Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Volunteers meeting in Plymouth (23/11/10)

Having stumbled off the sleeper train at Plymouth at 5.30am this
morning, straight to Devon Area volunteer John Skinner's house for an
early breakfast (thanks John), and then on to the first day of the
Vixen Tor public inquiry, the day ended with an excellent meeting with
volunteers from the south west this evening back in Plymouth.

As usual, the meeting was with Rodney (chair) and myself. Many
excellent positive ideas were put forward. Here are some of the issues

- GIFT AID. We explained that one of the reasons for the financial
surplus in the year just ended was because we have trawled through
previous years' records to indentify about £150,000 of unclaimed Gift
Aid we were entitled to. This is a direct benefit from the CRM
software. It's an example of us becoming more efficient, and although
it is a one-off bonus it is very welcome nonetheless. Another example
of the benefit from the CRM software is that we are now processing
direct debits electronically, saving admin time and postage costs.
Members won't have noticed a difference yet, but we are moving towards
accepting paperless direct debit instructions over the phone or

- FINANCES. We stressed that although last year was more stable
financially, because we'd cut our costs back drastically the year
before, this is still a very difficult time for us (and other
charities). In particular we need to reverse the decline in membership.

- REACHING OUT. Several volunteers said they felt the Ramblers was
'moving into the 21st century', reaching out to everyone who wants to
walk. Groups could help by putting on, and publicising, shorter walks,
walks for children, and linking up with local health walk schemes to
persuade people to join the Ramblers after 'graduating' from the
health walk.

- WALKING FESTIVALS One volunteer said he is organising a series of
walks linked to the 'Get Walking for the Games' theme. He thought we
should offer membership promotion for those taking part in Olympic
Games walks, and that we should re-start Family Walking Day. The idea
of local/national walking festivals was very popular.

- MEMBERSHIP MESSAGES. It was thought we (central office) needed to
be clearer about the messages that Areas / Groups should use when
recruiting, and publicise these to them. They were also looking for
more guidance on what recruitment activities tended to work or not
work (for example, stalls at fairs).

- The idea of a reward for Groups which were successful at membership
recruitment was very popular.

- We encouraged groups to build a relationship with their local
Cotswold manager, where there was one, and ask if membership leaflets
could be displayed in the stores.

- FOOTPATHS. The difference in footpath quality was highlighted -
with the excellent quality in Devon and the often terrible quality
next door in Cornwall. West Berkshire Group has built excellent
relationships with their council - they do footpath repair work. (Much
of this stemmed from the days of foot and mouth, when the group helped
to close footpaths...and then to reopen them!). The Walkers are
Welcome initiative was seen as excellent, because it was positive and
constructive, and something we should support. We said that we have
set up a new 'legal fund' for legal and national casework, with
£130,000 going into the fund from this year's budget. We also
intended to set up a mystery walkers scheme thus year, to help with

- NEW MEMBER RETENTION. Map reading courses were something popular
with new members (also helps with recruiting walk leaders).

- TREASURERS HANDBOOK. Plaudits were given for the new handbook being
slimmed down and jargon free ('a great improvement').

It was felt that the searchability of this left a lot to be desired.
(I agree that it needs revamping).

That covers many of the issues raised. We have one more regional/
national meeting in this series, in Bristol next week.

Tom Franklin

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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