National Volunteer Centers
The Keyboard Roundtable asked participants from the United States, Australia, Uruguay, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Denmark to comment on the structure and state of National volunteer centers or umbrella groups in each of their countries.
The topic and rationale set for the Roundtable was as follows:
The "volunteer center" concept is multiplying all over the world -- at least the name "volunteer center" is being applied to organizations in many countries. Further, there seems to be growth of both local volunteer centers and national volunteer centers --"peak bodies," as the Australians say.
There seem to be some common denominators for the national centers. For example, none of the national centers seem to have any direct authority or control over the local ones. In fact, most of the peak bodies are funded and staffed from "above," with little input from the field "below." In other words, government or some large foundation provides the money and the staff is often hired without experience in the field. So the national center functions "for" the field, but is not "of" it.
Yet it gets attention and acts as "spokesperson."
The work of the national volunteer centers also seems quite similar -- though with varying degrees of results:
- promotion and advocacy
- some training and technical assistance
- some research and data gathering
- some publishing
- a focus on agency-based (as opposed to all-volunteer) volunteer issues
- interest in legislation and issues such as risk, financial valuation, etc.
- coordination of some sort of national volunteer recognition day/week
- some connection to the national government
At the local level, there is much more difference. For example, in the US and much of Europe, local volunteer centers are referral agents, linking people with volunteer opportunities. In Korea, Japan and much of Asia, volunteer centers actually coordinate projects, directly supervising volunteers to provide the services.