Writing the book on volunteering

The Leisure Review prides itself not just on being an independent voice in the cultural sector but also on contributing to the professionalism of the industry we serve. So when we came across a person doing exactly the same thing we had to have a word. Mick Owen reports.

The successful one-day conference, Empowering Volunteer Managers

There are some people who would regard Nicky McCrudden as some kind of super-hero. In addition to her part-time job as a project manager in her local NHS she runs her own training company and in the month of November alone ran a regionally significant conference for managers of volunteers in the South East, launched her own e-book and somehow fitted in a parachute jump for charity. But McCrudden herself puts her accomplishments down to a background in volunteering. “Because I am so used to working alongside volunteers I tend to adopt their approach,” she said. “If a job needs doing then you stay until it’s done. Volunteers seldom have a clock-watching mentality and nor do I.”

With a sports science background, experience of working in both the voluntary and statutory sector, Nicky has gradually extended both the markets she serves and the geographical scope of her business from her Eastbourne base. It was when she made contact with the then Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM) that she got the chance to marry her passion for sport to her training skills. “The events team at ILAM were recruiting training providers and with my background in the fitness industry it seemed like a logical progression,” McCrudden explained. “My speciality in those days was customer care and with that being a pre-requisite for almost every role in the leisure industry I began to work with them. Over time I developed a tremendous working relationship with Briony Hibbin [in the ILAM events team] and did more and more leisure-specific training in the soft skills needed by people in supervisory and management roles.”

McCrudden’s knowledge of the third sector, developed through her work as a volunteer manager on a leisure project for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, meant that when ILAM were looking for experts that knew volunteering and leisure for a conference on the voluntary sector it made sense to involve her. It seems that the plan was to develop the event year-on-year but, with ILAM disappearing and the whole events team with it, there was an hiatus in the provision of good-quality, interactive upskilling and information-giving events for people who manage volunteers in sport and leisure contexts. And this is why Nicky put on her cape and pulled her pants over her trousers. “Managing volunteers can be tricky and a lonely business,” she said. “Although most of the solutions can be put down to common sense and a basic understanding of how the law impacts upon volunteering, it is always good to learn from other people’s experience and to have the chance to meet like-minded professionals to bounce ideas off.”

The result was a highly successful one-day conference, Empowering Volunteer Managers, that drew managers from all four corners of the sport and leisure landscape. Convinced that there is a crying need for support and knowledge in this area that isn’t being met by existing agencies, McCrudden is now working the event up into a template for other English regions.

Which is probably why she wrote a book about it. Going for the Ronseal approach, the e-book is called The Volunteer Manager’s Handbook and peer reviewers from both the third sector and the sport and leisure sector agree it does exactly what it says on the tin. The chapter headings take the reader through the entire life cycle of the volunteer and the idea is that the text can be used by the beginner as a step-by-step guide or be consulted by the more experienced, whether they be volunteers themselves or paid hands, as and when required.

Nicky McCrudden is the sort of person The Leisure Review likes. She does not see the leisure industry as a cash cow to be milked of every last drop, nor is it a place to go and hide. She recognises that for the industry to thrive, people within it need upskilling and updating, and, as she is an acknowledged expert in some of the areas where these things are most required, she is committed to doing what she can. Like the sports development practitioners north of the border working independently to bring the fourth Scottish Sports Development Conference to the market in May 2009 – on a completely voluntary basis – she is doing her bit to enhance this industry. Unlike the Scots, she does not have the benefit of the national sports development agency’s enthusiastic support but just like them she does have ours.

Mick Owen is the managing editor of The Leisure Review. Nicky McCrudden can be found online at www.mccrudden-training.co.uk.


 The Leisure Review, December 2008

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“Going for the Ronseal approach, the e-book is called The Volunteer Manager’s Handbook and peer reviewers from both the third sector and the sport and leisure sector agree it does exactly what it says on the tin.”

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