For a moment I was wondering whether Third Sector was proposing a second April Fools Day – It was the 1st October, 6 months to the day after the eponymous let-hilarity-ensue festival of mirth.  But no, it was a true story.

Youth volunteering charity v has decided that the fusty old term volunteering isn’t ‘with it’ enough, so are attempting to substitute ‘favours’ instead.  The Third Sector story is here, though you may need to register (free) to see it.  V’s home page reflects this new orientation too.

It’s a classic ploy if you think you’re selling a dud.  Windscale became Sellafield, BP changed their logo to an abstract sun/flower hybrid, illegal wars became police actions.  I remember the day that I went from being unemployed to being a ‘jobseeker’.  Apart from my UB40 being replaced with a fancier model, I didn’t feel much different.

But do v have so little faith in the product they’re selling?

I can see using different terminology for informal volunteering – encouraging people to ‘help out’ perhaps – but for formal volunteering?  Most volunteer involving organisations do not want ‘favours’, they want someone to come in on a regular basis to carry out defined tasks.

The irony is, according to the Helping Out survey, 16-24 year olds are more likely than any other age group to be regular formal volunteers.  Occasional or one off volunteering is lower, but the commitment shown by regular volunteers suggests that whatever the perceptions of ‘geekiness’, they’re not that strong a deterrent.

Having outed myself as not being a ‘youth’ with the reference to unemployment and UB40s maybe I’m hopelessly out of date.  But I think it’s both patronising and underestimating young people to avoid calling something by its name.


2 responses to “v.uninspired

  1. I totally agree, it is nothing but patronising to young people. Certainly all of the young people I’ve ever mentioned it to have said they don’t like it. The perception of volunteering might need to change, but v seem to show a willingness to sidestep that challenge with the simpler exercise of giving it a new name. Plus if we ‘play down’ what is involved at the outset, does this not undermine the great work that volunteers do?
    And i’m 23, still within v’s age range, but if I had seen this kind of marketing approach at 18, i’d never have started volunteering!

  2. The word ‘favour’ does not really capture the true essence of volunteering.

    I think this is focused more on quantity than quality. Everyone will admit to having done a favour at some point in their life, so v will now count them all as volunteers.

    Should we now change the word volunteers to Favourers?

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