by Jane Hanson, "E" Division RCMP, posted on 1:36 PM, January 16, 2013
RCMP staff better able to access volunteer development opportunities. An article by Jane Hanson, Volunteer Management Program Director, "E" Division RCMP
Preamble: In June 2012 Canadian Administrators of Volunteer Resources (CAVR) the national professional association for leaders of volunteers, and HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector released the brand new National Occupational Standards for Managers of Volunteers (NOS). Following this announcement Administrators of Volunteer Resources – BC (AVRBC) struck a Task Force to identify strategies to use the new Standards in a practical way within volunteer-involving organizations. The following article describes the experience of one of the AVRBC Task Force members in utilizing this new tool in her organization. For more information about the AVRBC or the Task Force on the National Occupational Standards contact email@example.com.
National Occupational Standards for Managers of Volunteer Resources in Action
The RCMP is unique in the world as it is a national, federal, provincial, and municipal policing body. We provide a total federal policing service to all Canadians, and policing services under contract to the three territories, eight provinces (except Ontario and Quebec), more than 190 municipalities, 184 aboriginal communities and three international airports. Canada’s safety and security starts in our neighbourhoods, is strengthened by our efforts across the provinces and territories, and is enhanced by our global partnerships and presence in countries around the world.
RCMP volunteers are citizens of the community and their goal is to participate in community policing services such as public safety and crime prevention initiatives. The involvement of volunteers provides a means for the RCMP to engage the communities we serve and to deliver an enhanced policing service. The RCMP in BC consists of roughly 1/3rd of the entire Canadian force. More than 9500 employees proudly serve in BC providing municipal, provincial and federal policing in areas that range from isolated Aboriginal communities and coastal villages to major cities. It is estimated that over 50,000 British Columbians are active in crime prevention initiatives in their communities with 6,300 individuals providing voluntary services under the direct supervision and guidance of the RCMP.
Volunteers may be engaged in a wide variety of crime prevention activities based on their detachment and community needs, some of the more common programs include: Auxiliary Constable, block watch, business watch, citizens on patrol, counter attack, crime stoppers, lock out auto crime, speed watch, stolen auto recovery, restorative justice and victim services. As long as the RCMP has been a presence in Canada, citizens have worked hand-in-hand with their local detachments. While volunteers have long been valued members of the RCMP family, the professionalization of the administrative side of the RCMP’s volunteer program is a more recent development.
The RCMP in BC has worked towards this end through the development of policy, insurance and risk assessments, formal recognition programs, a volunteer management handbook and the staffing of a provincial headquarters position designed to provide support to all detachments engaging volunteers. Detachments are responsible for the day to day management and supervision of their volunteer resources. As is the case in many organizations, the job of volunteer manager is often tagged onto the desk of already busy personnel, in some cases civilian employees but most often police officers. This often prevents volunteers from being engaged to their full capacity and creates a situation where the staff member can become overwhelmed. The constant cycling through of personnel provides further complications; particularly in small isolated detachments where members are replaced every two years.
Over time the marginalization of the duties of a manager of volunteer resources becomes so entrenched that even the employees themselves cannot fully appreciate the volume of work required on a daily basis to manage their volunteer programs. Nor are they able to identify the areas in which they would benefit from further professional development or to appreciate that volunteer management is a profession in and of itself.
The publication of the National Occupational Standards for Managers of Volunteer Resources in 2012 has served to provide the words to fully articulate the vast array of activities that together create the position of manager of volunteer resources. The DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) chart allows us to easily identify the competencies that should be addressed in a training curriculum. While this is an illuminating piece of work, its application is a little more unclear, particularly in an organization the size of the RCMP in BC.
Should we go top down, approaching senior management to re-examine the job descriptions for those who manage volunteers? Or should we start from the ground level and have those currently doing the job understand the scope of the work they are undertaking? Although, we know that ultimately we will need to take both approaches.
Luckily the decision was made for us by the timely arrival of an opportunity to reach the vast majority of managers doing this work in BC’s 125 RCMP detachments. In 2012, we published a new RCMP in BC Volunteer Management Handbook. Designed to run parallel to the launch of this resource, we developed a daylong training course providing both an overview of volunteer management theory and an examination of the policies and legislation relevant to volunteerism in a policing environment.
This course provided the perfect vehicle to introduce the concept of a national occupational standard. This course was piloted in the lower mainland district in November with 46 local managers in attendance. We began the section on the NOS by asking the participants to call out the activities they undertook as part of their roles. At first participation was limited as they waited to see what their peers might say. Then slowly momentum grew. Participants called out activities and tasks filling out multiple flip charts. Their comments covered the gamut, ranging from program development and risk management to supporting volunteers emotionally and professionally and everywhere in between.
The group continued to work answering additional questions including: What sort of training would a manager of volunteers need? What sort of competencies should a manager have? Answers continued to flow in. After we had exhausted the audience we brought out a copy of the Manager of Volunteer Resources DACUM chart blown up to poster size. We asked how well this represented what they do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. The response was positive and the participants were excited to see their responsibilities laid out in print. We challenged them to take this publication back and use it during their upcoming annual assessment process. We further challenged them to start a dialogue with their supervisors about the variety of activities that inform their roles and to share that experience with their peers.
The participants left the event with the knowledge that they are part of the greater volunteer management profession. They became aware of external resources such as the CAVR and the AVRBC through which they would be able to access professional development opportunities. This spring we will be presenting the same course in the other three districts – north, island and southeast. Follow up will then begin with articles re-iterating the learning from the course in our internal publications and infoweb sites. Next steps will be to bring this information forward to senior management and begin a meaningful dialogue about role of manager of volunteer resources.