Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Olympics and the voluntary sector

We are planning a workshop for senior managers and trustees to assess the impact of the London Olympic Games on the voluntary sector, to be held at Barnett Hill near Guildford in April 2007.

To attend this important event or contribute to the planning of the content for this full day workshop please email us at

Who is carrying the standard for the voluntary sector?

2012 is a time for celebration with London (and other parts of the UK) playing host to the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The question for your organisation is this – what does it mean to you? Is the Olympics a real opportunity (and if so, what?) or is it a threat, in particular competing with you to attract volunteers?Competition for volunteers?

It is reported on the London Olympic Games web site that more than 80 volunteering organisations from across the UK have signed a pledge to deliver up to 70,000 volunteers who will be required to help make a London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in 2012 a success.The summit, held during National Volunteers' Week, highlighted the UK's ability to deliver the large numbers of volunteers required for an Olympic Games. Britain is number two in Europe for volunteers, with 43% of British adults reported as volunteering in some capacity (European Values Survey 1999-2001).

London is already preparing the way for the 70,000 volunteers required for the Games through its own volunteering project, Volunteer to Win. More than 30 Olympic-themed voluntary events have already been held in London as the result of grants from London 2012, underlining the importance London 2012 places on volunteering and the close links between the London Olympic Games and the voluntary community sector.

Justin Davis-Smith of Volunteering England is quoted as saying that, "The UK ranks second in Europe in terms of volunteering. More than 80 organisations, representing many of the UK's 23 million volunteers, have already pledged to provide trained, experienced volunteers to a London Games in 2012. As this campaign continues I'm very confident that England and the UK as a whole can deliver the volunteers needed for a successful Games."Volunteers will carry out hundreds of essential tasks, from ushering, driving, and general spectator services, and translation services through to medical and first aid care. London's volunteers would be fully trained and supported.

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of London 2012, said: "Volunteers are the lifeblood of sport in this country and the recruitment of them is an essential part of a successful Games. An army of volunteers will help out in a range of different tasks and will be a vital cog in the wheel to make things happen. They helped make the Sydney Olympic Games and the Manchester Commonwealth Games a huge success and we aim to build on that, and recruit a record number of volunteers."

Recruiting volunteers has already started through targeted marketing campaigns and in conjunction with partner organisations. Disadvantaged groups are being targeted to increase opportunities beyond the Games. Sources of recruitment include sports clubs and sports governing bodies, local volunteer centres, older people's groups, community associations, the faith community, and corporate social responsibility programmes.

The aim is to recruit 25,000 volunteers by 2008 and the full complement of 70,000 by early 2012. Volunteers will be encouraged to carry on doing volunteering work after the Games or to use the skills they have learnt and to get employment or education opportunities.

Richard Sumray, Chairman of the London 2012 Forum and the bid's volunteering steering group, said: "We will not only create a volunteer programme second to none in 2012 but also leave a volunteering legacy which will benefit communities in this country and, through exchanges, many overseas countries for years to come."

This being the case, here are some volunteering questions for your organisation to address –

1. In strategic planning terms, the Olympics are not that far away. If, as has been reported, there is going to be a major recruitment drive for volunteers to support the Olympics, what does this mean to your organisation and your existing and potential volunteers?

2. What volunteer recruitment plans have you got in place, and do they supplement what will be on offer through the Olympic volunteering programme?

Other issues

There are of course other issues to consider, in addition to the impact on volunteering. For example, do the Olympics provide you with further opportunities (or threats) that have not yet been fully thought through eg fundraising opportunities?

One thing is for sure, the impact of the Olympics on the voluntary sector will be felt wider than London and so we urge you to start planning now so that the London Olympic Games become an integral part of your strategic planning between now and 2012 – the danger is, do nothing and then miss the boat!

Here are some London Olympic Games facts and links for you to consider as part of your own strategic planning –

The London 2012 Volunteering Summit was made possible through a partnership with Skills Active, the Home Office Volunteering and Charitable Giving Unit, Sport England, the London Marathon Trust, get2thepoint and Volunteering England.

National Volunteers' Week runs from 1-8 June each year and 2005 was the Year of the Volunteer.

To find out more about events and activities during the Year of the Volunteer, go to the official website at

London 2012's volunteering project can be found at

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Charities concerned over risk issues

Recruiting qualified staff and trustees, pension deficits and full cost recovery pose the biggest financial threats to charities, according to PKF’s fifth annual risk management research reports Charity Times.

To deal with these risks, the survey Managing Risk – Working with Others, produced in association with CFDG, found that over 90% of those questioned had taken some steps towards risk management. These included implementing risk policies, risk registers, business continuity plans and control assurance. However, less than 20% had all of these in place.

Commenting on the findings, Keith Hickey, chief executive of CFDG said: “Charities are moving in the right direction but the PKF report shows that more still needs to be done to minimise the risks the sector faces. Most larger charities have the people and resources to deal with risk but smaller charities are often more vulnerable to the range of threats that they face. We will continue to raise the issue among our members and highlight examples of best practice so that they can learn from each other but charities have to accept that this is an ongoing issue in need of continuous review.”

Meanwhile, new research from Volunteering England has found that fear of litigation and excessive risk management has become a real barrier to volunteering. The organisation is calling for excessive risk management to be challenged as it is stopping potential volunteers from coming forward, with over one million volunteers having considered stopping volunteering through fear of legal action.

This is supported by Girlguiding UK which currently has a shortfall of 8,000 volunteers. Head of guiding development, Jennie Lamb, said: “A large number of organisations and groups are affected when ‘over the top’ decisions are made [and] we see a need to challenge excessive risk management. For example when a local authority decides it’s not safe for children on school residentials to light fires. It isn’t long before our volunteer leaders feel that this activity must be too risky and remove it from their programme. It takes a very confident volunteer to continue to offer something a local authority has banned or restricted in some way.”

The Volunteering England report On the Safe Side can be downloaded from

For the PKF report, email

Saturday, October 07, 2006 web site update

If you've tried without success to get to our web site at the moment please bear with us as we're in the throes of getting our new site online. There may be a slight gap when we don't have any online presence at all but it is only temporary. Many thanks for bearing with us and in the meantime you can email us at

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fundraising newsletter

This is the FIRST MONDAY Fundraising Newsletter emailed monthly

Tip of the month - Proven techniques or old hat?

We examine 5 so called "proven techniques" and put them to the test:

1. It is vital to send a thank you letter after every donation. Believers in 'relationship fundraising' will often preach that it is vital to send a thank you letter in response to every donation in order to 'build a relationship'. Some practitioners modify this and only send thank you letters to donations over a minimum amount -say £5. However, when donors are asked if they want to receive an acknowledgment of receipt of their donation, most decline. The main snag with sending thank you letters after every mailing is that it makes it difficult to increase mailing frequency much above 6 mailings a year. The thank you letters create a gap in mailing and thereby increase the gap between asks. This goes directly against the main driver of response which is recency. We say 'don't send thank you letters, unless they themselves contain a further ask for money'.

2. Always add a PS at the end of appeal letters. Some people nowadays think that a PS looks amateur and disorganised and in the day of computers which can easily amend letter text, unprofessional. A PS at the end of a letter belongs to the age of the quill pen, they say. We say that a PS really acts as an introduction to the appeal. It is one of the first things the reader takes in and it adds to response to re-state the key proposition of the appeal in the PS. Old hat or not, the PS still works hard for you. But then this is just one of many examples of just how counter-intuitive direct mail often is.

3. No-one has time to read long letters any more. Keep it short and to the point.Well, it is true that even grannies are busier than ever these days. The fastest growing sector of the internet market is among over 60s. And with so much family break up, they often have to do stand in parental duty. So its true, their time is just as short as anyone else's. But consider this. Any salesperson worth his or her salt will try and get the sales prospect alone, one-to-one for as long as he or she can manage. They all do it, from high ticket Financial services to double glazing. And why? Because a person only buys from someone they trust and trust takes time to build. So even if you can summarise your appeal on one side of A4, you might want to try a long letter - 4 or 6 pages some time.

4. Teaser copy on an appeal envelope is a must. It is a vital part of getting attention.The old rule of thumb called 'AIDA' (Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action) is still applied by many seasoned direct mail copywriters. So doesn't it pay to tempt the reader with a snapshot of the story waiting inside the envelope? Well, this may well be the case if you have something really startling to flag up on the envelope. But on the other hand, what could be more intriguing than a personally addressed letter in a plain white envelope that gives nothing away? Do some tests and find out which is best for your charity.

5. Ask nicely and donors will respond generously. Brits don't like pushy fundraising.Interesting one this. Intuition would suggest that it pays to be polite, especially with warm mailings to existing donors. Even to the extent of adding a few extra thanks for past donations. Experience suggests otherwise. In fact, it seems that donors respond more generously the more directly and urgently a warm appeal is structured. In fact, it seems that it is a mistake always to structure warm appeals differently from cold donor recruitment mailings. Another example of how direct mail so often does the opposite of what you might expect.

Check out the website: for FREE Expert Fundraising Guides.

Tip of the Month

When writing a fundraising letter, get to the point early in the letter. Never begin with an interesting story. You'll lose them. Tell them that you are writing for their help right off the bat.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Public services and the sector

A new report published by the NCVO hopes to focus arguments surrounding the transfer of public services to third sector organisations. The report, published to influence both the independent Lyons Inquiry into local government funding and the White Paper on the future of local government, states that more attention should be placed on what this transfer of roles hopes to achieve and in what way the transfer will produce them.

A simple transfer of roles is not enough, the report states. Instead, the report outlines how local government and third sector organisations must work closely together to bring about improved services that cater to the individual needs of specific groups and communities.

“An important approach to improved services and even stronger communities lies at the creation and fostering of voluntary and community organisations as well as active local resident groups,” said Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, which sponsored the report.

“This publication will help local authorities and the voluntary and community sector build on the successes to date and look at how they can work together to transform public services and local communities to the benefit of all local residents.”

The report outlines steps that must be taken in the transferring of services, such as the ability to adapt to special needs, the allotment for citizens and communities to have a voice in the process, and accounting for full cost recovery.

“…Neither voluntary organisations or local authorities can work alone – they must work together for better outcomes for local people,” said Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s chief executive.

Minister for the third sector Ed Miliband has also reconfirmed his commitment to the Compact as the defining instrument in the relationship between government and the voluntary sector.

Speaking at the NAVCA annual conference, Miliband said effective partnership with the sector would strengthen communities and transform public services, while also ensuring that it also retained its independent campaigning voice.

“Partnership is a two-way street – we need understanding, openness and respect on both sides,” the minister said. “For our part, government at all levels needs to live by the principles of the Compact, with multi-year funding the norm. Meanwhile I know the sector recognises it must do all it can to work with and respect local government, the democratically elected voice of local people.“Councils for voluntary services do incredibly valuable work in a pressured environment with frontline organisations, and it is crucial government supports them in the right way,” Miliband added.

Responding to the speech, NAVCA chief executive Kevin Curley said there was now a chance that the Compact could become an effective framework for the relationship between local government and the voluntary and community sector across England.“I am impressed that the minister recognises VCS involvement in LAAs [local area agreements] is not as strong as it needs to be and that this will be addressed in the local government White Paper, and am very pleased to hear the minister recognising the ongoing importance of grant funding for small local organisations.

At the conference, delegates passed a proposal from trustees to invite a wide range of local VCS infrastructure organisations to join NAVCA. The motion, which achieved 97% support, means that organisations such as the Learning and Skills Consortia and Community Empowerment Networks will be able to become members of the umbrella group.

Ed Milliband attended a recent presentation of BTEC Professional Certificates in Voluntary Sector Management to charity managers in Doncaster, many of whom have studied for this qualification as a means of updating their own skills and reviewing their organisational processes in order to be better equipped to tender for contracts.