Open-access content 18th May 2009
Third sector organisations, such as the BIFM, are facing challenges similar to those in the private and public sectors.
21 May 2009
Third sector organisations, such as the BIFM, are facing challenges similar to those in the private and public sectors. This includes addressing the current economic climate and recognising the importance of good governance, together with its relationship with other areas such as strategy. A factor that tends to make third sector organisations special is the key role of volunteers in organisational governance. This important topic was the subject of a recent event that is worth reflecting on. The event in question was a conference, workshop and discussion run by the Professional Associations Research Network (Parn), an organisation that facilitates discussion on good practice between professional associations.
Taking a general perspective in the UK, Angela Ellis Paine of the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) said that it can be argued that volunteering has "never had it so good". However, she went on to say that the national trends in volunteering behind the headlines are noteworthy - overall the number of people volunteering is fairly static, women are more likely to volunteer than men, key motivators are helping others or a cause, and there is a potential emerging trend towards "selfish-altruism".
Volunteers and staff work together in the BIFM just as they do in many other professional organisations. Andy Friedman, director of Parn, observed that volunteers and staff have their own strengths and weaknesses, and that the relationship between them is critical. There are issues of demand and supply for volunteers just as there are for staff. Just as there is good practice in the management of staff, so there are different challenges for staff in working with volunteers. Friedman reminded us that this is particularly important, given the role of volunteers in the governance of professional associations.
The matter of volunteers and staff working together in partnership is an important part of the jigsaw for the BIFM to continue to develop its comprehensive capability and its path towards professionalisation. Getting our relationships right will help us to be "bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions", to quote Barack Obama. Alternatively, it's about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Those who already volunteer inside or outside the BIFM may well to be able to identify with this. Those of us who don't yet volunteer might like to consider whether this might be a step to developing our communities, however we define them.