So I have several answers to this. One being about the frequently asked “HR vs. Volunteer Management” question, and the others being about the repackaging of old news at conferences.
For one, you and I are both tired of the HR question and if they ought to manage volunteers or work closer with the Volunteer Administrator. Short answer for me is, do whatever works best for your organization’s culture and operational dynamic. Where I work, HR and I work together closely, especially when integrating pro-bono and skills based volunteers in with our paid staffing. We have folks who fulfill necessary positions and it requires that I am bound at the hip with the department who’s also charged with filling staffing voids. Some other organizations may not have this same working relationship. I have seen other organizations where the HR representative is also the Volunteer Administrator, and I’ve also seen organizations that have no communication with HR because the volunteers they engage don’t satisfy requirements that HR is also required to fill. I just had to get that bit off my chest in case there are readers who actually wonder about that question.
Okay, now for finding the balance between ancient information and innovation at volunteer management conferences. I don’t usually repeat or paraphrase quotes from others, but in this case I would say we all (volunteer managers) have to be the change that we want to see. Gandhi said something LIKE that. In this case I think it’s true. We have to be the innovation we hope to see, and elevate ourselves into the positions of being the experts, webinar hosts and workshop presenters. If we’re tired of seeing the same old questions that have been asked for the past two decades, then we need to change that. We also need to be the inspiration to a younger generation. I’m a firm believer in diversity of thought, and one way of doing that is engaging the youngest generation is valuing service work, so they want to BE us. This way, maybe not next year, or the next five years, but maybe ten years from now this question no longer surfaces to the top, because culturally within our industry we’ve moved beyond it. That’s the long term fix, to inject diversity within our profession.
Short term fix, I think we just have to be very vocal about the sessions and how useful they are to folks like us who may be in a more “advanced” stage in our careers. BUT, we also have to be cognizant that there may be entry level Volunteer Administrators who simply don’t know the answer. And they may not know the answer because culturally and professionally there’s not the same robust academic, professional development or formal pipeline that exists for volunteer management. If volunteer administrators aren’t staying in this profession (because they’re undervalued, burnt out or not recognized for their work), then with every 3–4 years there’s institutional knowledge that’s lost. Because of low retention rates, it may always be necessary to have such novice questions at volunteer management conferences. Just my thoughts.