House of Lords Seeks Views on Active Citizenship

Volunteer managers are encouraged to take a look at the House of Lords’ latest call for evidence on Citizenship and Civic Engagement.

The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement has published the call hoping that a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations will submit evidence that helps them understand the nature of the citizenship challenge for different parts of society.

The part that will be of particular interest to the volunteer management community is section six, which asks:

Do voluntary citizenship programmes such as the National Citizen Service do a good job of creating active citizens? Are they the right length? Should they be compulsory, and if so, when? Should they include a greater political element? Should they lead to a more public citizenship ceremony? Are they good value for money? What other routes exist for creating active citizens?

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Chairman of the Committee said: “This Committee has been established to investigate citizenship in the UK, what it means and whether it should change. We also want to find out if there are barriers preventing people from being more involved, both locally and nationally. We hope to hear from people all over the country who have an interest in this topic, who work with communities who are disengaged as well as from people who are disengaged themselves.”

Interested parties have until 8 September 2017 to respond, and can find full details on the House of Lords website.

Charities should present one message to the public, says Media Trust chief

There is an article in Third Sector about something that came out of Volunteering England’s ‘summit’ on the future of volunteering:

“Charities should consider drawing up a coordinated strategy to attract more volunteers, key volunteering figures have been told. Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust, which works to improve the relationship between the not-for-profit sector and the media, told a meeting of volunteering leaders in London this week that a more streamlined approach to communication could help groups to promote their work and recruit higher numbers of volunteers.

“Volunteering organisations are trying to do different things and give out different messages,” said Diehl. “But perhaps they need to work out a unanimous strategy for communicating their work to the public and attracting more volunteers, instead of this potentially confusing, piecemeal approach.”

I don’t know what other members feel, but I’m a bit worried about this approach. I don’t think a one size fits all approach to marketing volunteering works, because a broad campaign cannot explain the massive diversity of VIOs and volunteer roles, so it creates unrealistic expectations.

Plus their have been generic campaigns before, and they didn’t work. I was working in a Volunteer Centre when Timebank launched, and about 80% of the initial requests were impossible – along the ‘I want to do counselling but only for one evening a year, and I’ve got no time to do any training’ line.

Organisations are sending out different messages about volunteer recruitment because we all need different things – and all offer different benefits. Nobody would suggest that all car adverts should be lumped together because a cars a car, and it’s confusing to the public to send out different messages. Or indeed that all job adverts should be standardised, so they read the same. I think this is a case of someone who, just because we have volunteering in our job titles, assumes we’re rank amateurs who need patting on the head and pointing in the right direction.

There is also an assumption that this is just a numbers game, and that all charities want hundreds of volunteers. Maybe some of us are targeting our recruitment messages so that we get people with certain skills, or from certain backgrounds. Or using a particular recruitment message precisely because we couldn’t cope with being flooded with applicants.

Having said that, I think a streamlined approach to advertising volunteering brokerage would be great, so that people were aware of Volunteer Centre’s in the the same way that they’re away of something like CAB’s. By doing that there’s a third party in the middle who can talk to people about what they want out of volunteering, and what they can realistically expect.

What do other people think?


Post by Kate Bowgett – free online service just launched

The Voluntary Action Media Unit(VAMU) have launched a free online service for charities – online guide is designed to help charities use the media to recruit volunteers. Lots of free resources and real volunteering campaigns including hints & tips on PR and advertising and demonstrating how you don’t need a big budget to get big results.
– discover which media campaigns catch people’s attention,
– access free guides to help you devise your own media strategy,
– get top tips on working with journalists and reporters,
– find out how to engage volunteers in the new media world.

Who’s behind has been created by the Voluntary Action Media Unit. VAMU is a Big Lottery funded project, set up by TimeBank and managed in partnership with the Media Trust and the Institute for Volunteering Research to investigate and improve the relationship between charities and the media.
VAMU are also the team behind
reg charity number: 1073831