Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is anybody out there?

I sometimes feel that way, and evidently RSPCA HQ are the same as that's the heading of their latest volunteer survey.

If you do volunteer for the RSPCA, I urge you to complete the online form - especially if there are things you would like to see changed or have irritated, annoyed or upset you. If we don't KNOW about problems we can't fix them.

If you are a volunteer and you complete the form you'll be entered into a draw to win a day out with one of the inspectors.

In some ways the people we really need to ask are the ones who considered volunteering and either never got started or else drifted away. It came up on the i-volunteer discussion board a few days ago and, allowing for the fact that this was just one person's experience, one problem that can be fixed seems to be an explanation of why volunteers can't automatically attend and vote at branch committee meetings or vote at the branch AGM and what they need to do if they would like to get more involved in decision-making.

RSPCA branches are registered charities in their own right, governed by the RSPCA Rules for Branches, and ultimately by the Charity Commission. We can't simply re-write the rules to suit ourselves, or the result would be chaos, and because large amounts of charity funds are involved there have to be set procedures to specify who is eligible to elect the committee. Committee members are personally responsible for proper management of branch funds (and could ultimately be made to pay them back if things went really wrong). If random people could attend committee meetings and vote there would be no way to hold them to account, and it would be very awkward if it was possible to come to a meeting, push through some hugely expensive project and then leave everyone else to cope.

If you are an existing volunteer, or a new one, and are interested in taking part in decision-making at local or national level, the first thing you need to do is to join the RSPCA. (Make sure you request that your details are passed on to the local branch and that you become a branch member as well as a national one).

Three months after your application has been processed, you will be eligible to vote and stand in branch elections. You should automatically be sent details of the date of your own branch's Annual General Meeting (which is where the elections take place) and a nomination form which you can use to submit yourself as a candidate for election to the committee. You need to get supporting signatures from two other branch members (usually if you contact the existing committee they will be only too delighted to arrange this as most committees are short of members). 

For a valid election the branch AGM must be attended by at least 10 members and each committee member needs to receive at least 50% of the votes of those present in order to be elected (members can vote for as many candidates as they like, but can only place one vote per candidate).

Once you have been elected, your troubles will be only just starting...

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