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DOVIAs and Professional Networks

Do We Need New Models for DOVIAs?, Part 1

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Participants: Includes seven participants from six states and one province, collectively representing at least 21 different professional networks/associations for volunteer program managers at the local, state/provincial, national and international levels!

Toward the end of summer, we gathered some of the brightest minds in volunteer management at our virtual Roundtable to engage in a unique and lively discussion on a current topic of great interest to those involved with DOVIAs. What resulted was a thoughtful but critical look at DOVIA structures of the past, present, and future. While we didn't find solutions to many of our questions, I believe we did move the discussion to a new level, and perhaps we even proposed a new paradigm for professional volunteer management support networks.

And because DOVIAs do not exist in a vacuum, our conversations branched out to many topics related, but not exclusive to DOVIAs. For example, along the way, we had quite a bit to say about the related issues of training, accrediting, and advancing the professionalism of the field. We acknowledged the clear correlation between the degree to which we consider ourselves "professionals" and the types and levels of support we need from our DOVIAs.

While each Roundtable member certainly brings her or his unique perspective to these issues, it was energizing to find such like minds, so much energy and passion for the work, and an absolute agreement on the need for continued change in and between our organizations. Personally, my heart beats fast at the idea of all these people continuing this forum, in a real, rather than virtual discussion. If such a meeting could take place, there is no doubt that exciting change would occur!

Our Keyboard Roundtable began with the following premise and starter questions:

Existing DOVIAs and other volunteerism exchange networks are scrambling to respond to the changing needs of and demands upon their members. While DOVIA meetings were once the primary way for practitioners to learn about volunteer management (often the "show-and-tell" model), more recently, books, journals, Web sites and other informational resources are much more readily available to newcomers than ever before. The number of volunteer-related workshops and conferences has proliferated, although these sources do often require some traveling to attend. So DOVIAs are no longer the sole resource for "the basics" to be shared. On the other hand, issues in the volunteer world are evolving so rapidly that even the most experienced program manager is in need of continuing education to remain on the cutting edge.

Membership in even the most active of DOVIAs is rarely representative of the number and scope of people working in the volunteer management field in a given area. Too often, prospective members (or those unsure of whether to renew their membership) are faced with little time and even more limited funds. This means few resources to travel to meetings or events and fewer members able (willing?) to serve on boards and committees.

  • If everyone is "too busy" to run the DOVIA, what's the answer? Higher dues (which members will say they can't afford) and paid staff?
  • What would make DOVIA meetings more worthwhile? What could be substituted in place of monthly/bi-monthly meetings?
  • Tools such as Web sites, e-mail, and newsgroups are tantalizing and useful, but can a DOVIA find people to design and maintain them?
  • How can a DOVIA be a place equally welcoming and useful to newcomers and to practitioners with long experience?

So, the fundamental question is:

"What new models are needed to address the changing world in which DOVIAs operate?"

Admittedly, these are difficult questions, but ones I think that DOVIA leaders across the country have been forced to face. Our Roundtable participants had much to say!