Tania Mason: Lets sort out the bad and celebrate the good

16 Jan 2023 Voices

In December I tried to volunteer at a charity Christmas concert. I applied online to the job ad, received a prompt reply from the charity’s volunteer development officer, filled in the form she sent me and soon received a confirmation email. Two weeks later I donned coat, hat and gloves and headed out into the freezing cold to do my shift. I found the church closed and in darkness. I texted, emailed and tried to call the volunteer development officer but received no reply. I then texted the fundraising manager, and later that evening received an apologetic text stating that the concert had been cancelled a week earlier and she wasn’t aware I had been due to volunteer. I have still heard nothing from the volunteer development manager who communicated with me in the first place.

If this was just a rare glitch, it wouldn’t matter so much. But we continue to hear similar stories about people who have tried to volunteer with charities – often as trustees – and had a less-than-satisfactory experience. So, if your charity is still searching for a useful new year’s resolution, you could do worse than ensuring that your systems and processes for handling volunteers are fit for purpose.

On a more positive note, kudos to Eileen Chubb, director of the charity Compassion in Care which runs a whistleblowing hotline for people working in the care sector. Eileen was so enraged by Matt Hancock’s appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here that she called in to James O’Brien’s radio show on LBC and gave an emotional interview about the former health secretary’s failure to even respond to any of the 42 special reports that the charity sent him during the Covid pandemic, warning of the huge risks that care home staff and patients were being exposed to as a result of his government’s policies. The seven-minute call was authentic and hugely compelling, and Compassion in Care later tweeted that “Since Eileen spoke to @mrjamesob last week, we have had the biggest response we have ever experienced. We want to thank everyone who has contacted us.” It was a powerful reminder that there are many tools and tactics that charities can use to get their messages and stories out into the public domain, and they needn’t cost the earth or take up loads of time.

In fact, I’ve been noticing quite a few charities making themselves heard recently. Another example was the joint campaign in the autumn by the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB, condemning the “attack on nature” that would ensue from then-prime minister Liz Truss’s calamitous mini-budget. The charities’ swift, eloquent response garnered extensive column inches and helped to pile on the pressure for the new government’s proposals – and personnel, as it turned out – to be scrapped.

If your charity has done any campaigning that it is particularly proud of – or any other work, for that matter – please do enter it in this year’s Charity Awards, now open for applications at charityawards.co.uk. As we kick off another year that threatens to be bleak and difficult for the sector, beset by rising costs, soaring demand for services and a squeeze on individual donations and statutory funding, it is all the more important that we celebrate charities’ endeavours and keep highlighting the vital role that they play in our society.

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