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Purple armbands will not revolutionise chugging, but they might make a small difference

This week, the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association launches a 12-week armband trial to improve the image of face-to-face fundraising.

Thirty teams of chuggers are to be headed by team leaders wearing purple armbands with the words “team leader” written on them. The PFRA hopes the scheme will improve teams’ relationships with council officials, town centre managers and the public.

Will it work? It’s not as if a whole new management structure is being trialled. Chugging teams have had leaders, who act as contacts for officials, for many years so it seems likely that the public will benefit most from the scheme.

Something more obvious than an armband may have been appropriate – perhaps the words “team leader” emblazoned on a bib or t-shirt. I am not convinced that passers-by will understand that they should approach the armband wearer with complaints they may have.

But it is a trial. Maybe some members of the public will notice the armband and feel reassured that there is someone in charge. The scheme is unlikely to revolutionise chugging, but at least an effort is being made to make small improvements.

Chugging is not going to disappear – nor should it. So if changes can be made to improve its image and in turn raise more money, I would welcome them.

  • John Clarke

    This blog echoes precisely what I was discussing with colleagues just a few days ago, and also in a public debate last week.

    The power and value of volunteering is immense, yet always plays second (or maybe third or even fourth) fiddle to cash donations. This problem is so deeply ingrained in the sector that when I recently introduced myself as a volunteer manager at a conference I was met with derisory snorts of, “volunteers can’t be relied upon”.

    Charities are more than willing to sink massive financial resources into acquiring, securing and retaining cash donors, yet often spend little – if anything – supporting donations of time. I am left flabbergasted by the number of organisations that have an ideological stance that they will not pay for anything related to volunteering simply because, “it’s free”.

    Were any charity executive to stand up in this current age and proclaim that fundraising should not be invested in, that money should simply be harvested as it is offered, they would be laughed out of the room.

    It’s a shame there aren’t more of us laughing at the executives saying this about volunteering.

  • Chris Hornet

    I echo completely Rob and John Clarke’s views on the over-reliance placed on fundraising.

    I hate to sound like a Scrooge at this time of year but looking back on the year my two concerns are:
    Firstly, notwithstanding the merits of merger with NCVO what does it say about volunteering in this country that we cannot sustain a body that specifically supports and champions volunteering such as Volunteering England?

    Secondly, there is a groundswell locally in developing volunteer management but where is the leadership nationally? Who is challenging organisations and CEOs on their support for volunteer managment? Who is challenging commisioners and statutory authorites on ensuring volunteer-delivered services are properly resourced and managed? Who is challenging government? Who is challenging sector bodies?

    Bah Humbug!

  • Laura Hamilton

    It is disappointing that in the current climate of shrinking resources, charities aren’t adapting their approach to volunteering. It seems that whether we’re in boom time, or bust time, volunteering still sits low down the pecking order in terms of charities investment priorities.

    The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network are hosting a live Q&A tomorrow (Wed 5th Dec) on “How can charities encourage people to continue giving”. I’d really encourage people to post up questions or comments that encourage the debate to focus on more than just cash giving. Join the discussion from 1-3pm here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2012/nov/28/charities-encourage-continue-giving

  • Mark Atkinson

    My own experience which may or may not resonate with others is that whilst many charities love the idea of having more volunteers, they simply don’t the necessary infrastructure to recruit, train or retain them. For those with a weak volunteer infrastructure and competing budgetary needs, they invariably allocate the cash to things which will make an impact in year. I think this is because they dont have the management information systems to demonstrate the £business case for volunteering and because the annual report and accounts dont require them to show the value volunteering brings to the organisation.

    Mark Atkinson
    VCSchange

  • As someone who often describes themselves as a Social Media Enthusiast I was fascinated to read what lay behind the headline when I saw Alex’s post appear on LinkedIn.

    I tend to find the words “guru” and “expert” a tad offputting to say the least. I think Alex is absolutely right in his conclusion that if you want to use social media then you should seek out those who you see being successful rather than those who tell you they can show you how to be successful.

    In my roles within Learning and Development I spend a lot of time talking to potential training suppliers. One of the things I have been struck by with many social media gurus/experts is that they are very focused on their solution/training and not on understanding your unique needs.

    Learning the processes of using specific social media sites is quite easy. The real challenge is making the sites work for you in a way that connects with your values as an organisation and enables you to connect with your existing and potential supporters/donors/partners.

    Alex gives some good suggestions about how to start using some of the sites. If you are going to engage a social media trainer then make sure that they spend time understanding your needs, what you want to get out of social media, what experience you have and what your measures of success will be. That’s what in the training world we would call the start of a Training Needs Analysis.