Volunteer Conference - a review from the CIPR NfP Group

BY David Petrie

The CIPR’s first ever Volunteer Conference took place in Leeds in May. Actually it was originally scheduled to take place in Manchester way back in March 2020 but, like so much else in our lives, it fell victim to the pandemic. Seventy CIPR volunteers made it to Leeds, including NFP Group Chair John Clegg and myself to represent the Not for Profit sector.

The conference began with a reception on Thursday night at which those people who had made a special contribution to their groups were honoured. I’m really pleased to report that Holly Wilkins and Gemma Pettman from our own NFP committee were deservedly among those recognised.

The opening session looked at why we volunteer with CIPR. Obviously we want to be part of an ethical profession as well as helping ourselves and others to progress and develop in our careers. CIPR President Rachel Roberts summarised it in four main themes – to lead professional development, to champion lifelong learning, to advocate the value of our work and to build a resilient profession.

One thought which struck me was that many of the topics which we discussed throughout the day around volunteering with the CIPR are also highly applicable to volunteering in general. Nobody has to volunteer; we do it for a variety of reasons. Top of the list would surely be a desire to help others. It’s also worth remembering that volunteers often form a supportive community. It was really great to see that one of the sessions was given the highly appropriate title of “The Volunteer is our Champion.”

Personally, I found the panel session on diversity really interesting. Diversity should not just be about race, it also needs to consider other factors such as social class, age, sexuality, disability and mental health. The session recognised the fact that the both the CIPR and our profession need to be far more diverse. Quite a few people expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress on diversity, particularly the lack of social mobility.

As is often the case at events such as this, the informal conversations with people over drinks and meals were often just as illuminating as the more formal sessions. One of the encouraging things from my point of view was that we didn’t just talk about the positive aspects of the CIPR but were honest enough to look at some of the problems which need to be addressed. For example, there was a widespread acknowledgement that the CPD resources section of the CIPR website urgently needs an overhaul. There was also recognition of the fact that Chartership isn’t necessarily for everyone.

This was the first major event that I’ve attended since the pandemic and I must admit that I was a little apprehensive. I’m glad to say that my anxieties were unfounded; I found it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience and I’m looking forward to the next one.

David Petrie is a member of the CIPR’s Not-for-Profit committee.