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Where do your new volunteers come from?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Edward, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. Edward

    Edward Member

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    I'm looking to test a theory:

    Much of the volunteer recruitment effort at the NYMR has been targeted at existing members. My view is that a member is well aware that the railway is partly run by volunteers, has some idea what would be involved, and has probably made a conscious decision to support the organisation through passive means. Fine – thank you very much for your interest!

    I get the feeling that more new volunteers could be found amongst those who come for a day out, enjoy themselves, and could be attracted to a new practical challenge in their spare time. Essentially, the key requirement is attitude & aptitude, not an interest in things railway.

    How does that tie in with the experience of others involved in attracting volunteers on other lines?

    I was particularly struck with the advertising materials on the FR & WHR last year; emphasis on what you could get out of the work that would be of use in the “real” world.
     
  2. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    You're probably spot on with your thoughts there, Ed. Take Middleton; in the last couple of weeks we have had two new volunteers, neither of which were previously members. Both early retired and seeking something to do. One with an interest in railways, another, not really, but interested in history. Another recent recruit, and I suspect quite a rare one, is a Muslim lad who was looking to gain some engineering experience and his school suggested the Railway to him. He has no interest in railways but enjoys what he is doing and has continued to volunteer for the last six months. He is a good, practical young man and a benefit to the Railway.

    Just a couple of examples but most of our 'new' volunteers are not existing members. When we do a safety induction on new volunteers, we invariably have to hand out a membership form.
     
  3. Kerosene Castle

    Kerosene Castle Well-Known Member

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    We once recruited a bloke down the pub! Wasn't really interested in railways as such, but more into restoration generally, and got chatting to us after he realised we were involved in that sort of work.

    I think your dead right about recruiting from the existing membership, I've thought this for a long time as well. Not that you should completely give up targeting them, but the effort expended in that particular direction seems to yield very little, at least where I've worked. That said, you do sometimes get long standing members who suddenly decide they'd like to start volunteering, but generally speaking the terms 'flogging' and 'dead horse' come to mind. The membership demographic no doubt plays a significant role however, and it may not be the same for everyone.

    It's important to make it attractive to as broad a range of people as possible, because at the end of the day we don't all do it for the same reasons, despite there often being a common link. Too often I see the 'Ever wanted to be an engine driver?' line being blasted out. This is really more to do with personal ambition, rather than personal satisfaction, yet as a leisure activity it's the latter which we should perhaps be promoting. You need to hammer home the benefits, and take a good look at your outfit - ask yourself why would people want to work here?

    I've managed to learn a great range of skills whilst working on the 53xx, it's also given a mate, who did mechanical engineering at uni, the chance to put his uni learned skills into practice. Elsewhere, a long standing passive member recently became involved in the County Project, where the challenge it presented gave good ground on which to flex his skills as a professional welder.

    Maybe we focuss too much on the 'railway' aspect.

    Will be interesting to see what others think.
     
  4. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    I totally agree with Edward and have been banging this drum for the last few years - surely members consider if they can become volunteers when they join (and, if they don't, we're doing domething wrong - but that probably moves to a wider discussion of what are members there for?) and, if they can't, only a change in their circumstances (like moving nearer their Railway or retiring) will make them think again. Members volunteer recruitment days may be a push that is needed but I totally agree that "hitting" the general public with the message that a Railway needs volunteers, indeed is run/part run by volunteers is vital and far more likely to be productive.

    I would also agree that people with a passing interest in Railways may be a more loyal volunteer than a through and through enthusiast - who, not unreasonably, may wish to visit events elsewhere. This can be a good thing - a railway that focuses just on itself without looking at the outside world could well be in trouble.

    To me, as a volunteer of over 20 years, a major part of volunteering in being part of something. I did much of my growing up (or not!) on the Moors and many of my friends are there. As a more remote Railway, this may be more of a factor than on "urban" railways (and indeed I am not sure it as much the case as it used to be) but a heritage Railway is a "family" and at the Moors we have had our joys and sorrows as any "family" would. In this day and age, offering some-one the ability to be part of something worthwhile is probably as big a sell as the Railway angle.

    Mind you, the response to Tornado's first arrival in London suggests the interest in railways and steam in this country may be rather more than the media (or Liberal Democrat MPs) would suggest.

    Our next volunteer recruitment day on the Moors is 29th March and hopefully this will be publicised accurately to the general public as well as the members.
     
  5. 34007

    34007 Part of the furniture

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    I've never understood these Volunteer Recruitment days? Do you have to pass a test, just like an interview?
     
  6. Dan Hamblin

    Dan Hamblin Part of the furniture

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    It's more like an introductory day - showing prospective volunteers the 'behind the scenes' areas and explaining the sort of things that they can get involved in. Basically you are trying to get people interested in volunteering, perhaps not signing them up on the spot though!

    Regards,

    Dan
     
  7. David Ward

    David Ward Well-Known Member

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    I know of quite a few volunteers on SVR (Myself included) who were 'recruited' through enjoying footplate experience courses.
     
  8. howardw-s

    howardw-s New Member

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    That's certainly the case on the K&ESR. Two fairly recent recruits from railway experience days now help to run them.
     

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