Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Should CaRT volunteers also be members!

There are over 100 waterway stakeholder organisations that operate in the sphere of charitable trusts and societies on the UK's Inland Waterways. Many of the stakeholder groups are small in scale. For some, a significant part of their income is via the membership route. Most of their output is driven by volunteers, the majority of the volunteers are also members.

"The Coalition Government’s agenda of severe public spending cuts and building the ‘Big Society’ demand a greater role for volunteers in public service delivery. Confidence that this demand can be satisfied is in part driven by a misguided assumption that volunteering rates have risen during the economic downturn." Matthew Hill, Institute for Volunteering Research, 2011.

Look at most of the existing charities that are at work in the UK such as English Heritage.  Where membership is open to anyone and is currently set at £46 per year. Membership of English Heritage is an important part of drawing in the volunteers and for raising funding toward their activities. Membership benefits also draw the public to visit and to leave donations.

* English Heritage is the place to find our about listed buildings and scheduled monuments such as Stonehenge. Membership brings with it access to special events and other benefits.

Minister, Richard Benyon MP reporting on the progress on the Canal and River Trust. Told  the All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group hearing on 8th December. "On membership, the Trustees had decided that the charity should not have a membership for fund-raising purposes, believing that other means of raising funds and stimulating voluntary giving were more effective for fund raising than a formal membership."

Now, you may be wondering like me, why the Canals and Rivers Trust trustees would want to abandon any idea of having a formal membership. Irrespective of whether the membership is a paid one or a freebie.  Other than paying members might feel that they have a right to question how their money and donations are managed. The additional burden of managing a members year on year subscription service should be able to dovetail into the old BW financial systems that CaRT will inherit. Curiously I'm not sure how infrequent and random small public donations will fit into the existing financial systems.

Standard issue volunteers toolkit.
Membership to CaRT would help to create a sense of belonging and something that gives people a way of demonstrating their support for and commitment to the Inland Waterways. You don't have to own a boat or be into canal fishing to demonstrate a commitment. If nothing else, group membership would help to create a focus point for the much heralded vanguard of a volunteer army that we will see in place by next April.

According to the Institute for Volunteering Research. The top five benefits from volunteering as given by volunteers are:-
  1. A sense of satisfaction from seeing the results. (97%)
  2. I really enjoy it. (96%)
  3. It gives me a sense of personal achievement. (88%)
  4. To meet people and make friends (86%)
  5. Gives me the chance to do things that I am good at. (83%)

The top five reasons for not getting involved were:-
  1. Not enough spare time. (82%)
  2. Put off by bureaucracy. (49%)
  3. Worried about risk / liability. (47%)
  4. Don’t know how to find out about getting involved. (39%)
  5. Not got the right skills/ experience. (39%)

The full list of volunteering stats can be found Here.

Call me "Old and Cynical" but the idea of not needing or encouraging a paid membership does not hold water. Not un-like most of the locks. The IWAC (Inland Waterways Advisory Council) have produced an excellent document on Volunteering and Inland Waterways: How to Attract, Integrate and Retain Volunteers. The benefits to the Inland Waterways of not having a paid or freebie membership is not addressed in this document. Because not having a membership was a no brainer from the start.

So it looks like CaRT are hoisting their petard. CaRT will carry forward the usual standard of British Waterways management into the foreseeable future. More of the same old BW.

The Inland Waterways Advisory Council have also come up with the idea of continuing their work for the next two years. Working as a sort of watchdog on the way that CaRT performs. The Government says that closing down the IWAC will save £200,000 a year. However,  because the IWAC is almost totaly run by unpaid volunteers the actual amount saved is £10,000 these are the IWAC's own figures.

I wonder if CaRT will have the eagle eye of IWAC keeping watch on them. Or will the CaRT trustees want the IWAC to be shot at dawn on the 1st of April.


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