Next Generation Waterway Support – Where will it come from?

Helen Hutt attended the recent conference  and reports: 

Held in Birmingham, 21 March 2015, organised jointly by Worcester, Birmingham and Droitwich Canals Society and Canal & River Trust. About 70 attendees.

Speakers: Rob Jackson, Rob Jackson Consulting (volunteer programme management); Charley Johnston, BCNS; Daniel Haynes, Birmingham University Conservation Volunteers; Sophie Bond, Army Cadets; Beverley Gobbett, CAMRA; Aniela Kaczmarczyk, Tinder Foundation; Nicky Wakeford, C&RT

The main theme was how to recruit, motivate and retain volunteers; as such it had limited relevance to NABO but was nonetheless interesting and informative. These notes concentrate on points that could be of use to NABO.

All speakers emphasised the importance of embracing social media to stimulate interest – and not just amongst the younger generation! It seems that more and more older people are using Facebook, LindedIn and Twitter – Rob Jackson said the fastest growing age group using Twitter is 50+.

Investment in online communications is vital. Help with getting the best out of social media is available through Tinder Foundation, which has a number of web sites offering free advice (eg guidelines for setting up and using a Twitter account; internet security; analytics; distributing newsletters electronically).

Another common theme was that volunteers/members are motivated by what they can achieve for themselves (eg learning new skills or using existing skills in a different way), rather than what the organisation wants them for. However, people don’t generally want to use their everyday work skills in a voluntary role.

Peer recommendation is a powerful recruiting tool; again, it’s ‘what the organisation has done for me’ not ‘what you can do for the organisation’. Provide incentives for family groups.

Understanding why and what sort of people join is important, in order to focus further recruitment on the right sectors. Using an online tool like Survey Monkey can help here.

Aside from the speakers, interesting comments from other attendees included ‘are there too many organisations, all competing for similar members?’ and that membership generally seems to be static or rising slightly, not falling, despite the inevitable loss of older members due generally to physical infirmity.

Helen Hutt