Monthly Archives: August 2016

Royal British Legion’s Women’s Section Volunteers distress at closure

With a long commute yesterday I listened to much coverage on Radio 4 of the news that the Royal British Legion is to close or merge its Women’s section.  I will admit to not knowing that there was indeed a separate Women’s section, although the Royal British Legion itself is a well-known and much respected national institution.

Listening to the coverage, what came through was these women’s commitment and dedication as volunteers, often over many years and following a family tradition of volunteering.  The distress and anguish of these volunteers is summarized well in this letter to the Guardian from Lesley Willcocks in which she says: “It is just a shame that the change was not implemented in a more coherent and sensitive way, and more respect not given to our wonderful ladies.”   This has just been shared by Twitter and so the debate seems likely to spread over the coming days though there is no comment on the respective organisational twitter accounts (@PoppyLegion and @Womens_Section).

The Daily Mail reports that 10,000 volunteer members have left the organisation since the plans were announced in December.  The Third Sector reports that many Branches have dissolved their organisations in protest  If the Radio 4 coverage is anything to go by many of these have redirected their volunteering talents in other organisations, though many more may simply cease to be active volunteers.

The issues here will be familiar to anyone who studies organization change as it is not necessarily the change itself that has prompted the volunteer’s anger but the lack of involvement and communication.   Key also here is the loss of identity, which seems particularly to centre on the Women’s standard which would no longer be in use after the merger.   However many of the news articles also raise the issue that the volunteers no longer know what will happen to the money they have raised.  This is also the case then for those who have donated, in good faith to a specific area of work. There is of course much coverage of the gender divide too.

It seems that many of these volunteers have chosen exit as the means to make themselves heard.  The implications of this for such a significant voluntary organisation are likely to become clearer over the coming months.  The planned merger may indeed not be necessary as there may simply be nothing left of the Women’s section to merge with.



Social media at Church – discussion of risks and rewards

I found this roundtable discussion posted on “The Church Executive Magazine” website offered a useful review of many of the issues we have discussed with stakeholders in voluntary and community organisations more broadly.  Although I was not entirely clear who the individuals were taking place in the roundtable, the debate was very heavily skewed towards discussion of the risks – particularly reputational risk and cybersecurity.

You can read the full roundtable discussion on the website – it would be interesting to see how different Third Sector organisations might respond to these questions.  Here there is a rather interesting analysis that volunteers are ‘the same’ as employees and a rather mechanistic approach to separating personal from other activities.  Nevertheless its really useful to see these sorts of debates posted where others can review the issues and consider how these might play out differently in their own organizations.

Recent commentary on technology in the Third Sector

I recently came across this paper from a team at Stanford University which investigates how nonprofits in San Francisco area using their websites as identity projects, tools, and relational maps.

Powell, W. W., Horvath, A., & Brandtner, C. (2016). Click and mortar: Organizations on the web. Research in Organizational Behavior.

While there might be other sources which offer a more comprehensive view of organisational engagement with the internet, this paper provides a very readable summary.  It also usefully adds to the increasing number of calls for academics to engage with the digital economy, though we would suggest this means going far beyond analyses of organisational webpages.  We wholeheartedly agree that “webpages do not offer a discrete research method as much as they represent a new avenue for research”.  This paper draws on data collected via interviews, surveys, websites, and tax filings and an impressive dataset seems to have been considered here, but the focus of this particular paper is on the ways in which websites “are much more than ‘mere’ reflections, they also shape the actions of organizations”.

Elsewhere, gaming and its relation to activity in the Third Sector has also made the news.  So if you really want to get on board with the latest trend, check out Rob Jackson’s blog on opportunities to engage volunteers with Pokemon Go: