Don’t let this happen to you! A cautionary tale arising from poor volunteer management.

Volunteering Counts in Dudley borough

success-failureFlicking through Twitter today, I came across an excellent blog post by Rhonda McClung, talking about how charities use up volunteers’ goodwill and willingness to volunteer by not treating them well or appreciating them properly:

“The compassion and benevolence that generate the goodwill that initially brings volunteers through your door can easily evaporate if your volunteer has even one bad experience.”

This is so true and having spoken to volunteers who have left organisations, one of the biggest reasons is that they don’t feel appreciated/valued or they feel underused.

“How do organizations use up their volunteers’ goodwill? Mismanaging their time.  Asking them to take on roles in which they are not comfortable.  Failing to communicate the importance of the assigned role.  Leaving them without the training necessary to be successful in the tasks for which they are responsible. “

This got me thinking about Volunteer Retention.  Does the above…

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Tweeting for good

A couple of weeks ago I heard that SIFA Fireside could no longer offer breakfasts to the homeless of Birmingham. They needed £10k a year to keep the service going, but due to cuts in funding they had to make the difficult decision to stop this service. At the coldest and wettest time of the year.

£10k is a lot of money to me. It isn’t to a Premier League footballer or a Banker of course whose bonus could fund SIFA for many years. And I got angry.

And I thought about what I could do. So I tweeted.

Tweeting can be good for you

I have read this book and I have hanging around on social media for a while and I know that as well as the trolling, flinging of insults and tweets about doggie do, Twitter can be used for good.

I was already following @buskingbobby whose Socks and Chocs initiative went off the scale this year when this film of him went viral. And yes, he uses Twitter for Good.

Busking Bobby and I had a chat via Twitter about various things I could do that may help to raise funds. I was pretty sure that there were big corporations out there that could sponsor them. Even if only 1 in 10 Brummies donated £1 each, SIFA would have enough money to carry on breakfasts.

I started following SIFA on Facebook and Twitter and asked them what I could do to help. I told everyone in my Social Media world about the work they do by sharing their tweets and posts.

I also tweeted @GreggstheBakers to ask them what they did with unsold yet safe to eat food that they bag up, suggesting they could use this to support charities like SIFA. They sent me a link to this policy outlining their partnership with Fareshare.

Dear Coral

Thank you for contacting Greggs.

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve forwarded your e-mail onto our Charity Team who deal with all charity requests that we receive. I’ve asked that they contact you directly about your request, so they should be in touch with you within the next three weeks.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Remember to quote your call reference number: F1523470 in any
correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a
quick response.

Kind regards

Lauren McGettigan
Customer Care Team

I am still awaiting the follow up emaiI. I am hoping they have contacted SIFA direct as I suggested.

Yet I still felt I was not moving on in helping with the issue and I was getting a little frustrated.

Then two things happened this week. SIFA held a silent auction for a meal to two that had been donated by Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill. Just as it was about to close I put my bid in. And then got this.

Remember our silent auction on Friday? Well done @travellingcoral you had the winning bid! We hope you enjoy the meal at @mpw_birmingham!

It is my birthday and wedding anniversary next month, and guess where  I will be celebrating? And the food will taste even better knowing that my money is supporting SIFA, albeit in a very small way.

And last night SIFA were featured on BBC Midlands today. The Worcester Warriors Rugby Club had donated time and money to serve breakfasts there.  At once I dashed off a tweet.

Brilliant news for @Sifafireside on @bbcmtd as Worcs Rugby team are cooking brekkie one a week, come on more companies football teams!

It wasn’t much and I do not know how much difference it made, but it got retweeted by BBC Midlands today who have over 37000 followers.

Today I saw this:

  1. Thank you @WorcsWarriors for your campaign to help us get our breakfast service back! We are re-launching it next Monday! 🙂

  2. Thank you @wraggeandco charitable trust for helping us fund our breakfast service!

  3. Great news!Thanks to your support our breakfast service is coming back to #Birminghams #Homeless next week! #ThankYou pic.twitter.com/e8nYyT9AV3

    Embedded image permalink

And of course I retweeted.

I didn’t do much, but this much I know, I used Twitter for Good.

Melbourne for free

travellingcoral

As part of our round the world trip, we are house and dog sitting in Melbourne. After being on the road for a month and a bit, having a comfortable bed, our own shower room and a kitchen is fantastic. Beats a camper can, hands down.

We are very lucky to have essentially free accommodation for six weeks, which is a bonus. Another bonus is we get to live like Melburnians not tourists. Well mostly!

Other bits of this trip are going to take serious chunks out of our travel budget, so we are more than happy to look after a house and the dogs and be able to explore this great city, which is consistently voted one of the best place to live in the world.

What I hadn’t reckoned on was how big the place is. And that it’s divided up into mini towns, all so very different…

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Make Friends with a Book go to Stratford (again)

Yes, we liked it so much we did it again!

English: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of th...

English: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last October I took my mom to see The Tempest with the lovely Make Friends with a Book people. I wrote about it here.

Make Friends with a Book at Stratford upon Avon

On September 21 a whole bunch of us took another trip from Sandwell to go and see All’s Well that Ends Well at the RSC.

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Some of us met on the train at Snow Hill Station.

I timed my journey so that I could enjoy a bit of sightseeing and tea before the theatre.

Mom loved Stratford, and had fond memories of a trip she took with her old friend when they were teenagers. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to make it one of her last days out. And as per her wishes I left a little bit of her there, on this visit, by the river in the shade of the theatre she loved so much.

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The people from the group that meet at Bleakhouse Library had been very important in her life for the last year of her life and I knew that they were looking after her while I was away on my travels.

Who knew that a group that I helped to establish four years ago was going to have a significant impact at the end of her life? Not me.  They were her final audience and gave her the opportunity to share her stories from the theatre once again. She got lots of curtain calls.

And the play? Thoroughly enjoyed by all, amazing production, and the sun came out for Make Friends with a Book again.

Our next theatre visit is closer to home, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to see A Christmas Carol. Guess what we will be reading in December?

Twitter talk

I was going to share my happy bus experience today. I am not as I am not feeling that happy now. Outraged, astonished and bemused is closer to what I am feeling, all because I dared put my head above the parapet on twitter.

It followed my visit to West Bromwich and The Public yesterday. And my blog post. Not really sure how it all started as there were quite a few of us involved in the conversation.

  1. morning @westbrompaul hope you are going to help save @_the_public .Its contribution to health & wellbeing on many levels is important

  2. @brummytaff The council cannot afford to subsidise it. The Public will still be there but is likely to end up with a smaller arts offer.

  3. @westbrompaul @PaulSandars @brummytaff health, wellbeing, culture not high on the councils agenda just more tesco and poundlands

However it seems that because I live in Birmingham, I have no right to have an opinion of decisions made by Sandwell Councillors. 

@westbrompaul: @travellingcoral @PaulSandars The people of Sandwell are my priority. I make no apologies for that.” < Rt Indeed Paul

While I absolutely accept that they are not my elected members, I do not accept that I should not be able to voice an opinion about Sandwell, its councillors or The Public.

I also dared correct @sandwellleaders grammar in response to this: I couldn’t help myself.

@westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Paul just ask where they pay there Council Tax !

And so it continued:

  1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars i am shocked that you are confined by boundaries esp now bham is labour controlled

  2. @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars When will you have something positive to say about Sandwell.. There their

    And there is more:

    1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars I have a lot to say positively about Sandwell: libraries the first but need to be marketed better

    2. @travellingcoral Your off again Coral but they need better marketing.

      Grammar is clearly not the strong point of Darren Cooper. Others agree.

      @travellingcoral And you’re/ your 😉

       I just hope the advice is taken on board.

      @loveourpublic @westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Thanks for the tip useful 🙂

      The message is clear here. Am wondering if I will need a visa to visit Sandwell.

      1. @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars You can always go to Birmingham if you’re that unhappy. Bearwood & Cape Hill are busy places.

        At least Paul can spell.

        If not take advice.

        1. @westbrompaul @loveourpublic @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars Suggest you setup separate personal & professional accounts guys

        2. @re7ox I don’t need two, thanks.
        3. @westbrompaul No need to thank me. Just an observation. Most employees have a statement to differentiate their public/professional views.

          Interestingly, only one Sandwell councillor attended Hyper WM when it was held at The Public. She has since been reprimanded for improper use of social media. (IMHO she didn’t). Darren and the Pauls may have found it useful. I suppose I should be glad that at least they are having a conversation and not just sending messages.

          And in case I don’t understand that my views are not important to them.

          1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars 2/2 and what happens in Bearwood impacts us in B17.parking and litter. empty shops.

          @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars Moan to Birmingham then.

          I already have expressed my concerns to my local councillor on how what happens in Bearwood has an inpact on those that live on the border. I don’t think I have moaned to him or a Sandwell councillor. Ever. Expressed my views and challenged decisions perhaps. And got the refuse collected because my councillor understands that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. To listen twice as much as you talk is the making of a great communicator.

          Amusingly, it ended thus:

          Next week I am volunteering. On Bank Holiday Monday. For Sandwell Library and Information Services. At the Sandwell Show. Promoting the wonderful services that are available in lovely Sandwell Libraries. To the people of Sandwell.

          I will be letting Darren et al know that, of that you can be assured.

          And bringing my passport, just in case.


Tesco give us credit!

I saw this today and wondered what it was all about.

Tesoc Trussell Trickery

Then I saw this post on the Facebook Page of the Trussell Trust. And the penny dropped.

This is what the post says on their page.

Tesco Express‘ across the UK have food collection points for the next 4 weeks. Could you have a look at our ‘shopping list’ for foodbanks and add a few bits to your own?
This the conversation I had with them on their Facebook Page.
I then sent them a private message as I do not want to damage any fundraising effort of The Trussell Trust. I don’t. I did however tell them I was still going to blog about it. Please be clear this is not an attack on The Trussell Trust. It is also not an attack on Tesco although my cynicism is off the scale.
If I were to blame/attack anyone it would be this government. Seems like I am not alone as I found a link to this post on the Trussell Trust Page too. This is one quote from it.
I have news for Mr Davey. The number of people coming to my local Foodbank for help doubled overnight when the government’s latest ‘reforms’ kicked in at the beginning of April, including the cancellation of the ‘crisis loan’ programme.

Read more here, go on, it is good stuff. Foodbanks are not Big Society in action. They are the fingers in the dam plugging the hole, hoping the floodgates won’t open.

So back to the reasons why Tesco are doing this. Which phrase most closely matches your view?
How kind of Tesco to set up a collection point in their stores.
How clever of Tesco to set up a collection point in their stores.
This is food for people who are struggling to afford to feed families. Not in war torn, drought ridden countries but in the UK. People with jobs. People without jobs. People living in your town or village. And Tesco will profit from it. Despite what the Trussell Trust say.
Are people really only going to buy a tin of soup for a donation when they pop into Tesco Express?
What Tesco are hoping for IMHO is that they will get more customers going to Tesco Express and spending their money there. Even the post suggests, subliminally ‘do your shopping at Tesco and add a few of the items on our shopping list to yours…..’ yup, cynical me.
Horsemeatgate damaged a lot of supermarkets reputation and according to this article in The Guardian, Tesco, was the supermarket most heavily hit by the revelations of horsemeat scandal.
So what’s a marketing department to do when something like this happens? Say sorry, well they did that, now they have to re build the reputation. Oh, let’s look around and see what we can do, ah, let’s help a food bank and lots of nice middle class customers who have never bought a ready meal in their life may pop in and buy a tin for a poor person. And if we are lucky, the ‘while I ‘m here’ syndrome will kick in and they will pick up overpriced vegetables and a bottle of wine. Yay, more money for Tesco.
Result? Tesco and foodbanks are doing the job of the government. David Cameron can claim that Big Society is working.
At G8 delegates can tuck into violet artichokes, while others go hungry. The best blog you can read right now is A Girl Called Jack. She is currently reporting from the G8 conference for the Enough Food IF campaign.
Not much more to say really.
Apart from adding this.
Food Waste
food waste

Valued Volunteer Award for Make Friends with a Book

Volunteers’ Week takes place every year from 1 to 7 June, and for the past few years, The Volunteer Centre Sandwell has hosted an award ceremony at The Public in West Bromwich to recognise the contribution volunteers make across the borough.

This year, Make Friends with a Book was one of the projects nominated. I was so thrilled that this group had been invited to the awards ceremony because this was a group I had worked closely with between 2009 and 2011 when I was a Community Development Manager working on the Big Lottery Community Libraries Programme in Sandwell.

Part of my remit in this role was to recruit volunteers to support activities in the lovely new community rooms at Smethwick Library and the very first volunteer I took on supported Make Friends with a Book at Smethwick Library. She later went on to become a BUDS volunteer (who were also nominated for an award last week). When Make Friends with a Book started at Bleakhouse Library, I recruited two regular members of the group to become volunteers for that group too.

Make Friends with a Book facilitators are trained by The Reader Organisation who started the Get Into Reading Project in Liverpool. Novels, short stories and poems are read aloud, with breaks so the group can reflect on what they have heard.

The amazing thing about the Bleakhouse Library volunteers is this. Before becoming volunteers they visited the library, borrowed a book and then went home. After they started volunteering they began to think of other activities they would like to have at their library and got involved in making the decisions about what went on in their library. The initial volunteers recruited more volunteers. The designing and planning of the reading garden was all done by volunteers. Another volunteer runs a self help group for people suffering with arthritis. The Art Group is all volunteer led. Volunteering went viral.

Picture this. We are all chatting over a cuppa before we settle down to listen to Gina read this week’s short story, in comes Gill in gardening gloves with a trowel in her hand. She had been tidying up her raised bed. All the gardening volunteers have their own bed which they look after, as do children from the local school.

Now picture this. Make Friends with a Book hits Stratford! Group members,  family and friends, including the lovely volunteers from two Sandwell Libraries are pictured here, after enjoying The Tempest performed by the RSC at Stratford upon Avon in October 2012.

Make Friends with a Book at Stratford upon Avon

The volunteers who support Make Friends with a Book got the recognision they deserved on Friday, and carried away a Valued Volunteer award. I will admit to shedding a little tear of happiness that day. I was so proud of them, and proud be part of the team that brought shared reading to Sandwell.

’twas the night before Christmas in Melbourne

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It is quite strange to be spending Christmas in Australia. It’s hot and sunny, so spending the afternoon listening to live music with a cold beer seemed a good way to spend Christmas Eve.

Phil and I were at Abbotsford Convent to visit the Christmas Eve Slow Food Market.

I was also keen to see Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford, as Phil and I have been volunteering at the one in St Kilda. This one is qute different as the food is buffet style, and as one of the cooks is Sri Lankan, the food slightly different and equally delicious. All vegetarian and we enjoyed dhal, beetroot korma, rice and steamed dumplings.

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The setting is beautiful yet it is just off a busy and culturally diverse high street. Enjoying the sunshine with us were families and couples, old and young, people from the UK, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia. Conversations taking place over lunch in half a dozen different languages. There were Muslims and Sikhs, Christians and those with no religious beliefs gathering as a community in the grounds of a former convent. I wonder what the nuns would have made of that?

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This is the poetry tree in Lentil as Anything.

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And this is where you make a wish and pay as you feel, there are no prices on the menu. The idea is that those who can afford to pay more do, so that everyone can afford to eat, whatever their circumstances.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Melbourne for free

As part of our round the world trip, we are house and dog sitting in Melbourne. After being on the road for a month and a bit, having a comfortable bed, our own shower room and a kitchen is fantastic. Beats a camper van, hands down.

We are very lucky to have essentially free accommodation for six weeks, which is a bonus. Another bonus is we get to live like Melburnians not tourists. Well mostly!

Other bits of this trip are going to take serious chunks out of our travel budget, so we are more than happy to look after a house and the dogs and be able to explore this great city, which is consistently voted one of the best place to live in the world.

What I hadn’t reckoned on was how big the place is. And that it’s divided up into mini towns, all so very different. And the traffic and mad drivers. So we are mostly using the public transport system.

To get our bearings we took the FREE city tram, which runs around the CBD. This is a hop on, hop off ride, with a recorded guide to what you can do and see at each stop.

A couple of weeks later we hopped on the FREE city bus, that does a bigger tour of Melbourne.

20111210-180138.jpg There is also a recorded commentary, but our driver also added snippets of his own which was brilliant, such as this is where my grandad got married. Random, but fun.

We have yet to join a FREE guided walk, courtesy of one of the information centres volunteers. Melbourne certainly knows how to utilise volunteers in the culture and tourism industry. They have volunteer guides around the city with maps and other information, volunteers at the Royal Botanic Gardens and you can join a volunteer guide at the NGV to learn more about the art collections on show. Also FREE.

And when we are all cultured out and need to escape the heat we can get the FREE shuttle bus to Chadstone Shopping Centre we haven’t been yet, I suspect it is like Merry Hill or the Bull Ring, but bigger.

As National Trust members we also get FREE entrance to the Polly Woodside and The Old Melbourne Gaol The Polly Woodside was good fun, especially as there was only us two on the FREE guided tour. Phil got above himself, as second mate! When we visit the gaol I will ensure he is punished!

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There are a few other places we will be using our National Trust membership to visit. And while we pay for membership, these visits are not technically free. However, my view is that my membership is a charitable donation and visiting the properties is a privilege.

Free transport, free accommodation, free guided tours, free entrance to attractions, so all we need now is to eat for free……..