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September 26, 2012

Refocus volunteering effort

It’s an age old problem – community groups struggling to attract sufficient numbers of volunteers to become involved in their activities. But according to the Scottish Government’s Household Survey around a third of the population are involved in volunteering.  Allen Armstrong who helps to run CLEAR, an environmental group in Fife, wonders whether all the fundraising effort that goes into trips to far flung places and feats of athletic endurance could be channelled a little more productively – and a little closer to home.


Like any other local voluntary group, we rely on three key resources to function – namely voluntary `labour’, finance and organisation.  Everywhere but especially more deprived neighbourhoods where people tend to disengaged, its not funding that’s our biggest obstacle but getting people along to participate.  We’ve tried plenty but with only limited success    

As we strive to do more – planting trees, restoring flower and shrubs beds, picking litter – we look enviously at other groups and charities that seem to have volunteer labour to burn.   I’m referring to the practice of sponsored walks and runs, and increasingly more exotic long-range challenges.   These pure fundraising efforts have been around for a long time and both organisers and participants deserve credit for running them.    

What we would love to see is that the same energy invested in walks, runs could be effectively channelled into productive tasks to yield a dual benefit.  Especially since the general public is becoming rather tired of yet another sponsorship for the same old thing.    

There are so many tasks in our communities that need done and can be organised almost as easily as a walk.  A community litterpick or planting, maybe even a garden tidy or houseclean for older households.   Recent evidence highlights the importance of such civic contributions in more deprived areas.

If fundraisers don’t want this additional hassle, then come and speak to groups like us.  Since we’re short of local volunteers, our group gains great benefit from working with other voluntary groups.  We have local projects, we can supply sites, materials, plant,  tools, even insurance, etc – what we’re most short of is labour.    We can easily set up a half-day or day programme in the our area to plant, tend community woodland, pick litter without any cost to the partner group.  

The fundraiser can raise sponsorship not on miles walked or run but using trees planted, bags or litter collected and keep 100% of what’s collected (since we provide all inputs).  The work can be great fundraiser while ALSO leaving a positive impact on the ground.   

Let’s get moving and harness rather than dissipate these well-meaning energies.

A. Armstrong. Secretary CLEAR