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Managers of volunteers are poorly trained

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Despite the fact volunteers are 'crucial' to the Government's Big Society, almost half the employees tasked with managing volunteers have no received any training that can help them in their work.

The report, Valuing Volunteer Management, canvassed opinion from over 1000 third sector organisations, and was commissioned by Skills - Third Sector.

Despite identifying there is much good practice in volunteer management in England today, it also reveals volunteer management remains undervalued and underfunded in many organisations, including those with the largest incomes.

The report highlights, despite the availability of training, advice and support, people who manage volunteers are not aware of how to access this. This is especially true of those managing volunteers in smaller organisations, as with low incomes or few members of staff they often exist in isolation.

It found 42% of people who manage volunteers have not received any training that would help in their work with volunteers. But members of networks were considerably more likely to access training and support than those who weren't members - 74 % compared to 49 %

The findings also highlighted a strong demand for additional training and skills development across the range of functions outlined in the National Occupational Standards in the management of volunteers. And many organisations rely greatly on the local and national volunteering infrastructure for advice and support, particularly on local Volunteer Centres

The Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, in the report’s foreword, said: "This research highlights the skills needed and the importance of valuing them. It also highlights the need to think strategically about how volunteer managers are trained and supported. This is vital, whether they are engaged in work to empower and enhance their local communities or to deliver complex public services."

Julie Wilkes, chief executive of Skills – Third Sector, said: "The coalition government's Big Society agenda is about drawing on the goodwill of people across the country to respond to challenges facing Britain today.  Central to this is the promotion of civic action and volunteering. Valuing Volunteer Management’s findings help us to see the picture from the point of view of those managing volunteers on the ground. Based on this, Skills - Third Sector is drawing up a skills strategy which gives top priority to creating flexible and affordable learning opportunities for these key managers."

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, added: "Volunteer managers play a crucial role supporting the 17 million individuals who volunteer through an organisation each year. This report highlights the need for better access to training and development for volunteer managers so that the full benefits of volunteering to local communities can be realised."

The report also calls for further research to explore the trend towards using volunteers to manage other volunteers and the differing skills sets required for managing volunteers in different sizes of organisations

Research for the report was carried out by the Institute for Volunteering Research. It shows that although volunteer management is recognised as a distinct and vital role across organisations of all sizes, people managing volunteers in small groups need much more support than they currently get.