Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Ramblers Volunteers Meeting in London (2/11)

I'm on my way home from the latest volunteers meeting with Rodney
Whittaker (chair) and myself. This one was at central office with
about 30 people. Here are some of the issues discussed.


'How to grow the membership' dominated the discussions again, with
lots of good ideas flowing.

- Some volunteers thought that the Ramblers was too elitist and not
populist enough. We needed to attract different types of people, and
make it so that the ordinary walker felt they needed to be part of the
Ramblers. [I agree with this - there are about 6million regular
walkers out there who are potential members.]

- Some people thought Ramblers membership was too expensive, but
others disagreed (although we're more expensive than local walking
clubs, that's always been the case).

- The volunteer from Canterbury Group said that putting on walks for
the Canterbury Festival had been very good at attracting new members.

- It was suggested that it is made easier and less bureaucratic to
set up new groups - for example, cutting down on the need for
committees and the like. Are there parts of the country where new
geographical groups could be tried?

- Linked to this, it was suggested that new members are given greater
choice on which group they want to join - or whether they want to join
a group at all.

- The idea of incentivising groups that are growing was raised (this
also came up at the recent meeting in Glasgow). If anyone can think
of a good incentive (that doesn't cost too much) we'd like to know.

- Somebody made the point that we don't do enough to promote our
successes. The issue of producing small plaques which Ramblers groups
can afix to posts when they do maintenance work was raised again.
[We're currently looking into this in detail. ] Some local authorities
- for example, Kent, resist requests to this this while others are
enthusiastic about it.

- Although membership processing is now much faster, one volunteer was
concerned to make sure this continued over Christmas (often, things
slip back over Christmas, which is when lots of people join). [We're
already planning for the Christmas period.]


Although many felt there had been big improvements over the past year,
they also said there was room for further improvement in working in
partnership between volunteers and staff.

[We've made some progress with this over the past year - for example,
listing volunteers with experience who are happy to be contacted for
advice on the volunteers website - I agree we've got further to go.

- Essex are discussing piloting closer links with affiliated groups,
to try to boost membership - with the results shared across the
charity. It was suggested that this process of Areas taking the lead
in piloting things should become 'the norm'.

- I'm keen for Areas and Groups, when they have good ideas, to try
them out and share the results with everyone else.

- There are now about twenty volunteer posts at central office
(indeed two central office volunteers, Mike Whiteley from Essex and
Damian Wheeler from Surrey, were at the meeting), doing all sorts of
things from working with the membership team to running the Walks
Finder. I think there's potential to expand this further.


- Somebody commented that they would prefer paper versions, although
others said that electronic communications worked well (but "less is
more" and we needed to be careful not to overload people).

- A very popular idea was that when sending out electronic
communications to volunteers, we should state which volunteers it's
aimed at, who's been sent it, and what action (if any) is required. I
think this is a very good idea.

-The increased use of Executive Summaries in papers, and text-only
versions, was welcomed.

- It was suggested we keep a directory of Area/Group/Volunteer
expertise, so that we know where abilities and skills are when they
are needed.


- Some people felt that although Walk is very well produced, it
didn't have the information which particularly interests volunteers.
[This is a difficult one - Walk is very popular indeed with members,
in surveys.]


- Concern was expressed that members can cost more than the funding
given to groups/areas. In East Essex, the Group raises funds from
coach walks, etc, to offset this. [We're increasing the funding for
Areas and Groups this year, but we're also encouraging them to look at
how to do things more cheaply - particularly using electronic

- Finally, it was suggested that Groups could benefit from guidance on
raising funds from other sources - eg sponsorship.

Those were some (but not all) points raised this evening. It was
another very helpful session, with much positive, thoughtful discussion.

Tom Franklin
Chief Executive

Ramblers - at the heart of walking for 75 years
Please visit 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 www.ramblers.org.uk

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