Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Volunteer meeting in Nottingham this evening (19/10/10)

I'm on my way back from a meeting with 25 Ramblers volunteers in
Nottingham - from Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland
Staffordshire, Birmingham, Sheffield, to name a few. Lots of issues
covered, mostly around our four priorities for the coming year of more
members; more income; protecting and improving the path network; and
more efficiency/effectiveness. Here's a list of some of the issues:

- The importance of promoting membership in outdoors shops (we talked
about the example of Cotswolds in Preston which has membership
leaflets by the till - some volunteers said they would try to get this

- The importance of putting on a diverse range of walks, and having a
diversity of groups, to attract and keep members. (The South
Birmingham Group said it is growing, and puts this down to short
walks, social events, and advertising.)

- Promoting Ramblers membership amongst affiliated clubs. It was
suggested that we find out the total membership of the c750 affiliated
groups, and include this figure when we lobby. We discussed various
ideas around encouraging affiliated clubs' members to join the
Ramblers too. Several volunteers said they would try things out
locally. It was suggested that the discretionary discount be taken
away from affiliated clubs, as this was more suitable for individual

- There was a lot of enthusiasm for producing small signs which
Ramblers working parties could attach to stiles, etc, which they have
repaired, which said 'Maintained by the Ramblers - Join us!'. It would
be cheaper if these were produced in bulk centrally - we're looking
into this.

- Finances: we've made a surplus in 2009/10 of about £6-700,000. Most
of this is because of one-off income (such as claiming backdated Gift
Aid). We'll be investing some of this surplus in the coming year on
things that are likely to boost income in future years (such as our
website). Most of the rest is being put aside to cover a potential
shortfall in the pensions fund that the Ramblers is part of. (Of
course, if this pensions shortfall doesn't materialise we can use the
money in other ways in the future.)

- There were still a few concerns expressed about administration
(delays in replying to letters, some continuing issues with the crm
database), although people also thought this had improved.

- We discussed the following campaigning issues:

- the very deep cuts which some local authorities are making in their
rights of way budgets (we have recently heard that Nottinghamshire
intends to cut its rights of way team in half, for example). We're
working to highlight the effect of these, through local media work and
lobbying of councillors.
- how we can offer support to local authorities - we already have many
teams of volunteers going out repairing footpaths - like our Spade
Work team in Nottinghamshire- but these are at risk if the rights of
way professionals go; one Group said it provided info on how to report
problems on its website
- meetings with MPs were important. The Sheffield Group has arranged
to take all six MPs on walks in the next few weeks.
- working with parish councils - it was suggested we encourage more
parish councils to join us, and work in partnership with us.
- Coastal access - we are focusing on two things: a timetable for
implementation, and a budget.

- Get Walking Keep Walking - we're on track to meet all of our targets
from this scheme (which is funded by the Big Lottery and the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust). We've just had
an independent evaluation showing that people taking part are walking
more by the end of the programme; and more than half of participants
are from black and minority ethnic communities. It also contributes
about £200k each year to overheads.

- Area and Group funding: there was discussion about the balance of
funding between areas and groups; each area and group is different, so
it is hard to generalise - but we are looking at helping areas and
groups to reduce costs, by sharing ideas between them.

- volunteer experts: we reported that on the volunteers website, as
well as listing staff to contact for advice, we are now listing
experienced volunteers too. People thought this was a good idea.

Our tour around the Britain continues - Rodney and I will be in
Glasgow next week.

Ramblers - at the heart of walking for 75 years
Please visit http://www.ramblers75.org.uk/ to find out more
The Ramblers' Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.
Visit our website at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/

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