing for your Project.

3. Know the Project work plan. As a member of the Voluntary Management Committee it is your role to ensure staff and volunteers are implementing the work plan. If the work plan is not practical, outdated or irrelevant ask why? If so the Project may review the work plan and start again.

4. Know the policies and procedures that the Project has in place. You may think these are complicated documents that go into elaborate details about situations that might never happen. You might be right. Some of these situations don’t happen.
However, some do. When they do everyone needs to know that there is an agreed way of dealing with certain tricky situations that is agreed beforehand. No point in considering fire drill when the house is burned down!

5. Be informed. You are managing the Project. You should look for information on all aspects of the work of the Project and keep yourself aware of all its activities. To make informed decisions you need to inform yourself and be informed.

6. Be aware of the different roles in the Project and what they mean. If people have clear responsibilities within the Voluntary Management Committee what are these responsibilities and how do you relate to these people - what is the role of staff? Staff liaison? Finance sub-committee, chairperson, secretary and treasurer? All these positions are there to serve the Project. So, how can people in these positions be let get on with the work and responsibility they took on and yet keep the Voluntary Management Committee fully informed and be accountable?

7. Lead. You must offer leadership - you must participate in the debate that determines the direction the Project takes. Staff in the Project play an obvious role in the day to day running of the Project. However, the Voluntary Management Committee in discussion with staff must provide the leadership for the Project. Don’t be afraid to lead - leadership involves putting new and fresh ideas forward and having your own opinion based on your unique experiences.

8. Are your Voluntary Management Committee meetings effective? Minutes of previous meetings, proposals for the meeting and relevant information should have been sent out and read before coming to the monthly meeting. This meeting should review the work the Project has engaged in for the previous month and plan the work you will engage in for the next month. Each member should contribute to this discussion. Staff should leave the meeting with feedback on their work and with an outline of the work they are to undertake in the next month.

9. Time. You must have time to commit to the management of the Project. The Project depends on you managing it. If you cannot attend at a meeting send your apologies as early as possible. This way if there won’t be a quorum, a meeting can be rescheduled. If on a regular basis you cannot afford the time then inform the other members of your situation.

10. The final ingredients are ones that no rules, guidelines, policy or procedure can enforce. Yet they are the most important. These are honesty, openness and willingness to take risks for the benefit of those for whom the Project was established.
• Pádraig Kelly is a development worker with West Training Support Agency.
- Autumn ’05, Issue 15

 

10 advantages to volunteering


There are hundreds of benefits from volunteering. Here are ten benefits that apply directly to the volunteer himself or herself:

1. It provides you with a real opportunity to grow as a person while you work to improve the quality of life for all the people in your community.

2. You will be respected by many people in the community for the work you do.

3. Your career and employment prospects - if you are a volunteer - will widen considerably as you gain experience in project and staff management, social issues, company law, recruitment, employment and financial issues.

4. You stand to learn through both training and action how to be a leader, a team-worker, a supervisor, a listener, a decision-maker, an innovator, a reporter.

5. You will gain a great understanding (after some time!) of your community, the services available to members of the community, how local democracy can work, how to stand up for your rights and the rights of others, how to motivate marginalised people to become active around their own issues and in their own communities.

6. You may become less selfish!

7. You will watch less television!

8. You are part of a collective response that gives individuals some protection from critics/attackers.

9. You get up with a purpose everyday and have somewhere warm to go.

10. Your active participation in community life brings many unexpected rewards.
- Autumn ’05, Issue 15

 

‘Volunteer Packs’ available from most Support Agencies
As maps guide hill-walkers, and Che Guevara and Paulo Freire inspire revolutionaries, ‘Volunteer Packs’ are now informing and encouraging volunteers engaged in community development.
Still now, people are sometimes put off volunteering to join local CDPs and Family Resource Centres because they need to develop a basic understanding of employment legislation, finance, management and government funding. However, this hurdle has been largely removed for people considering volunteering with the Community Development Programme. The problem has been overcome thanks to the wealth of information provided in Volunteer Packs.
West Training Support Agency were the first to produce one and the other Support Agencies have followed with a range of resources, many of them to be found on their websites (one agency, Draiocht, does not have a website):
www.westtraining.ie (West Training Support Agency)
www.mwcdsa.ie (South & Mid-West Community Development Support Agency)
www.frameworknet.com (Framework Support Agency, South-East Region
www.triskele.ie (Triskele Support Agency, north and border counties in the Republic)


CONTENTS OF A TYPICAL VOLUNTEER PACK
West Training and projects in the West have been working with their Volunteer Pack since it was launched there in 2003. Every volunteer in the West has received the pack and new volunteers are issued with one when they join a CDP or FRC.
The following are the contents of a typical Volunteer Pack:
• An Introduction to the Community Development and Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programmes;
• Questions, motivations and experiences of Volunteering;
• Voluntary Management Committees including management structures and the roles and responsibilities of committee members;
• Supports available for volunteers within each of the programmes;
• The legal obligations of a voluntary management committee;
• Employment Legislation;
• Internal policies and procedures within your project;
• The links between Volunteering and National policy;
• Evaluating your work as a volunteer and
• Sample policies and claim forms.


CAN BE USED BY ANY VOLUNTEER
While designed for volunteers in two government-funded programmes (the Community Development Programme and the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme) West Training’s packs are versatile enough to be adjusted for use by any local project or national organisation.
As Breda Lymer, West Training co-ordinator, said: "It is a very adaptable pack for volunteers anywhere in Ireland and for volunteers generally in the community development sector. What we like about the Volunteer Pack is that you can personalise it, for example with photographs of volunteers from your region and with stories telling of local volunteers’ experiences."
Sales of the pack at €26 each from the South & Mid West Community Development Support Agency (S&MWCDSA) have been strong. According to policy worker, Veronica McNamara, there is as much demand from outside organisations as from projects within the two programmes the pack was designed around.
The spreading popularity of Volunteer Packs means that the long-desired wishes of volunteers in Ireland to have a written guide to support them in their work are being fulfilled.
- Summer ’06.

 

Motivating volunteers booklet
West Cork Community Partnership has produced a series of 10 information booklets compiled to support the members of voluntary organisations.
The booklets are aimed at organisations and groups run purely by volunteers. The series includes the Roles of Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer, Avoiding & Resolving Problems and My Role as a Member of a Voluntary Management Committee among others.
The booklets are designed to be simple and user friendly. They are available free to download on www.wccp.ie (follow the downloads link) and will shortly be available in hard copy.
"Please feel free to distribute them to the community / voluntary groups in your area," said Kathryn of WCCP.
For further information contact Kathryn, Tel 027-52266. E-mail kathryn@wccp.ie
- Autumn ’06 - Issue 19

 

INTRODUCTION: VOLUNTEERING IN IRELAND
There are nearly 2000 volunteers working in the Community Development Programme. Their work is spread across the Republic as they manage the operations of CDPs in our cities, towns, some rural areas and English-speaking islands.
Meanwhile, there are an estimated 475,000 people in the Republic who volunteer. Of that number, the CDP volunteers account for less than 1% of the total. Without them, however, a crucial Programme charged with tackling the causes and the effects of social exclusion and poverty in communities throughout the country would collapse.
Most of ‘Changing Ireland’s readers are volunteers or work with volunteers. Below, we ask should volunteers be paid? Are they happy? We look at the spreading popularity of Volunteer Packs and the what motivates people to give their time freely.

 

People volunteer for 4 different reasons
Did you ever ask yourself why there even are volunteers? Have you ever strongly felt 'The government should be providing such-and-such a service' when in fact volunteers provide it? Have you ever had reason to question the motivation behind an organisation becoming involved in volunteer/charity work? Are you glad of, or suspicious of, government support for volunteer groups?
DKM Economic Consultants, the authors of the Joint Commmittee's report on volunteers and volunteering carried out a review of international literature regarding volunteering and highlighted work by two academics, Roy and Ziemek. They suggested there were four main economic theories for why volunteering takes place in society. For the record, here they are:
• Demand-side theory - This links the existence of voluntary organisations to demand for public goods that are not met by the State or the private sector.
• Supply-side theory - This explains the growth of agencies committed to supplying public goods that are not delivered by other sectors. However, there may be a self-serving motivation behind this action, for example in the case of religious organisations that hope to win adherents to their faith through the provision of services.
• Partnership theory - This argues against the competitive relationship between the State and the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector is not seen as an alternative to State provision of public goods, but the two may complement each other. Thus the State generates resources which are deployed in conjunction with the voluntary organisations’ ability to respond to local needs.
• The social origin approach - This explains the growth of voluntary organisations in the context of the social, economic and political dynamics of a society. They state that vibrant voluntary organisations are a reflection of the strength of the middle class and a weakening of the old elites.
- Summer ’05, Issue 14

 

Does volunteering make you happy?
Volunteers are either motivated because they enjoying helping others (called intrinsic motivation) or because they hope to grow as people and improve their social network through volunteering (extrinsic motivation). For most people, the benefits of volunteering will be a combination of the two.
Empirical studies have shown a positive statistical relationship between volunteering and life satisfaction. In a recent paper on the relationship between volunteering and life satisfaction, two researchers, Meier and Stutzer*, used the unique opportunity afforded by the fall of the Berlin Wall to compare data on volunteering in East Germany before and after German Reunification. Volunteering in the East was widespread before 1989, but reunion brought with it the closure of many companies (with their associated clubs for sport and diverse cultural activities). People randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. The researchers focused their attention on people who continued to volunteer despite the new challenges and they found:
- After German reunion, satisfaction with life in East Germany decreased for the average person. There was a remarkably similar fall in the level of life-satisfaction for those who had never volunteered as there was for those who did volunteer and continued to do so after reunification.
- However, people who had to drop their volunteering work reported the largest drop in life satisfaction.
- People who put more emphasis on extrinsic goals (rather than intrinsic goals) are less satisfied with life.
- Volunteers on average rated intrinsic goals (helping others) as more important than extrinsic goals (for themselves).
- People who were more extrinsically-oriented benefited less from volunteering than people who considered intrinsic goals more important.
Of course, causation could also run in the opposite direction: happier people might be more willing to help others through volunteering. Also, the act of volunteering may be intrinsically more rewarding, the better off one is in terms of happiness. However, these two directions are not mutually contradictory.
The results reported by Meier and Stutzer are based on an extensive panel data set, the likes of which is not available to Irish researchers. However, it stands to reason that volunteers everywhere derive positive feedback from their efforts and that this in turn has a positive effect on their well-being and health.
Against that, some of the contributions to the hearings held by the Joint Committee mentioned that volunteers also suffered from rivalry and tension within organisations and endured the ill-effects of burn-out from being over-stretched and ill-supported.
* Meier S.and Stutzer A.(2004), 'Is Volunteering Rewarding in Itself?', Working Paper No. 180, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, Germany.
NOTE: The above article (with some editing) is taken from the report by the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on 'Volunteers and Volunteering in Ireland'.
- Summer ’05, Issue 14

 

Is it time to start paying volunteers?
People who work as volunteers in their community deserve some reward. The reward may be intangible - they may see a neighbour’s quality of life improve, witness the pride in an area increase, experience a greater sense of belonging within their community. But, perhaps that is not enough. Volunteer numbers are falling and volunteers need more encouragement. So, should volunteers be paid for the work they do?
‘No!’ says one volunteer from Limerick, Deirdre O’Driscoll, chairperson of the Community Development Network Moyross. She believes it is more important that volunteers’ expenses are paid. However, when when Nick Murphy in Dublin put the question to community workers there, the reaction was mixed.


NO! YOU CANNOT PAY ‘VOLUNTEERS’
"You can’t pay volunteers!" retorts Deirdre O’Driscoll. "We do put in a lot of time and a lot of effort, but if you pay us, then you can’t call us ‘volunteers’. At the same time, I believe all volunteers must be paid for out-of-pocket expenses. For example, if I take a day off work to do volunteer training, I’m down a day’s pay. That should be paid, we should never be out-of-pocket for being volunteers.
Instead of paying volunteers, an idea would be to offer scholarships to volunteers wishing to study community development. By the way, volunteering can lead to paid work anyway - you might get employment in the community sector after being a volunteer. But the whole point of being a volunteer, while you are one, is that you don’t get paid."


YES! IF YOU WANT WORK DONE, YOU PAY FOR IT
Community Employment supervisor, Frank Rock, who works with Fatima Groups United, a CDP on the southside of Dublin, points out that volunteers are in short supply: "There are less volunteers now and the opportunities for people to earn money are increasing. If you want a piece of work done you have to pay for it."


NO! VOLUNTEERING CAN LEAD TO A PAID JOB
Tina Joyce is a development worker with Blakestown CDP, another Dublin project, and she has served her time as a volunteer and found the experience useful when it came to moving on.
"Volunteer work gives great experience, it helps to develop skills. I found aspects of my volunteer experience relevant to my new job as a development worker," she said.
Tina notes that, since she left, her previous project now has one volunteer less and points out that it depends entirely on volunteers.


NO! FUNDING FOR THE PROJECT IS ENOUGH
The demands placed on the volunteer can sometimes be out of proportion to the amount of time they can give. Tom Toner who works with a C.E. project attached to Blanchardstown CDP feels that management committees can sometimes be required to meet a vast amount of commitments.
He said that while government departments are entitled to seek accountability from management committees, the reporting procedures and so on can be very time-consuming for voluntary members.
"A Project should be given a budget for a year and their work examined at the end of the year," he said. "If they did a good job their funding should be continued and if not that should be addressed."


YES! GIVE THEM A SMALL PAYMENT
John Murphy, co-ordinator of Ballymun Men's Centre, a CDP in north Dublin, believes a small payment should be made in recognition of a volunteer's input. He sees people doing great work on the ground because they see a need.
"Many volunteers have the time to get involved because they are unemployed or in ill health. They do it for the love of it but their input should be valued," he said, pointing out: "I’ve seen some volunteers put in more hours than paid staff going to meetings and organising things. I think there could be a small payment which would not affect their benefit but would acknowledge their input."
John argues that sometimes a volunteer, who is making a huge contribution, is forced by financial considerations to take a low paid job with no prospects which then interferes with their volunteering. "We need a system to support such people to continue the good work they are doing," he argued.

NO! MONEY IS NOT THE ISSUE
Another paid worker, Jennifer Flynn, the newly-appointed co-ordinator of South Inner City Community Development Association (SICCDA) believes money is not the main issue for volunteers. She gained much experience of volunteers and their problems in her previous job working with a charity with a large volunteer base.
Jennifer has seen a number of volunteers move into Community Employment or Jobs Initiative positions as well as mainstream employment.
"If someone is being paid you have to ask, 'Are they here for the money or the love?' Does paying someone undermine their commitment?" she asked.
"There are plenty of legitimate reasons why a volunteer might prefer to be employed to do the same job which have nothing to do with getting a volunteer payment. For instance, moving into a work relationship can be empowering. Also, for example, it becomes easier to say 'No' if a new duty is suggested. And it is obvious that the person is valued if they are employed. It’s more of a respect thing."
Note: The people quoted in this report are speaking as individuals and not on behalf of their projects.
- Summer ’05, Issue 14

What really motivates people to volunteer?
Volunteers' motivating reasons are not always clear-cut. Research by an Irish volunteer agency in the 1990s (APSO) found that women overwhelmingly volunteered to work overseas because they "wanted to help".
Meanwhile, a substantial proportion of volunteers (particularly males) chose aid work because they "wanted to travel and experience a different culture."
The motivation to volunteer is more often than not a mixture of things, as the Joint Committee have also discovered during the course of their work.
Surveys which the committee commissioned in the late '90s found that the altruistic motive was the strongest among volunteers. This means they believe in a cause and wanted to help/be neighbourly. At the same time, 10% linked their volunteering to knowing/liking other people who were already involved in the organisation. And 7% volunteered because they enjoyed the activity they volunteered for. Sometimes, a person's primary reason for volunteering can be simply to gain work experience and learn new skills.
When someone engages in volunteer work, obviously it should be of help to the community or target group, but it also usually has positive effects on the volunteer. Volunteers can be motivated by wanting to help, or to gain something themselves, or for a third reason - a combination of the above. No matter, so long as they get their work done.
- Summer ’05, Issue 14


Volunteers are NOT always wanted
Following President George W. Bush’s call, in 2002, to Americans to devote more time (two years of their lifetimes) to volunteer service, the US's voluntary and community sector expressed doubts as to whether they could absorb any huge influx of new volunteers.
Much as they subscribed to the value and ethic of volunteering, organisations would be swamped if too many volunteers came knocking on the same day. The sector feared that it would not be able to provide the staff and resources necessary to train and supervise large numbers of additional voluntary workers.
In Ireland, it is no different, and the fact that taking on volunteers costs an organisation money and resources was recognised by the Joint Committee. It was raised as an issue by many of the organisations who made submissions.
On average, around €230 is spent on supporting the average Irish volunteer. The cost therefore for supporting all the volunteers in the republic would be between €3.45 million and €4.37 million. This money comes from the pockets of the volunteer organisations, which goes a long way to explaining why people wanting to become volunteers often find it is not as easy as they thought to find an organisation wishing to take them on and avail of their services.
It is a cruel fact, volunteers are not always wanted. Not when the costs of training, supervision and support are beyond the organisation's capacity.
- Summer ’05, Issue 14