BUCS Member Engagement Project July 2011 Vince Mayne Deputy Director of Student Services Coventry University Contents Page Project Framework 3 Data Collection 3 Feedback of key themes 4 Discussion and Potential Areas for Development 6 Conclusions 9 Appendices West Midlands 11 South West 14 Yorkshire 18 South East 24 North East 28 East Midlands 31 Scotland 33 BUCS member engagement project Project framework A series of workshops were delivered across the regions of England plus Wales and Scotland and used the framework from “Structured Debrief” to gain as much information as possible around three key areas. The first section looked at what BUCS either needs to more of, isn’t doing at all, needs to do better/is doing it badly or should be doing. The second section looked at what BUCS is doing now and doing well – the services, products, support etc which members felt for them was the most important. The final section challenged the members in that THEY are BUCS and so what three things will they do which will make BUCS as an association better. The workshops started with and open and frank discussion around what BUCS is doing and perhaps from the members perspective what they are failing to do currently. These sessions challenged people to think constructively but critically about what the role of BUCS is, has this role changed at all and should it change further in the current climate. From this some key themes emerged which were recorded and aligned with the other regions covered. All the responses from the participants have been recorded and are attached verbatim as appendices along with the number of members who attended the session. Once all the data had been recorded the text was analysed using NVivo 9 software to highlight the key areas as reported by members and these are presented in the feedback section of this report. The final section of the report makes some recommendations/proposals about how BUCS might address some of these issues either from comments from participants or from the project coordinator. Data collection Workshops were conducted in the West Mids, East Mids, Yorkshire, North East, Scotland, South West and South East regions of BUCS. Approximately 85 attendees* took part in the workshop sessions which lasted approximately 2 hours. Over 600 datasets were collected across the 3 areas of study. These were transcribed verbatim as described above and then analysed to determine the key words contained and the key themes which emerged from the workshops. *The workshop in Scotland was conducted as a part of the SUS conference with all the delegates taking part and results were forwarded as collated feedback not individual comments. Over 100 delegates attended the workshop session but are not included in the percentages in the data analysis. Feedback of key themes Section 1 – What is BUCS not doing currently, should do better, should do more of? Table 1 – Section 1 - % feedback by category, negative themes Category TOTAL % Marketing and Communication 24.36 Competition and Events 22.22 Structure and Governance 17.95 CPD / Training and Support 8.12 Individual comments 7.69 Financial Issues 4.70 Participation 4.27 Conference 2.56 Volunteering 2.14 Advocacy 2.14 Regional Support 2.14 Standards 1.71 Key themes and comments Marketing and Communication – “consultation just not happening”, no feedback given after info is requested – “need more consultation events like this” – “Consultation like this needed every year”, “Need an effective communications strategy” – decisions are not transparent Competitions and events – need transparency of rules and equitable application of these, focus felt to be too much on elite end including international – more should be on broader and home competitions Structure and Governance – “need a regional presence” Regional support, 5 year plan? Not just about competitions or student sport – uni sport; “BUCS doesn’t reflect the whole sector, just student competition”. Members need input into workplans, esp. of CEO and development team, annual work programme to define work and priorities for BUCS CPD and training – customer service charter? Published expectations/standards, staff knowledge is poor – need better staff training esp. around rules and regs, response needs to be quicker Financial issues – “value for money”, “transparency of where money goes” Volunteers – no use of expertise from within the sector “BUCS to contact members re possible volunteers or experts to lead development areas/events”, “have lost engagement/input of volunteer roles, need to better utilise skills and expertise of the members – seeking help doesn’t mean CEO or staff are any less capable” Conference – programme needs to reflect the variety of areas, motivating and leaders for keynotes, “Create exciting breakouts – engage us, not bore us!” Section 2 - What is BUCS doing now that is good, well received, important? Table 2 - Section 2 - % feedback by category, positive themes TOTAL % Competition and Events 39.52 Advocacy 21.90 Marketing and Communication 17.14 Structure and staffing 9.05 Individual comments 7.62 CPD / Training and Support 2.38 Participation 1.43 Leadership 0.95 Competitions framework – range and variety are good. All regions thought this was area was good – BUT, this was one of the few positives and perhaps shows an overreliance on competitions as the “raison d’être” for BUCS, which is not what its members want. Marketing and Communications – website and handbook, brand ID is strong Advocacy and representation – one voice for HE sport Section 3 - What are you going to do to make sure BUCS becomes more successful, more efficient? Table 3 - Section 3 - % feedback by category, member commitment TOTAL % Communication 51.30 Involvement 25.97 Competitions programme /Rules and regulations 11.04 Training and development 2.60 Advocacy 1.95 Individual comments 7.14 The themes from this section are self-evident however it should be noted that members are aware of their need to communicate with BUCS head office more effectively and also that over a quarter of members would be keen and interested to be more involved with BUCS as it develops. Discussion and Potential key areas for development Marketing and Communications Marketing and communication were key themes which emerged in both the negative and positive sections. This perhaps highlights the difficulty faced in attempting to please a varied membership with a variety of products and services. It provoked the most responses and often the most feeling amongst the respondents in the negative section whilst in the positive section it highlighted what a majority of members valued and thus perhaps provides a focus on what BUCS needs to develop to enhance member satisfaction. Firstly the development of a Communications strategy to enhance information flow, improve transparency and provide feedback to members. Feedback must be delivered following any consultation and must be timely. It should also where appropriate highlight the achievements and performance of BUCS Head Office team as well as the range of services on offer – not just the competitions elements of the BUCS service. Secondly clarity is required about “Who is BUCS?” BUCS is not the team of head office, permanent staff, it is not the executive groups – it is the members and all of the above. Currently there is confusion amongst members, staff and even the chair who “reviewed the performance of BUCS” at conference – whereas in reality he reviewed the performance of the head office team. It might be timely to develop a campaign along the lines of “We are BUCS” or similar to engage the members and clearly identify their place and role in the organisation. At the same time it should be clearly stated in all communication and marketing that the “BUCS Head Office Team” or similar are the permanent staff members of the organisation but are never identified solely as BUCS as this removes the members and identifies a small group of people only. Broader and more regular consultation events at regional level and across “levels” within the sector (DoS, Sports Admin, Sports Dev, Sabbs etc) that are inclusive need to be planned and implemented whilst retaining the desire to not overburden members with questionnaires and surveys etc. There is currently a perception of the “chosen few” who are regularly consulted whilst the masses are ignored. This perception would be completely removed via this process. It should also be publicised through the Marketing and Comms strategy with clear response deadlines for members to achieve (which must be realistic and sympathetic to annual pressures of the academic year). Branding was felt to be strong and effective however there was a view that “sub-brands” which might still identify with BUCS but which covered potentially such as intra-mural, health and fitness etc could be included as a family of brands. The website was seen as being strong and user friendly and again should be marketed as a strength of the organisation. Structure and Governance Firstly it was felt that the development of an overall BUCS strategy would clearly set out for members where BUCS was moving towards alongside which the establishment of detailed 5 year plans would provide a framework against which the members could chart the developments and progress of the organisation through the head office team.” Transparency” was a key theme which emerged in this area as members were unsure about the work being undertaken on their behalf and often felt that they were not consulted on new developments prior to them being initiated. Secondly a rolling 5 year plan would provide the clarity and transparency of direction as well as providing an element of accountability to work undertaken and some security to permanent BUCS staff who would then be working under the agreed mandate of the members through the 5 year plan. Thirdly this could be further enhanced by the production of annual work programmes for CEO and Development teams which were published or promoted to members perhaps through conference or the website. This would not need to be highly detailed, week by week programmes but the major objectives or work programmes to be undertaken during that year. Volunteer management This was presented in a number of guises which included “experts” from within the sector who could usefully be used to extend the “headcount” of the BUCS head office team alongside typically “real” volunteers who undertake a variety of tasks on behalf of BUCS. All of these volunteers need effective management and also a fit for purpose reward and recognition process. Volunteer management is required to set clear objectives and parameters for the volunteers in the roles they undertake. This needs to be carefully thought out and implemented through any structures, events or activities which utilise volunteers. There is a wealth of expertise across the sector which could more than adequately provide this structure and process to avoid providing copious detail within this report. Within this the use of experts from within the sector to help in driving areas forward – “Task and Finish Groups” are felt to be an under-utilised resource to support the work of the BUCS head office team. This may be through links with NGB’s or external organisations or experience and knowledge of the area under development. It would also serve to further engage a range of members in actively developing BUCS and again provide a much needed additional workforce. Thirdly it was felt that there are a range of volunteers who could lead specific “Operational Groups” aligned to the very successful professional development days already being delivered. These could mirror the work being undertaken across the sector and provided a valuable and useful resource for members to draw from. These could include and Health and Fitness Group, Sports Development Group, Performance Sport Group for example, all of which could be led and delivered by volunteers providing a more extensive range of services and products to the membership. Finally it is crucial that a reward and recognition policy is planned and implemented. Again the expertise exists to deliver this for BUCS quickly and effectively from within the sector however it is critical to note that currently volunteers are expressing concern that they are not valued or recognised for the work they undertake and there is a risk that further disengagement could result in a loss of volunteers willing to undertake roles on behalf of BUCS. The reward and recognition policy should include area such as payment of reasonable expenses, role description, mentoring and development of the volunteer (if appropriate), supervision and management support, recognition process etc. CPD programme This again falls into two discrete sections. Of primary importance is the development of an internal, on-going training programme for BUCS head office staff. This would ensure full knowledge of areas of the operation and avoid the development of a “go to person” who does know the answer to member’s queries or who other staffs always seemingly refer to. This training needs to be backed up with clear, concise and equitable application of the rules of the BUCS competition, something which members felt is not happening currently. Finally if resource permits it may be possible to develop a CPD programme for members within the sector, potentially from using the Operational Groups as described above and linking with an external organisation to deliver accredited training. This might include a “staff exchange programme” supervised by BUCS which allows for staff to shadow colleagues in other institutions. Membership management and database Much of the above can only be realistically achieved if a reliable and appropriate membership database is developed. This could be updated live by members at the time of renewal but could then deliver specific contact details for activities undertaken – thus providing the ability to undertake targeted marketing and consultation for example. It could manage queries and workflow of BUCS head office staff in response to these and thus provide useful management information to both develop the business of the organisation as well as feedback to members. Members also felt that a brief but clear “Members Service Charter” or similar would be helpful to remove any perceived lack of transparency about work being undertaken and responses to queries as well as giving very clear descriptions about the expectations that members should have about the service they would receive from the BUCS head office team. This might include the maximum time to respond to phone queries, emails or letters; how long it would normally take to complete an appeal process etc. This could very easily diffuse some of the perceptions and issues being experienced by members currently. Conclusions BUCS is a strong and vibrant association full of experienced, enthusiastic and energetic people – staff, members and executive/board members who all share a desire to win and succeed, both personally, professionally and for BUCS. It faces some tough challenges in the coming years in both the external political and economic climates but also internally from its members both because of the external environment but also as the members demand a “value for money” service from the use of their reducing budgets. To achieve this it is felt that the following four areas need to be addressed as a matter of urgency: Communication needs to improve significantly both from the BUCS head office staff to its member and vice versa. Transparency was a key word which emerged in several areas repeatedly – it is crucial that members are informed about work being undertaken, are able to shape through AGM and other forums the direction of BUCS and be involved in delivering where appropriate. However it is crucial to ensure that the head office team are empowered to “get on with their work” and not be micro-managed by the members as this would severely curtail the efficiency of the organisation. Communication is a key issue – it is not just about information giving (website and newsletter) but about giving and receiving info between BUCS head office and Members – and both have a responsibility to do this well. The focus needs to broaden away from just competitions – BUCS is about university sport in its broadest sense, not just high level competition. The focus needs to be inclusive of all the areas covered by the membership – Health and Fitness, Sports Dev etc – BUCS is not “Son of BUSA” however this is a common perception at present. This concept needs to be accepted by BUCS head office staff and reinforced and reflected to the members through the services and products offered. BUCS needs to be a member driven association run in a businesslike way – not purely a business. It needs to provide services and products which its members want and need through consultation to determine what those services and needs are. It needs to develop mechanisms which actively engage its members in the everyday business of BUCS rather than be perceived to hold them at arms length. There is a huge amount of experience, expertise and willingness amongst the members which needs to be effectively harnessed. Members want to be involved in what BUCS does and be able to know and see what is happening however members need to accept that if they offer to undertake a role then they must deliver – it is not acceptable to undertake a volunteer role yet do nothing. BUCS assuredly has a long and lively future ahead of it – the challenge is to ensure that it retains university sport at its heart, fuelled by its members with the energy and passion that they bring to this association and steered by an effective and responsive head office team.
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