Page 1

Findings of the National Planning Aid Volunteer Survey 2007

November 2007 Prepared by Shereen Shafi & Gary Carr Volunteer & Skills Managers The Royal Town Planning Institute, National Planning Aid Unit Unit 419, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA The RTPI is a charity registered in England and Wales No. 262865 and Scotland SC 037841. Planning Aid England is delivered by the RTPI through a network of nine regional services and a coordinating National Unit.

1


Introduction The aim of the 2007 electronic survey is to establish an up-to-date picture of the extent and nature of volunteering in Planning Aid, as well as to obtain valuable information that helps regions allocate assignments to volunteers. The 2007 survey canvassed volunteers’ views on Planning Aid’s role in supporting communities to influence the planning system and sought to establish the degree to which Planning Aid is developing the skills of planners though volunteering. Where possible the 2007 results will be compared with those from the 2005 and 2003 survey results to track trends in recruitment, retention and support of volunteers since the start of the new programme. To gather information the following methods were used: • • • • •

An electronic survey was designed and made available on-line via the RTPI website to all Planning Aid volunteers in the English regions. The electronic survey represented the first ever undertaken by RTPI on the enhanced website. An email notification and subsequent reminder was sent to 625 Planning Aid volunteers in Planning Aid England excluding the independent services. A web story highlighting the survey was posted on both the RTPI and Planning Aid websites. Over 120 postal copies were requested and issued to volunteers.

The data collection was undertaken between October and November 2007. The findings of the volunteer survey have been prepared by the Volunteer and Skills Manager at the National Planning Aid Unit.

2


Executive Summary The following captures the top trends revealed by the volunteer questionnaire data. Response Rate Twenty five percent of volunteers from across all of Planning Aid England’s regions responded to the electronic volunteer survey. Volunteer Numbers At the time of undertaking the survey there were 625 volunteers in Planning Aid England. This has since grown to over 700. Volunteer Profile Fifty eight percent of all volunteer respondents surveyed had over 10 years experience in planning. 22% of volunteer respondents had been volunteers for 11 or more years. 67% of respondents are Corporate Members of the RTPI. 49% are female against 51% male. 56% are aged between 25 and 44 years. 89% are white. 71% work in the public sector, either central, local government or higher education and 65% work within planning applications or policy and strategy. Recruitment The RTPI membership remains the main source of volunteers for Planning Aid. All RTPI members can potentially become volunteers. As it stands just under 5% of RTPI members volunteer for Planning Aid. Since November 2004 Planning Aid has recruited 460 volunteers. The most popular route to volunteering in Planning Aid was via the RTPI membership. The second most popular route was through word of mouth. Motivations for Volunteering The responses showed a mix of both altruistic and professional reasons for volunteering in Planning Aid. The most popular reasons for volunteering were because it was ‘a good thing to do’, ‘to give something back to society’ and ‘as part of my professional development’. Volunteer Commitment to Planning Aid in 2007 & 2008 Nearly half of volunteer respondents volunteer for Planning Aid around twice a year. A further 18% volunteer up to twice a month. Volunteer respondents expressed a strong commitment in terms of hours and flexibility of the types of work that they would be prepared to take on for Planning Aid in 2008. A third said they were available ‘whenever needed’. 10% did not want to take on any volunteering in 2008. Volunteer Management Volunteer respondents were very positive about the level and type of training received in Planning Aid with 64% praising the quality of training. Over two thirds of volunteers said that they had had an induction within six months. 69% of volunteer respondents expressed satisfaction at the quality and information of their induction into Planning Aid. Almost two-thirds said the could get support from the service whenever they needed it. 61% of volunteers, wanted an on-line forum for volunteers to discuss issues and share good practice. Community Planning More than 40% of all volunteer respondents were involved directly in supporting their region’s community planning programme. Of these responses just under half were involved in assisting and facilitating at consultation events.

3


Skills Development The volunteer responses show that volunteering for Planning Aid provides a fertile learning opportunity for planners. Just under half of all volunteering contributes to CPD, while over half of all respondents felt their skills had increased in the areas of diversity awareness, dealing with clients and knowledge of the planning system as a result of volunteering for Planning Aid. Recommending Volunteering with Planning Aid Ninety nine percent of volunteer respondents said that they would recommend volunteering for Planning Aid to others.

4


Detailed Findings 1. Who responded? The 2007 Survey invited 625* volunteers across Planning Aid England to share their views on the volunteer programme. The response rate for the volunteer survey was 25%. While less than the response rate received in 2005, the percentage is still above that expected of a survey with no incentives. Roughly similar response rates were generated from each region. Some of the regions were slightly better represented, relative to their current volunteer figures, and volunteers based in North, North West and West Midlands were marginally under-represented. Chart 1 compare actual volunteers in each region with volunteers responding to the survey Chart 1: Volunteers in each Region & Response to 2007 Survey 20% 18% 18%

16%

15% 14%

14%

13%

13%

13% 12%

12%

11% 10%

10%

10%

11% 10%

10%

Volunteers as a Percentage of Total by Region 2007 Survey Response Rate

10%

9% 8% 8%

8%

6%

5%

4%

2%

0% East of England

Volunteers: 33

East Midlands

North

North West

South

South East

57

102

127

71

67

South West

67

West Midlands

Yorkshire

91

77

*Total Number of Volunteers at November 2007 is 692.

2. Volunteer Recruitment in Planning Aid (a) RTPI Members as Volunteers by Region All registered RTPI members can potentially become Planning Aid volunteers. As it stands just under 5% of members nationally currently volunteer for Planning Aid. The spread of members volunteering for Planning Aid remains geographically uneven. Table 1 indicates the generally low percentages of RTPI members who volunteer for Planning Aid. There are clearly still high concentrations of members across Planning Aid regions who could be recruited as volunteers.

5


Table 1: Number of RTPI members who are volunteers in 2007 Region

East

East Midlands 1200

North

North West 1941

No. of 1814 952 RTPI Members No. of 33 57 102 127 Volunteers % of RTPI 2% 5% 11% 7% Members *Total Number of Members at November 2007.

South

South West 2154

West Midlands 1604

Yorkshire

Total

1483

South East 1730

1307

14185*

71

67

67

91

77

692

5%

4%

3%

6%

6%

5%

Chart 2 compares the proportion of volunteers to members in each region with results in the 2003 and 2005 surveys. The East of England and West Midlands offices show a small decrease in the overall proportion of RTPI members who are volunteers. The majority of regions show steady increases, particularly the North where there has been a marked increase from 5% in 2003 to 11% in 2007. Chart 2: Regional comparison of RTPI members who are volunteers for 2007, 2005 and 2003 12% 11%

10%

8% 8% 7%

7% 6%6%

Volunteers as a % of Members 2007

6%

6% 5%

5%

4%4%

5%

5%

5% 4%

4%

4%

4%4%

Volunteers as a % of Members 2005 Volunteers as a % of Members 2003

4% 3%3%

3%

2%

3%3%

3% 2%2%

2%

2% 1%

0% East of England

East Midlands

North

North West

South

South East South West

West Midlands

Yorkshire

Total

(b) Corporate Members as Volunteers by Region Figures taken from the Planning Aid database from November 2004 to November 2007 show that 460 volunteers joined Planning Aid England. Just over 30% of those recruited volunteers are Corporate Members of the RTPI. Given Planning Aid’s expanded brief of work this suggests that services are recruiting volunteers from other sources with the intention of involving volunteers in community planning activities. Table 2 shows where recruitment of the 460 volunteers has occurred and what proportion of the intake has been Corporate as a percentage. Superficially the figures show high levels of recruitment in Planning Aid. However, deeper analysis suggests that the geographical spread of the volunteers recruited is not even across the service, being notably low in the East, East Midlands and South West and notably high in the North West and Yorkshire. Understanding why this is the case will be useful for all regions.

6


Table 2: Regional Volunteer Recruitment and Proportion of Corporate Members Region

Numbers Recruited

East of England East Midlands North North West South South East South West West Midlands Yorkshire Total

Recruitment by Region as a Proportion of Total Recruitment 4% 7% 13% 18% 11% 12% 8% 12% 15% 100%

17 32 61 84 52 55 38 53 68 460

Corporate Volunteers

Proportion who are Corporate Volunteers as a Percentage 35% 34% 23% 38% 38% 40% 39% 23% 31% 33%

6 11 14 32 20 22 15 12 21 153

Evidence suggests that regions still have areas where there are few or no volunteers. This has a direct impact on the service that can be offered in an area. This has been particularly pertinent in the South West region where the large and remote nature of the region leaves many areas with few or no volunteers. To assist the South West and other regions with similar recruitment difficulties, several targeted recruitment campaigns have been implemented. To date, all campaigns have resulted in the recruitment of Corporate Members specifically within volunteer-poor areas, most impressively with the recent recruitment of more than ten new Corporate members in the Yorkshire region. Targeted recruitment of RTPI Corporate Members, particularly in geographic areas where there is currently little representation, needs to be a focus over the coming year.

3. Volunteer Roles in Planning Aid Planning Aid volunteers are engaged in a wide range of activities and roles, including helping at community planning events, office support, mentoring and being part of the regional steering group. This diversity of volunteer roles varies between regions, however, in all Planning Aid services the most common role performed by a volunteer is advising people over the phone and/or in writing. Chart 3: Types of Volunteer Activity Help develop promotional material

1

Mentoring other volunteers

2

Administration (Office Assistant)

2

Research

3

Steering group membership

3

Deliver training

4

Giving talks/lectures

4 5

Promoting planning aid Site visits

11

Helping to write letters for individuals/groups

11

Community meetings

12

Facilitation

12

Face to face meetings with individuals/groups

14 17

Advising people over the phone 0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

Percentage

7


4. Volunteer Involvement in Planning Aid (a) Length of Involvement Volunteer respondents were asked how long they had been involved in Planning Aid; what motivated them to volunteer for Planning Aid; how often they were able to volunteer with Planning Aid; and how many hours they had been able to give to Planning Aid in 2008. An issue of under-utilisation of some volunteers arose in the 2005 research. As a result, volunteer respondents were asked how many requests to volunteer were made by the regional service, as well as what proportion of requests the volunteer could actually meet. Table 3 shows how long volunteer respondents have been involved in Planning Aid. We can see that we have some extremely loyal volunteers, with one third of respondents volunteering for Planning Aid for six years or more, the majority in excess of 11 years. Just under half of volunteers are recently recruited, having been with the service for less than two years. Table 3: Length of Time Volunteering for Planning Aid Number of respondents 11 or more years 34 6-10 years 20 3-5 years 31 1-2 years 39 Less than 1 year 31 No answer 1

Response as a % 22% 12% 20% 25% 20% 1%

(b) Getting Involved When we asked respondents how they got first found out about Planning Aid, the results were fairly consistent between 2003, 2005 and 2007. In 2007 most routes to volunteer with Planning Aid were via membership of the RTPI, followed by word-ofmouth. Chart 4: How Volunteers find out about Planning Aid 3

RTPI Website

1

Planning Aid Website

3

Employer Through a volunteer, friend, relative or colleague

20

Volunteer Bureau

0

Through RTPI Branch activities/involvement

10

Through a University/College Course

12

5

Volunteer poster/leaflet

Promotion in RTPI News

6

2

Promotion in Planning Magazine

Through the Membership of RTPI

39 0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

Percentage

8


(c) Reasons for Volunteering Chart 5 shows what motivated people to volunteer for Planning Aid. We can see that over 40% cited giving something back, doing a good thing or wanting to share skills as their primary reasons for volunteering. Nearly 50% expressed reasons of professional development, gaining new skills, training and employability. This is a fairly even split between the altruistic and the instrumental. Volunteer respondents said things like: •

“Volunteering for Planning Aid helps me to keep up to date with on the ground planning issues and help people with difficult cases.”

“Volunteering for Planning Aid is an opportunity to help improve the public image of planning.”

“Volunteering is a chance to do good in society”.

Chart 5: Motivations for Volunteering with Planning Aid 1

My employer encouraged it Recommendation from another volunteer

2

To increase range of friendships

2

I had spare time on my hands

3

Someone asked me to help

4

To receive some valuable training

7

To increase my employability

7

I want to share my skills

12

To learn new skills

14

It was a good thing to do

15

To give something back to society

15

As part of my professional development

17 0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

Percentage

(d) Frequency of Volunteering To understand the time and commitment volunteers are giving to Planning Aid, volunteers we asked respondents to quantify their volunteering. As we can see in Chart 6 over 40% are giving a significant proportion of their time, ranging from between two hours and two days per month as a volunteer. Over a third are active, though less regularly involved, giving about an hour a month. Meanwhile a disappointing quarter of respondents have not been involved as a volunteer for Planning Aid in 2007.

9


Chart 6: Frequency of Volunteering 40%

34%

35%

30%

24%

25%

23%

20% 16% 15%

10%

5% 2% 1% 0% At least 2 days per month

About 5 days per year

2-5 hours per month

Less than one hour per month

I haven’t volunteered this year (2007)

No answer given

The results show a considerable flexibility in the amount of time that volunteers commit to Planning Aid and the figures are comparable to the 2005 results. However, we need to question why such a large proportion of volunteers are inactive. Chart 7 shows a breakdown by region of whether volunteers are involved or not. Chart 7: Regional Breakdown of Active vs Non-Active Volunteers 80

Yorkshire

20

87

West Midlands

13

82

South West of England

18

67

South East of England

33

86

Southern England

75

North West of England

25

86

North of England

14

82

East Midlands

18

46

East of England

0%

10%

20%

Volunteering (1 hour to 2 days per month) No volunteering in 2007

14

54

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

A commonly cited challenge for all Planning Aid services is securing commitment from volunteers to regularly get involved in supporting the delivery of Planning Aid activities. Involvement of volunteers in Planning Aid is affected by a number of factors including, volunteer availability, volunteer motivation and actual opportunities/requests to volunteer. It can seem particularly challenging to secure volunteer involvement in casework as with this type of work there is very little lead time; volunteers need to be available as and when the cases come in. 10


(e) Availability to Volunteer We asked volunteers what proportion of requests to help they had been able to meet. Table 4 shows a very significant 40% of willing volunteers who met all or almost all requests to volunteer. Added to this is a similar figure who could meet some requests to volunteer. A fifth were unavailable almost all of the time. Table 4: Availability to meet volunteer requests Number of respondents All, or virtually all 40 Most of them 22 Some of them 59 None, or virtually none 26 No answer given 9

Respondents as a % 26% 14% 38% 17% 5%

(f) Volunteer Motivation Many regional services have noted that some of their volunteers are regularly unavailable or unable to volunteer and some come across as demotivated and disengaged from Planning Aid. Many regions feel that only a small group of volunteers can regularly be relied upon to help and this poses problems of overburdening too few volunteers with too many regular requests. The figures in Table 4 above would tend to dispute this. That said, we might assume that the respondents to the survey are made up of a large proportion of our most motivated volunteers. The issue of what motivates volunteers is a complex one. People who work with volunteers are unable to exercise direct control over these motives. However, Planning Aid is able to influence the ‘climate’ in which people volunteer as a way to increase general motivation. Key aspects here are relationships within Planning Aid: staff and volunteers, volunteers and volunteers (including cross-regional); the nature and design of volunteer roles; and the opportunities available to a volunteer for personal growth and development. All of these areas need to be addressed if we are to retain volunteers who are motivated and regularly active and available. (g) Service Requests to Volunteers We asked respondents how often they were asked by their regional service to volunteer. This is an important factor in understanding why some volunteers are highly involved and others are inactive. Regularly in surveys of volunteering, respondents claim that they volunteer because they were asked. If we are not asking our volunteers regularly, can we expect them to stay motivated? The results in Chart 8 show a significant body of volunteers (70%) who are being asked to get involved between once a year and once a month by their regional service. 8% claim to ‘always’ being asked, suggesting we may be pushing our goodwill with them. Worryingly, almost a quarter are not or have never been asked to volunteer with Planning Aid.

11


Chart 8: Does the regional service ask you to volunteer? 5

No, I have never been asked

8

Yes, I am always being asked

No, not recently

17

28

Yes, at least once per month

42

Yes, once or twice per year

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

Percentage

When we take a look at this on a regional basis, in Chart 9 (left-hand side of chart) we can see that there is considerable variation, with some regions asking their volunteers to a much larger extent than others. Regional staffing issues may have affected this picture and the East of England which has the lowest number of requests is also the area with fewest volunteers to draw upon. However, when we add the contents of Chart 7 to the right-hand side of the chart we can see a marked correlation between the number of requests made and number of active volunteers. The more we ask, the more volunteers seem to get involved. Chart 9: Comparison across Regions of Requests to Volunteer with Active/Non-Active Volunteering Yorkshire

West Midlands

86

South West of England

88

20

80

100

13

87

7

7

18

82

12

Yes (always or regularly)

No, not recently

No, I have never been asked South East of England

17

66

33

67

17

Volunteering (1 hour to 2 days per month) Southern England

14

86

6

38

56

No volunteering in 2007 North West of England

North of England

East Midlands

East of England

9

73

46

54

14

86

7

93

25

75

19

81

18

82

18

46

54

Percentage: Requests made to volunteers (Y/N/Never) and Volunteered in 2007 (Y/N)

12


(h) Volunteer Commitment in 2008 Volunteers were asked about how many hours they would be prepared to give to Planning Aid in 2008. The responses showed a healthy support for Planning Aid with nearly 40% of respondents offering up to 20 hours of volunteering over the year. Chart 10: Volunteer Commitment (Activity) for 2008 45

40 39 35

Percentage

30

27

25

20 18 15

16

10

5

0 More than 20

10 – 20 hours

7-10 hours

7 hours

Volunteer respondents were also asked about the type of activity they were available to get involved in during 2008. In Chart 11 we can see that over a third were happy to be called upon to do casework or community planning whenever services required. A further 30% were available for casework only, while 17% only wanted to do community planning. Only 10% stated they were unavailable to volunteer in 2008. Chart 11: Volunteer Commitment (Hours) in 2008 As many cases as possible

1

Updates only - no community planning

4

Updates only - no cases

6

7

I only want to take on cases

I would like to mentor less experienced planners

9

I only want to get involved in community planning activities

17

22

I am happy to take on some cases

I am happy to be called upon for community planning / casework activities as and when needed

34

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

Percentage

13


5. Supporting our Volunteers The reasons that encourage people to start volunteering are not always the same as those that keep people volunteering. The 2007 survey sought to explore how much volunteers valued the benefits currently offered to volunteers by Planning Aid: • • • •

Access to free or low cost training Access to information Access to social events Support for volunteering through good management

Training Planning Aid services are required to establish a training programme which provides the opportunity for volunteers to attend at least two training events per year. Training that directly supports volunteers in their volunteering is encouraged. Chart 12: Volunteer Training Satisfaction The training courses are of good quality

15

I have access to training that is of direct relevance to my volunteering

14

I have been able to access training events that are of interest to me

49

48

14

I would like to obtain accreditation or qualifications through my volunteering

11

I have not been able to attend training because of work commitments or distance travelled

12

0%

23

20%

27

30%

13

17

40%

6 13

21

34

10%

14

28

52

27

0

50%

4

19

60%

70%

5 1 6

19

5

80%

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Not relevant

13

90%

100%

Percentage

Chart 12 shows 64% of respondents said that the training offered by Planning Aid was of good quality. 62% said that they had access to training that is of direct relevance to their volunteering. Two-thirds said that the training offered was of interest to them. Worthy of note is that only 38% of respondents were interested in being accredited or receiving qualifications for their volunteering. A significant 17% actively disagreed with qualifications and a further 46% were equivocal. 46% of respondents said that they had difficulty attending training because of work commitments or distance needed to be travelled to access it. When we dig a little deeper, looking at these figures on a regional basis, we discover that, perhaps surprisingly, it is Yorkshire (53%) and the North West (54%) where difficulty attending training is highest. Why this should be the case needs analysing. Perhaps it is the size and relative remoteness of Yorkshire as a region, though this is unlikely for the North West and we would expect it to be a particular issue in areas such as the South West, where in actual fact only 30% highlighted this issue. Perhaps then it is volunteers’ work 14


commitments that are affecting people’s attendance in these regions. We need to explore this further and find ways to make training more accessible. Access to Information Chart 13 shows almost three-quarters of respondents found their region’s newsletter/ e-bulletin both informative and interesting. Half of all respondents wanted to see a national volunteer newsletter to highlight the work of volunteers in other regions of Planning Aid, while a higher proportion, 61% of volunteers, wanted an on-line forum for volunteers to discuss issues and share good practice. Perhaps these ideas could be combined in the form of an interactive, online newsletter. That said, there is clearly a need for Planning Aid to look at its web-based communication with volunteers and attempt to improve how it engages them through this medium. More than two-thirds of respondents were either equivocal or did not find the current volunteer section of the Planning Aid website to be helpful. Chart 13: Volunteer Access to Information The newsletter / e-bulletin I receive is informative and interesting

11

I find the volunteer section of the Planning Aid website helpful

62

5

21

26

55

1 5

3

11 Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Not relevant

I would like to learn about what volunteers are doing in other regions in a national newsletter

7

I would like there to be a forum on-line for volunteers to share good practice

10

0%

43

35

51

10%

20%

30%

9

32

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

6

3

90%

5

100%

Percentage

Social events Three-quarters of respondents had been invited to social events by their Planning Aid service and in Chart 14 we see nearly half were satisfied with the number of social events offered. Of those remaining, the majority felt this issue wasn’t relevant to them. The issue of non-relevance, shows up highly in this section, from which may draw the conclusion that for significant numbers social events are not a high priority. 43% do not attend social events due to lack of time or prior commitments. A third of respondents believed that social events were an opportunity to meet and learn from others. 44% said events were held at convenient times and locations. When asked whether they believed social events were an important part of the volunteering experience, more than half agreed this was the case. Interestingly, a significant 63% believed a mix of training with a social element was a good compromise.

15


Chart 14: Volunteer Access to Social Events I am satisfied with the number of social events offered

3

The social events are enjoyable and have been a good opportunity to learn from others

4

30

The social events are held at convenient times and locations

4

31

44

Social events are an important part of the volunteering experience

10

I do not attend social events because of lack of time, personal / work commitments

11

I prefer it when social events are combined with some training to save time

10

0%

35

6 1

40

1

40

27

32

22

12

20%

30%

5

24

40%

50%

60%

70%

2

10

17

5 1

80%

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Not relevant

19

7

53

10%

25

4 2

43

11

90%

8

100%

Percentage

Support & Good Management Good management of volunteers is key if Planning Aid is to ensure that its volunteers are happy and active and that we retain them. All Planning Aid volunteers are required to receive an induction within six months of joining a service. In Chart 15 we see that over two thirds of volunteers said that they had had an induction within six months and 69% of volunteer respondents expressed satisfaction at the quality and information of their induction into Planning Aid; almost a third of that number strongly agreeing. 70% of respondents felt that Planning Aid was working directly with its target group of disadvantaged communities, an import factor in maintaining volunteer motivation. 69% of volunteer respondents said that they were satisfied with the level of recognition that they received for their volunteering from staff, with a very small number disagreeing. 59% said that they were satisfied with the level of recognition they received from clients, though over a third were equivocal on this point. Over half felt that their skills were well utilised in Planning Aid. Over a third were equivocal and 9% disagreed. Being flexible to the range of skills we have within our volunteer force and endeavouring to play to people’s strengths is a challenge for the future. 71% said they were aware of what was expected of them most of the time, while almost three-quarters said they were aware of what they could expect from Planning Aid most of the time. Almost two-thirds said they could get support from the service whenever they needed it, though just under a third were equivocal on this point. A significant 22% said they wanted volunteering to be better organised, while over a third disagreed. Perhaps surprisingly, given anecdotal evidence to the contrary, only 17% said that they thought there was too much paperwork associated with volunteering, while over a third disagreed. Almost half were equivocal, suggesting this may in fact be an issue to pursue.

16


Chart 15: Volunteer Support and Management My induction took place within six months of joining the service

23

42

My induction as a volunteer was informative and of good quality

22

47

13

I am satisfied that Planning Aid is working with its target group

24

25

45

17

42

12

I feel my skills are well utilised

8

57

I am satisfied with the recognition I have received for my volunteering from Planning Aid staff I am satisfied with the recognition I have received for my volunteering from clients

21

2 5

23

51

28

21

34

41

6

Strongly Agree Agree

4 3

37

Neither Agree nor Disagree

8 1

Disagree 16

I am aware of what is expected of me most of the time

55

24

51 Strongly disagree

16

I am aware of what I can expect from Planning Aid most of the time

18

I get support whenever I need it

I would like the volunteering to be better organised 2

There is too much paperwork associated with volunteering

57

4 0%

22

47

20

30

42

13

28

49

51

32

8

30

4

10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Percentage

6. Community Planning In this survey, Planning Aid was particularly keen to explore how volunteers are helping to enable communities to influence the planning system. 42% of volunteer respondents said that the had been involved directly in supporting their regional service’s community planning programme. When asked whether they were directly involved in engaging local communities in planning as part of their day job, 42% also said yes. In Chart 16 we can see there is significant regional variation in whether respondents are directly involved in Community Planning. Understanding this variation would be useful. Chart 16: Regional Volunteer Involvement in Community Planning Programme Yorkshire

18

82

West Midlands

71

29

South West of England

76

24

South East of England

65

35

Southern England

Yes No

50

50

North West of England

34

66

North of England

43

57

East Midlands

82

18

East of England

92

8

0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

Percentage

In Chart 17 we see that assisting and facilitating at events make up almost half of all the Community Planning activity undertaken by volunteers.

17


Chart 17: Activities Undertaken as part of Community Planning 3

Producing guidance for communities

Supporting delivery of environmental education

4

8

Taking part in school activities

10

Delivering training events to the public

Promoting planning and or Planning Aid

13

Staffing exhibition stands at events

14

19

Facilitating events with communities

Assisting at consultation events

29

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

Percentage

7. Skills Development A focus of the 2007 survey was to ask volunteers how they felt their experience of volunteering for Planning Aid is contributing to their development of their professional skills. Looking at Chart 18 we see that over half of all respondents felt their skills had increased in the areas of diversity awareness, dealing with clients and knowledge of the planning system. Over a third of respondents said that their volunteering has allowed them to develop better skills of communicating with the public in plain English. Chart 18: Volunteer Skill Development 8

Increased diversity awareness

4

Experience of dealing with clients

Knowledge of the planning system

32

53

20%

10

1

10

1

71

3

35

10%

1

35

16

3

0%

38

53

3

My ability to organise my time 1

My ability to communicate with other people in plain English

43

52

30%

40%

50%

60%

Increased Greatly Increased Stayed the same Decreased Not relevant

8

9

10

70%

80%

90%

100%

Percentage

Planning Aid is clearly a fertile source of skills development. However, as Chart 19 shows, over half of respondents did not record any of their Planning Aid volunteering as Continued Professional Development (CPD) in 2007. Why this should be the case is unknown. Perhaps recording of Planning Aid CPD needs to be promoted more widely. It could be another factor to encourage more people to get involved. 18


Chart 19: Recording of Planning Aid Continued Professional Development (CPD) 60

53 50

Percentage

40

30

21 20

11 9

10

5

0 None

Up to 7 hours

7 to 10 hours

10 to 20 hours

More than 20 hours

19


8. Demographics Gender The balance of men and women taking part in the 2007 survey was almost evenly matched at 51% male and 49% female. Age The participation rates by age were broadly even although there were slightly more (a quarter) volunteer respondents aged between 45-54 years. Groups underrepresented in the survey included those under 24 and those over 65 years of age. Ethnicity 84% percent of respondents said they were White, one percent Asian, one percent Black, five percent Chinese and three percent said they were mixed. While the figures show an under-representation of black and ethnic minority groups as a whole the results broadly mirror representations found in the planning profession and RTPI membership. Chart 19: Age and Ethnicity of Respondents 100 89

90

80

70

Percentage

60

50

40 32 30 24 21 20 14 10

6 3

5 1

1

1

Asian or Asian British

Black or Black British

3

1

0 24 or under

25 - 34

35 - 44

45 - 54

55 - 64

65 - 74

75 and over

White

Chinese or Other

Mixed

Not disclosed

Planning Experience Our volunteers are extremely experienced, with nearly 60% of all respondents indicating 10 or more years experience. Membership of the RTPI 65% of respondents to the survey identified as Chartered Members of the RTPI and only 6% were not members. 13% were Licentiates and 8% were Student Members. Only 3% of respondents were Retired.

20


Chart 20: Membership Status of the RTPI / Years of Experience in Planning 80

70

67

60

Percentage

50

40 33 30 25 18

20 13

12 8

10

11

7 3

1

1

1

0

0

2

ye ar s

ye ar s th an

to

Le s

s

5

2

10 to

5

ye ar s

ar s ye 20

to 10

M or e

th an

20

C ha rte re d M em Li ce be nt r ia te M em St be ud r en tM em be N r on e M em R be et r ire d M em C be ha r rte Le re ga d lA Fe ss llo oc w ia te M em As so be ci r at e M em Te be ch r ni ca lM em H on be or r ar y M em be r

0

Employment sector Over 70% of respondents work in the public sector including central and local government and higher education. 20% worked in the private sector, covering planning consultancies and regeneration agencies. Only 2% of respondents worked in the voluntary sector. 7% of respondents were made up of students and retired. Volunteer respondents were also asked what area of planning they worked in. Chart 21: Employment Sector and Area of Planning worked in Public – central government

6

Public – local government

63

Public – higher education

2

Private – planning consultancy

19

Private – regeneration agency

1

Voluntary – charitable organisation

2

Student

3

Retired

4

Unemployed

0

Planning Applications

27

Policy and Strategy

28

Urban design / Heritage

12

Enforcement

7

Legal

5

Regeneration and project work

12

Community Involvement

10 0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

Percentage

21


9. Would you recommend volunteering for Planning Aid? No 1%

Yes 99%

22


Recommendations Recruitment • With just under 5% of RTPI members volunteering for Planning Aid, there are significant opportunities for Planning Aid to grow its volunteers through RTPI membership. Here are current figures for each region: Region

East

No. of RTPI Members No. of Volunteers % of RTPI Members

• •

• •

1814

East Midlands 1200

33 2%

North 952

North West 1941

57

102

5%

11%

South

South West 2154

West Midlands 1604

Yorkshire

Total

1483

South East 1730

1307

14185*

127

71

67

67

91

77

692

7%

5%

4%

3%

6%

6%

5%

Focus should be primarily on areas where there are still few or no volunteers. The effects of this has been to make service delivery extremely difficult in some parts of the country. Most people are coming to volunteer with Planning Aid via membership of the RTPI and by word-of-mouth. We can develop new targeted recruitment campaigns aimed at members, involving regional groups and networks. We can also introduce a drive to encourage existing volunteers to promote volunteering to colleagues and friends. All our recruitment messages need to focus on the equally weighted motivations of giving something back and professional development. We need to effectively monitor how volunteers get involved and continue to evaluate where we need volunteers and what skills we need them to have.

Volunteer Roles • We need to be flexible and responsive to volunteers and try to find ways to engage them that meet their skills and experience. A significant 47% of respondents were undecided or actively disagreed that their skills were being well used as a volunteer. To ensure volunteers remain motivated we need to better understand each of our volunteers and what they bring and involve them more creatively. • We can promote the Specialist Register of Volunteers more widely, encouraging more registrations and encouraging regions to use it more. • Some volunteers want to use Planning Aid to develop their interests in other areas of planning. We need to be responsive to this, providing support and training where necessary. • Only 2% of volunteers are currently providing mentoring support to others. With such a highly experienced volunteer base, encouraging this kind of support would be extremely valuable to a whole new generation of planners, as well as developing the role of our existing volunteers. We can develop recruitment campaigns to promote this role to volunteers. • We can develop new, short term roles for students, for example, administration roles in Planning Aid offices; marketing support for a team; work on regional newsletter. Motivational Issues • Understanding our individual volunteers’ wants and needs as far as possible is essential for a happy, motivated team of volunteers. • Anecdotal evidence suggests that as workloads increase in regional teams, relationships with volunteers often suffers. The survey shows a strong correlation

23


• • • •

between asking a volunteer to be involved and their active volunteering. We need to make the management of our volunteers a priority, not an add on. Are our volunteers volunteering to give something back or to develop professionally? Or a bit of both? How can we help them meet those needs, for example, through the training available to them, a wider range of cases, etc? What do our volunteers enjoy doing? This is how we will ensure our volunteers feel that they are doing something worthwhile. How can we develop our volunteers, adapting roles to suit individuals? Volunteers may be unable to volunteer or need a break from volunteering for very genuine reasons. If we know our volunteers better, it is less de-motivating for staff when a volunteer says they are unable to help. When a volunteer leaves, or needs to give up volunteering for a time, we need to find ways to stay in contact, at the right times, so that the door stays open for the volunteer to rejoin the team.

Training • 46% of respondents said that they had difficulty attending training because of work commitments or distance travelled. We need to explore these barriers and find ways to overcome them. For example, we can vary the days and times when we hold training to accommodate working parents. We can also vary the locations where we hold training events. • We could work more closely with large employers to encourage staff time off for training • We need to explore other ways of delivering training. For example, on a modular basis online. Information • We need to explore new ways to communicate with our volunteers, embracing online technology. • Updating the Planning Aid website is essential. It needs to provide more useful information for existing volunteers; more accessible information on volunteer roles; and reasons why and how to get involved. Regular updates, including volunteer profiles may be a good way for volunteers to feel more involved. • An online recruitment form would make the process of applying to be a volunteer much easier. • A national volunteer newsletter would enable volunteers to find out about volunteer involvement across the country and thus feel part of a larger movement for change. This will also serve to motivate. • There is clearly a desire for an on-line forum from respondents. This will be a way for volunteers across the country to discuss issues and share good practice. Social Events • Social events serve a function for some volunteers and not others. It’s only by understanding the needs of our individual volunteers that we can we make that judgement. A clear majority of respondents believed that mixing training with a social element was a good idea and we can use that as a general rule. Support & Good Management • A timely induction of volunteers is important. Equally important is one that emphasises important elements of volunteering. For example, if we consider the relation between asking volunteers and actual volunteering, it may be useful both for staff and volunteers to clearly state during inductions how much time we expect volunteers to give. • During inductions emphasising the importance of paperwork and what is expected of volunteers in this respect may be useful. We need to assess what 24


information we require back from volunteers and offer a range of easy ways to provide it, eg. online response forms. Finding ways to regularly recognise and reward the work of our volunteers is key in keeping volunteers motivated and committed. We could write a letter or card or send an email to say thank you following an event or at the end of a case. We could develop a collection of e-thank you cards for this purpose. We need to ensure, not just assume, that volunteers are aware of the support available and encourage them to request areas for training and skill development. Introducing individual or group supervision of volunteers would be one way to do this.

Skills Development • A surprisingly low number (less than 50%) of volunteers record volunteering for Planning Aid as CPD. CPD is a membership requirement for any professional planner and accordingly one would expect CPD to be an incentive to get involved. We need to promote this highly in any recruitment message, as well as to existing volunteers. • We could provide a service to volunteers by providing them with annual information which supports their CPD log, taken from the information we record about volunteer activity on our system.

25


Next Steps • • • • •

The results of this survey along with the recommendations will be distributed to all staff and volunteers in Planning Aid. The findings will be shared across the wider Planning Aid independent services and other stakeholders. The survey results will help inform priorities within the Planning Aid England’s Business Plan 2007-2009. Regional feedback on contact details, volunteer skills and commitment from volunteers for 2008 will be fed back to each region to update the database and utilise in the allocation of assignments to volunteers. This research is a work in progress and further use of the data where needed will be undertaken.

Comments on this paper can be sent to the Volunteer and Skills Manager, email volunteers@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk

26


Findings of the Planning Aid Volunteer Survey 2007  

A report detailing the findings from a survey, conducted by Planning Aid between October and November 2007, into the nature and extent of vo...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you