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Thursday, January 18, 2018

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Opening the Door to the 21st Century of Volunteer Resources Management
Celeste Sauls

August, 2006

Business strategies, communication techniques and even the manner in which humans interact with each other have changed significantly through the years.

The volunteer resources management (VRM) field has changed also with professionals needing new and different resources to manage new and different volunteers. These changes also present new barriers for professionals in the field.

Today, volunteers from around the world can work together to address significant global issues in ways they could not have imagined twenty years ago. However, the VRM field has not changed or adapted enough to adequately leverage the resources available or meet the needs of professionals. As professionals, we have been sadly lacking in some of the most basic skills required to fully participate in the world beyond our door. In fact, it seems that there is a greater polarization and politicization of the field than ever before. This growing concentration of professionals in conflicting or contrasting positions leaves many professionals, including volunteer VRMS, without the basic support they need for their work. Finally, with the dynamic growth in the communications and technology sectors, few VRMS have fully leveraged the new tools of the profession to take their programs to a new level.

Organizations must continually be flexible to adapt and address changing market conditions. The future of volunteer resources management is changing and there is a new organization that is working hard to address those changing needs. That new support system is the VRM-Roundtable.

The VRM-Roundtable emerged as an all-volunteer, grass roots movement to create a flexible organization that could continually adapt to the changing industry needs of VRMs. Through the open discussions that evolved over time, a working group formed to conduct a survey of the field that better determine what the current needs of professionals were. The central question asked of the 737 respondents was Do you support the creation of an independent professional association dedicated to meeting the professionals needs of US volunteer resources managers? Eighty-seven percent were in favor or leaning in favor. From that survey, a Task Force was formed of nine teams who are dedicated to creating an environment that supports diversity of thought and sector participation, transparency in all actions, and sustainability. All who want to participate are welcome to do so at the level they feel most comfortable with whether it is receiving updates through the listserv or actively participating on the Task Force.

The VRM-Roundtable uses several technology-based strategies to address the needs of its members. These include websites, blogs, listservs and wikis, to name a few. These flexible communication tools make it easier to members to participate, exchange ideas and grow a new organization from the ground up. In short, the technology allows members to think and communicate creatively about what they need as professionals and how they can leverage the resources to support the industry as a whole.

As the VRM-Roundtable has grown, it has time and time again proven that it can adapt to changing market conditions and changing industry needs due to the flexible approach of all involved. As new ideas are presented, a framework is in place that allows for strategies to adapt and grow to meet new needs and involve differing perspectives. This is evidenced in the modern recruitment techniques used to involve new team members, how ideas generated by the VRM-Roundtable listservs are integrated into future programming and the increasingly more business-like approach of the field itself.

The most relevant aspect this movement has been the new markets that have been accessed through the communication process. VRMs, paid and unpaid, with wide-ranging level of experience are participating from sectors previously with limited participation, such as the faith-based, emergency response, and all volunteer organizations. These sectors and others are participating fully and making their needs known. Through it all, the Leadership Team remains firmly convinced that all have strengths to share and that through this greater level of participation a more responsive, flexible organization will emerge.

Coupled with the changes in communication and technological advances, volunteers are changing. Organizations, such as MySpace and Hands On Network, offer new ways for volunteers to impact the communities they live in. They make it easier to make a difference and see the results of that impact. The professionals involved at the VRM-Roundtable are sensitive to the changing needs of volunteers, and thus the support VRMs need to engage volunteers in the areas of greatest need.

Finally, perhaps the greatest disservice to the volunteer resources field is its lack of respect for itself. VRMs, with their candies and notes, possess the quintessential skills of moving the world to challenge the greatest injustices it faces. It is time to stop asking why dont others respect me for what I do? and realize that respect begins with you. Your respect for yourself and your work leads to global change in the perception of the field. This vision guides the work and the discussions of the VRM-Roundtable as they seek to develop a more healthy and productive attitude toward the profession.

There is no half way any more. You either make your voice heard or you trust others to make decisions for you that directly affect your ability to operate. Its that simple. Today, you have the unique opportunity to participate in something larger than yourself that will have implications for many years to come. Its time to welcome the 21st century of volunteer resources management.

Are you ready? Please visit for more information or contact Celeste Sauls at


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