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.
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.
Gillian Austin, Secretary
Head of Volunteering
The Hospice of St Francis
John Johnson, Treasurer
Volunteer Services Manager
Jennifer Bird, Regional Development Forum Chair
Head of Volunteering
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.
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.
Head of Community Engagement/Volunteers
John Taylor Hospice
Voluntary Services Manager
Douglas Macmillan Hospice
Deb joined Dougie Mac in Stoke almost 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”.
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.