Executive Committee

The executive committee is an elected representative body. Its members are all experienced professionals who have gained knowledge of hospice volunteer management, and are currently working in organisations that provide palliative care services. Committee work is an addition to their normal employment and requires attendance at a minimum of six meetings a year.

The committee is responsible for the management of the association, the maintaining and updating of the AVSM constitution, terms of reference, business and strategic planning. Minutes of all committee activity and meetings held are available in the Executive Committee Meetings section in the Members Area.

Carole Snow

Russell Cowan, Chair 

Head of Volunteer Resources, St Peter’s Hospice, Bristol

I’m currently Head of Volunteering at St Peter’s Hospice and most of my career has been within the charity sector. I started in the UK Grants department at Comic Relief before sidestepping into drug and alcohol work in three notorious London prisons. I then moved to Bristol and worked for a project supporting people with multiple barriers to employment into volunteering or work. I then took another sidestep into business development for an adult education and training business before returning to the charity sector to head up a befriending project for socially isolated older people.  In addition to my work, I have continued to offer my time in various volunteering roles. I acted as a trustee of a young person’s counselling charity, an advocate for people with disabilities and as a mentor for young people whose parents used drugs and alcohol. I currently teach courses in meditation and Buddhism, and support activities around this. I believe strongly that volunteering makes our lives more meaningful and it’s an ongoing privilege to work with the AVSM executive committee and our members to keep volunteering at the heart of hospices.


Peter Nesbitt, Deputy Chair

Volunteering Development Manager

St Catherine’s Hospice

For Peter, what started as a temporary admin job in ‘an office’, turned into an amazing career. Working with volunteers and volunteering since 2005, Peter developed a passion for this work because of the positive action and benefit he saw volunteering have on the people who volunteer and those who benefit from their support. Peter quickly learnt about volunteer management, recruitment and support whilst working at the National charity, Volunteering Matters (formerly CSV) a charity leading UK volunteering in policy and practice for more than 50 years and who work with over 20,000 volunteers supporting over 85,000 people in over 100 community programmes.

Here Peter’s career developed quickly, moving from his administration post to volunteer management, and then to training and developing volunteer managers, in less than 5 years, becoming Volunteering Matters’ International Recruitment Manager. This role involved managing international partnerships across 4 continents, supporting the work and volunteer management of hundreds of full-time volunteers in hundreds of organisation across England, Scotland and Wales and representing UK volunteering as a Board Member of Volunteurope in 2016/17, an international network promoting volunteering, active citizenship and social justice in Europe and beyond.

In 2017, Peter relocated from the Midlands to the South coast, and as part of this he began working for St Catherine’s Hospice in Sussex & East Surrey as their Volunteering Development Manager. Joining AVSM in the same year, Peter then volunteered to be the Regional Representative for the South in 2018 and later joined as a member of the AVSM Exec Team in 2019.


Steve Bond, Regional Development Forum Chair

Volunteer Services Manager

St Barnabas Hospice

Steve has had 3 career paths so far, including Supermarket Retail with the Co-op, ASDA and Sainsburys, policing with Lincolnshire Police as a response officer and in criminal investigation, and latterly in the charity sector.

Steve has worked for St. Barnabas Hospice in Lincolnshire since 2014.  Initially he was Assistant Volunteer Services Manager before completing his HR qualification and moving into a combined role of HR and Volunteer Services Manager. The roles were split again and Steve chose to return to a purely Volunteer Management role which now includes overseeing the Facilities Team too.
Steve said, “I became a member of the AVSM on day one with the Hospice and I have continued to be impressed with the amount we all get for our membership. The networking opportunities and conversations we have in regional meetings are so useful and the annual conference is thought provoking and reaffirming in equal measure. The conference alone could generate workstreams for 12 months!”

Steve became Regional Rep for the Midlands during 2020/21 and then decided to raise his hand above the parapet to join the Exec. He took on the role of Regional Development Forum Chair from the end of 2021.  “I have gotten so much out of the AVSM that its time for me to put something back and hopefully help the organisation develop over the next few years. I’d recommend anybody to get involved as an exec or regional rep.”

Jenn Bird

Jennifer Bird, Regional Development Forum Chair

Head of Volunteering

Thames Hospice

Jenn stumbled into the Volunteer Management profession during her time volunteering at Helen & Douglas House in Oxford whilst working in HR for a childcare company. She then started as the Volunteer Services Manager at St Luke’s Hospice in Harrow, two years later moving to Thames Hospice in Windsor where she has worked for the past five years as the Head of Volunteering.

Jenn joined the AVSM Exec team in 2016 as Regional Development Forum Chair supporting the Regional Reps. She has also been Regional Rep for the London & North West Thames region. Jenn has spent the last few years developing the AVSM website alongside our web development company.

Jenn Bird

Laura Lowther, Executive Team Member

Head of Volunteering

St Oswald’s Hospice

Laura is Head of Volunteering at St Oswald’s Hospice and is responsible for the strategic leadership of volunteering across the organisation as well as leading her development and coordination team. Starting out in the charity sector nearly 15 years ago, she was quickly drawn to the world of volunteering (although dabbled with HR for a while!) and remains passionate about its potential to transform individuals, organisations and communities. Her current area of focus is around organisational strategy to guide St Oswald’s Hospice’s volunteering culture into the future. Another area of recent development has been around Clinical Volunteering – involving volunteers safely, meaningfully and strategically in patient care, alongside clinical staff. She was incredibly proud to co-develop a collaborative, agile and ambitious volunteering project throughout the pandemic with the specialist Lymphoedema Service at St Oswald’s Hospice, which won Hospice UK’s ‘Innovation in Care’ award in 2021.

Laura is also a Trustee with VODA North Tyneside (Voluntary Organisations Development Agency) who provide support, advice and training to local organisations, acts as a volunteer centre and runs a variety of partnership projects. She is currently working with the CEO on a People Advisory Group to develop organisational approach to ‘people and culture’.

Laura has been a member and regional rep for North East AVSM group since early 2020 and has found the supportive and generous spirit of the group throughout the pandemic a source of inspiration and has been delighted to join the AVSM Executive Committee in February 2022. A great believer in the power of volunteering within Hospices, she is excited to explore and expand the potential of AVSM as a network and how it’s members and partners can all collaborate to shape its future and embed innovation and inclusion at its heart.


Rachel Stewart, Membership Secretary

Volunteer Development Manager

Dorothy House Hospice Care

With a background in education as a primary school teacher, Rachel has ‘dipped her toe into the water’ of a wide variety of jobs from the civil service to computer programming. After having children her career took off in earnest when she started out in the Voluntary Sector 14 years ago and she really has not looked back!

Her initial involvement was with children’s charities, Barnardo’s and Spurgeons supporting service delivery. From 2008 onwards she has been in leadership and management positions; these included setting up and running Sure Start children’s centres and a young carers’ service across Wiltshire. Inspired by seeing the difference volunteering made to both volunteers and service users, she set up a volunteer mentoring scheme for young carers. This led onto a new role, setting up a pilot project for another children’s charity with a volunteer team offering practical help and support to families with a child with a life threatening illness.

In 2017 Rachel took on the role of Volunteer Development Manager at Dorothy House Hospice, Wiltshire and quickly recognised how invaluable the support offered by the AVSM is. She took on the role of membership secretary to the Executive team in 2018/19 and co-chairs the south west region. Over the short 3 years since joining Dorothy House, she has tried out many ideas and models of working that have first been discovered at AVSM meetings and conferences.

Outside work Rachel has volunteered her time and skills to offer training for volunteers in another charity. She is involved in a range of church activities from worship leading to any events involving food.


Deborah Vickers

Head of Voluntary Services                         

Douglas Macmillan Hospice


Deb joined Dougie Mac in Stoke 10 years ago after her family were touched by the care her Grandad received in his final days.

“I started at Dougie Mac (as we are known locally) in fundraising which was so inspiring to meet people who wanted to raise money and give something back. I met so many volunteers and found their reasons for volunteering amazing”.

After maternity leave Deb moved over to the volunteering department she now manages. “I remember the first AVSM conference I attended, I got so much out of it to implement at my hospice, it was so reassuring being in a room full of people who do the same job and have the same day to day issues”.

Deb is an Investors in Excellence practitioner and previously worked for national companies as a coach and performance manager. “Moving to the voluntary sector was the best thing I did. I love working with volunteers, the experience they bring, the diversity and inclusion it allows, you just don’t get that anywhere else”.





HOSPICE STAFF MARCH2016 – Gillian Austin

Gillian Austin, Secretary – Co-opted onto Executive Team

Training and Development Lead

The Hospice of St Francis

Gillian started managing volunteers and volunteer projects 20 years ago, from youth work to social housing and reducing social isolation in some London boroughs, Gillian then moved to the Hospice to continue working in voluntary services and now leads on training for Hospice staff and volunteers and even beyond! She has worked at The Hospice of St Francis for over 8 years.
Gillian is trained in counselling and specialised in youth counselling and alcohol addiction. She also volunteers as a trustee for a local community centre, events at the Hospice where she works and for the local church.
She first became a Regional Rep for AVSM and after a year joined the Exec team, she became Deputy Chair in 2018. During her time on the AVSM Exec team she has supported connections with other groups such as NCVO and AVM and every year puts her expertise to good use to organise the annual AVSM Conference.
John Johnson

John Johnson, Treasurer – Co-opted onto Executive Team

After a lengthy career in local government working in and managing a variety of public services including urban renewal; countryside planning; policy & equality; anti-poverty; and community safety & crime prevention, John had a brief spell running his own marketing company, before joining the Hospice Movement in 2010.  “As someone who has always been happy to rise to a challenge, I started my hospice days pounding the streets of Rochdale, in all weathers, canvassing for new players for the local hospice lottery.  It wasn’t long before I was welcomed indoors working as their Support Services Manager, looking after a number of services of which volunteer management was only one.”   John moved from Springhill Hospice, as he realised he wanted to take a more focused approach to volunteer involvement.  He became the Volunteer Manager at The Kirkwood, Huddersfield, and worked tirelessly at the Hospice until his recent retirement in December 2021.  Volunteering is firmly ingrained across the organisation; volunteers’ contribution and opinion is highly respected and valued; and the passion, dedication and commitment of volunteers never ceases to amaze!  John continues to help manage the Association’s finances in his role as Treasurer.  “Having benefitted enormously from my own experience – relaxed meetings and conferences, selfless sharing of good practice, opportunities for professional development and peer support that’s always there when you need it – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend being part of this inclusive, professional and progressive organisation.”

How to Get Involved?

Executive Committee members can be co-opted on to the board at any time during the year and will officially stand for election at the Annual Conference. If you are interested in finding out more about the Executive Committee or would be interested in joining the team, then please contact us.

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