if volunteering and voluntary work was not so important an invisible engine in society and if we did not absolutely respect its founding urge and its achievements, we wouldn’t take the risk of being accused of shooting bambi.
But the direct action of volunteering, the individual will to contribute, in person and in action, to the good of others is more important than almost anything.
The very last thing that has a visceral connection with the volunteering spirit is the impenetrable and empty flannel of ‘corporate speak’.
We received a press release (copied verbatim below), posted to the For Argyll website, announcing that Argyll Voluntary Action had been recognised for its commitment to excellence, demonstrated by something or other, by one or several organisations, with some award identified only as EFQM – and surrounded by more text of the same.
The press release on the award to Argyll Voluntary Action
‘Argyll Voluntary Action is rewarded for Committing to Excellence
‘Argyll Voluntary Action is celebrating its recent achievement of the EFQM “Committed to Excellence” status, having successfully participated in the Big Lottery funded Supporting Voluntary Action (SVA) Quality Matters project.
‘This internationally recognised award, presented by Quality Scotland, marks Argyll Voluntary Action’s commitment to continuous improvement, which they demonstrated by carrying out an in-depth assessment of every aspect of their organisation and identifying and implementing key areas for improvement.
‘Said Glenn Heritage, CEO, ‘this has been a very interesting and worthwhile journey leading us to examine how we carry out every aspect of our operations. We have been able to identify our strengths and plan our future strategy accordingly. Equally, we have found areas for improvement, these have been implemented over the past year and already show a positive benefit for staff, board members and those who use our services. We are very pleased to have achieved this award and join the ranks of organisations globally who really do commit to be excellent organisations in all that they do.’
‘Margaret Jacobsen, Chair said ‘Staff have worked to achieve this award and this is reflected in the very positive feedback we receive for our services. We are very proud of attaining this level of achievement.’
‘Paul White, Director of Networks at SCVO and Chair of the SVA Management Group commented: This award represents a clear commitment from Argyll Voluntary Action to strive for excellence and improve the services they provide to front-line voluntary organisations. The commitment made by the staff and management boards of Argyll Voluntary Action should not be underestimated and they should be justly proud of what they have achieved.”
‘ www.argyllvoluntaryaction.org.uk ‘
Our first response was awareness of a sore head from attempting to make sense of this – followed by a twitch towards the Delete button. We arrested this because we could not more fully value the spirit of the volunteer than we do.
We went to the website address given, aiming to find out what Argyll Voluntary Action actually did, so that we could try to produce something lucid to clarify this, to describe why it had been rewarded and to find out what EFQM was.
We failed – serially.
The website had six large and eye catching clickable graphic boxes on its front page: ‘Projects’; ‘About Us’; ‘Services’; ‘Training’; ‘Contact Us’; ‘Resources’.
These access points are repeated by Tabs of the same titles at the top of the screen. And, apart from ‘Services’, none of them provides much substantial content beyond more corporate wool.
‘About Us’ gives you a sort of sense that this is a new umbrella organisation, pulling together supporting services for voluntary organisations. It doesn’t say who funds it, which is important in understanding where it sits in the structure of third sector governance.
When you open up the items on a clickable list on the ‘Services’ page, you start to get to the heart of the matter – and a genuinely worthwhile set of services these are.
They provide office space – for hire as needed. They rent office equipment. They provide competitively priced photocopying and envelope stuffing – which looks as if it’s a free service as it’s not .listed on the accompanying charges sheet. They will handle email distribution lists, which is also not listed n the charges list so looks like another free service. They offer help in designing and commissioning advertising campaigns. They provide consulting on research and development. They provide a low cost full payroll service. They will independently examine accounts. They will act as a processing body, between the Central Registered Body of Scotland and a voluntary organisation, sorting out the business of the latest disclosure procedures where projects involve working with children and vulneraable adults.
All of this is so very worthwhile – although we think that a charge of £10 for a one hour Skype call from one person to another is pretty steep.
‘Training’ is obviously an important field and one we quickly went to explore. More waflle. No idea what they offered training in. Eventually we noticed in the left hand column a clickable line saying: ‘Training Brochure Now Available’. This looked like we were in business. Three – not one – cllicks later we had the downloadable pdf file for the brochure and once we scrolled past an unenlightening front page we struck pay dirt.
Again, here are really worthwhile training services for voluntary organisations – for example, in writing constitutions, in chairing meetings, in taking minutes… all fundamentally important skills that, done well, will smooth the operations of a such an organisation at all levels.
We’re glad to be able to pass on this practical information – about the practical help that volunteering itself is all about
We’re delighted the value of what the organisation does has been recognised in an award (EFQM) we remain unable to decode.
But please, can Argyll Voluntay Action – and all similarly guilty of this contemporary disease – stop this vacuous and brain-boggling ‘corporate speak’ nonsense. It fits volunteering less than anything and it suffocates everything it wraps itself around.
If we hadn’t believed in voluntary work we would not have got beyond the first paragraph of the press release before binning it.
So well done to Argyll Voluntary Action. Just start saying upfront what you really do.