Getting your Message Across

Communication skills, press contacts and cuttings, community media etc.

or: Dealing with Media and PR

Communicating the issues

Communication skills are a much under-rated area, whether used for managing staff or getting a response from the public. Knowing your intended audience and how to reach them is important, but so is remembering that others outside those you are targeting are likely to come across what you are saying too. Do you, for instance, want to convey to health professionals the urgency of some concern, without creating wider panic? Is a contingency plan necessary, in case the message gets scrambled by the media?

Most of this page is about the mass media, but presentations (at events, conferences) can be a way of getting to key people.

Public speaking really needs to be practised if you want to improve your skills. While reading up on techniques and common problems may help you identify what needs improving, there is nothing like a live demonstration, practice and feedback offered in good courses. There are quite a few around – check out the Management Centre, DSC etc. on our Training page. Our Media Services page has some sources of technical training and advice, as well as ‘handling the media’ stuff.

Communication Resources

See Comms and Campaigning support/networking organisations, on the Functional Support page.

Clarity and access

The 1999 Plain English Awards demonstrated that complex research findings do not have to be explained in a complicated way. Using a magazine format that combines clear language and pictures with audio tapes, the University of Bristol series of ‘Plain Facts’ publications makes research messages accessible to people with learning and literacy difficulties. The topics covered include employment, training, welfare benefits, housing, and crime. Launched in 1997, magazines and tapes are published jointly by the Norah Fry Research Centre in Bristol and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. See Plain English Campaign website.

On the web

Social Media

Online communication outlets such as Twitter and Facebook develop and change quickly. A generalist site like VolResource can really only signpost to likely useful material – do check that it is still current.

Making Contact with the Media

Finding the right person, address, even title for a publication you want to target to cover your message, can be tricky.

You may know all your local publications, but no harm in checking at the library – getting the right person, job title and a feel for what stories they are interested in will pay dividends. The specialist trade press, such as Farmers Weekly or Nursing Today, are good places to start researching an industry, for relevant organisations to contact or watch.

While nothing can beat personal contacts, there are a number of ‘press guides’, with all types of media contacts indexed in different ways:

  • Brad Insight Media Planning is designed to help research, plan and buy UK media effectively.
  • Check Local Media Works for regional/local press info. Part of News Media Association (a merger between the Newspaper Society and Newspaper Publishers Association, Nov. 2014) .
  • Periodical Publishers Association has a links page for magazines on the net (published by members).
  • PR Newswire UK Media Directory, bi-monthly. Also publishes UK Media Town by Town, European Media Directory. PR Newswire Europe, Communications House, 210 Old St, London, EC1V 9UN, phone 020 7490 8111, email:
  • Vuelio’s Media Database Incorporates Willings, Cision, Benn’s? National and regional press, trade and consumer publications, broadcast and freelance writers.

Magazines, newspapers, radio and TV with an online presence are all on the ‘independent online media directory’ (previously Media UK).

Press Resources

Before sending out a press release, make sure you have asked yourself ‘why (and when) is this news?’, ‘who might be interested and what will they want to know?’, ‘what media do they look at/listen to?’, ‘how do we make contact there?’. A scatter-gun approach may yield results if you have a really hot issue, but otherwise background research helps. A good hook, correctly baited and in the right place, should catch the fish you want!

Press Releases, photos, newspaper sites

PRNewswire has an archive of press releases under various topics (don’t just look under Charity). May provide some useful pointers and background for your own releases. Check out PRWeb too – they can distribute your press release via the net for free (but it is US based).

Press Association (now PA Media) is the main national news agency for UK and Ireland. Their Mediapoint online newswire has a list of free-to-use UK news web sites, as well as their own editorial contacts.

Media UK reckons it can get you to any section of an online newspaper in 4 clicks.

Also check out the Press Guide websites listed above, such as Pims, for the additional services they are increasingly providing.

Press Cuttings and Media Monitoring

Press Cuttings Bureaux usually work on searching for key words (often your organisation’s name but it can be whatever you specify). Some charge for a period, others for a set number of items found.

  • Durrants, now part of Gorkana. Press, internet, newswire and broadcast monitoring. Discovery House, 28-42 Banner Street, London, EC1Y 8QE, phone 020 7674 0200.
  • International Press Cutting Bureau, 224 Walworth Road, London, SE17, phone 020 7708 2113.
  • Vuelio (was Romeike) Also offer international monitoring, express monitoring, digital delivery, summaries & translations and a range of media evaluation and analysis services.

Press Association Library, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4P 4BE, phone 020 7353 7440. Holds over 14 million news cuttings, starting from 1926!


PR Week is the trade mag for Public Relations people, which covers charities and public sector in amongst the rest.

Chartered Institute of Public Relations is the professional body, providing training, PR toolkit and other relevant publications.

See Media Services for some specialist agencies.

Specialist Media Outlets

AskCharity is a database of charity contacts (run by CharityComms) to help journalists contact appropriate sector sources of expertise and knowledge for breaking news.

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (an independent voice for media reform) can offer advice on the ‘right of reply’. Phone 020 8521 5932.

The BBC is well-known for Charity Broadcasts (not just disaster appeals).

Together TV has taken over from Community Channel – it exists “to motivate people to do more in their lives, and for the lives of others.”

Sector support bodies may have websites which accept press releases or other news and events from members or the wider voluntary sector, for example Community NI in Northern Ireland. How well this is then picked up by the wider media will vary – you may want to check who else is/has used the service – but any cost should be low.

Charity Today website carries news submitted by UK charities. Other such sites come and go occasionally.

Also see Campaign Resources page.

Alternative and Community Media

Community Media

Full-time ‘Third tier’ community radio stations licences have been issued in stages from 2005. See Ofcom for information on the process – also details of the Community Radio Fund, designed to help such stations get going. To contact community radio stations, try Commedia.

Commedia – Community Media Association. News, information, services and a gateway to community media organisations in the UK and worldwide, especially community radio and webcasts. Community television and film too.


Check out Undercurrents – Video Activism.

AlterNet is US based – may be of interest to journalists.

INK is a ‘trade association of independent periodicals which tackle issues of social, political and personal change, … helping its members in areas like distribution and publicity’. Links to member sites and there should also be access to the publications too (still being developed?).

Indymedia UK ‘is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues’.



The 4 Ps – Price, Place, Promotion, Product

This is part of your marketing mix – these elements all have their part to play, but which is most important in your activity? They usually have to be translated in the voluntary world e.g. Promotion might mean how do service users get to hear about your service (Product) or how do you lobby your local council to provide initial funding. Place is where you provide the service/product – a high street location will make your marketing task a lot different from being in a shed out of town! Price often translates into cost with vol orgs, but perhaps could include non-financial transactions (e.g. volunteer time) when selling the product to a funder.

For Services, there are 3 more Ps: People (attitude and behaviour of staff or volunteers), Process (how the service is delivered), Physical evidence (of quality). 2 more have been suggested: Philosophy (particularly for charities) and Perception.

Ansoff Matrix

ansoff matrix

Here the idea is that you should a) be aware of the relative risk of options and b) ideally have your developments spread amongst these four – high risk is doubly so if there are no low risk ventures to fall back on. Of course many charities are very risk averse – they don’t want to endanger their core operation or even think risk isn’t allowed by law! But the no risk option probably doesn’t exist (staying still often means stagnation, few aspirations or challenges for staff, poor motivation …). In a changing world, change (and therefore risk) is ever present and needs to be managed if the core is to be protected.

Boston Matrix

Boston Consulting came up with the amazing insight of dividing business activities into:
– cash cows – the products or services which make money
– (rising) stars – take up a lot of money to develop/run, bring in matching money only
– dogs – low cost, low income
– problem children – low income, high expenditure (drain on resources)
We haven’t done the diagram for you, but imagine it within the 4 squares shown in Ansoff.

Again organisations are likely to have a mixture of these, with the key being to identify which is which and how to move them into a more positive category (or get rid of them – not so easy in the voluntary sector as you cant just sell off a ‘under-performing’ activity). You may want to turn the purely financial assessment into ‘do they come up with valued services in respect to the time and/or money cost?’


Some other terms you might come across:

AIDA Awareness (or attention), Interest, Decision (or desire), Action. The stages of attracting someone to purchase or take some other action in an advertising campaign.

Cause related marketing (CRM – see below too!) A tie-in with a commercial company’s promotion which is intended to add value to both organisations. The cause/organisation gains from exposure while the business gets more sales (it hopes). There can be downsides e.g. if the commercial partner gets bad press or has other activities which upset members or other stakeholders.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) One of those buzzwords (or rather phrases) which often appears to promise a lot and delivers little. Usually means building up a database of information on customers – their purchasing habits, interests as well as address details – so promotions can be better targeted and enquiries dealt with with greater focus on customer needs. Membership/ donor management software and systems are broadly comparable in voluntary sector marketing. Keep an eye out for what can be gleaned from commercial CRM developments, and hope that the software firms learn too.

KISS Keep it Short and Simple. General advice on getting a message across in most environments.

Viral marketing Using others (customers, contacts, ‘opinion formers’ etc) to relay your message to friends, colleagues. This has been particularly used in web or email approaches, trying to get page views by creating a ‘cool’ site.


Market Research Society ‘The world’s largest professional body for individuals employed in market research or with an interest in it’. 15 Northburgh Street, London, EC1V 0JR, phone 020 7490 4911.


Crossbow Research is a consultancy specialising in voluntary organisations, recommended in various places. Shawley House, 5 Shawley Way, Epsom, Surrey, KT18 5NZ, phone 01737 358 077, email:

Volunteer Management

Although it is called the ‘voluntary sector’, not all organisations use volunteers in carrying out their work. It is only the governing body (the people ultimately responsible for the organisation) who have to be volunteers, and even that is not absolutely essential. (See Glossary)

Recruiting and Managing Volunteers

  • A Volunteer Training Bank was hosted by the Museum of London website, but gone with site redesign in April 2018 – pdfs may still be accessible by searching the site, or googling Volunteer Training Bank.
  • Volunteering In the Arts Toolkit with English (2012) and Scottish (2015) versions.

See our Volunteering Opportunities page for online listing services/apps, other volunteering agencies, pro bono brokers etc.

Online Volunteering

Also known as virtual volunteering or micro-volunteering.

Online Volunteering, managed by United Nations Volunteers, is also worth a look.

Jayne Cravens is an expert in online volunteering. She refers to the above two sites, but adds (in a UKVPM posting) a caution not expect to launch a community of OVs over night. “Start with just one or two online volunteering tasks, and a very small number of online volunteers, so you can build up your own skills in online people management. Don’t overwhelm yourself — it’s so easy to do when starting an OV project.”

Help from Home website has died, September 2017, but still posting about micro-volunteering on Facebook.

Organisations for Volunteer Managers

Slightly different is the Association of Independent Volunteer Centres, a collaboration of five volunteer centres in Northern Ireland. Website disappeared at May 2017, but only registered as a NI charity in 2015.

Training and skills for Volunteer Managers

As well as short courses provided on relevant subjects by most of the umbrella bodies listed in the first section on this page, and those listed on our short courses page, check out:

  • Investing in Volunteers is a quality standard for organisations that involve volunteers in their work, covering planning for volunteer involvement, recruiting volunteers, selecting and matching volunteers and supporting and retaining volunteers. There is also Investing in Volunteers for Employers, for those running employee volunteering programmes.
  • National Occupational Standards for Managing Volunteers – see our Training Resources page.
  • Institute of Leadership & Management has qualifications which starts at NVQ level 3 and do go up to level 5 (link missing at Oct. 2014). For the nearest ILM Centre offering the NVQs phone 01543 266867.
  • OpenLearn: Involving Volunteers A short online course on volunteering developed by Volunteer Scotland and the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at Open University Business School. “This course is about the essential things you need to consider to ensure a positive experience for individuals engaging in volunteering.”
  • PNE Development provides a range of NVQ qualifications (ILM accredited) for Volunteer Managers and deliver them through an e-learning and e-assessment system.
  • Various Scottish courses from Volunteer Scotland.
  • One hour online sessions to improve the way to involve volunteers from Rebecca Tully.
  • New Zealand Competencies for Managers of Volunteers are worth checking.

Volunteer Management Software

Better Impact (previously Volunteer Squared) is a web-based system, originally from Canada.

Three Rings, produced by a team of volunteers working for Three Rings CIC, a not-for-profit company. In use by university Nightlines, Samaritan branches, community libraries etc.

Simply Connect seems to be the new name for VC-Connect (developed by Voluntary Action Sheffield), which developed a back-office system for volunteer centres to track the organisations and volunteers they are working with. See info on the connected Volunteer Connect online platform.

Has the current version of Do-It , the listings website for volunteering vacancies (revamped late 2014), abolished the old V-Base software which linked with it, designed mainly for volunteer centres?

TeamKinetic A web based system, designed in Manchester.

Volbase: There are various programs with this name, including one used by IBM for their own use in volunteer matching.

VolSoft, an American outfit, produces The Volunteer Reporter, which has been mentioned on UKVPM as worth checking.

Volgistics is a web-based recruiting tracking and coordinating system from the US. The previous VolunteerWorks desktop program has been retired.

VolunteerHub is another American online offering for managing volunteers.

Also see: Membership (and fundraising) systems will often have relevant facilities for volunteer management.

Further Resources

More information on the web


Volunteer Management Issues

A lot of avoidable tensions between volunteers and the rest of an organisation are about differences in expectations, often unvoiced. Remember it is a two-way contract – volunteers want something in return for their efforts, whether it is ‘only’ a feeling of satisfaction from doing something useful or contributing to society. They could also be looking for work experience, including learning new skills, something to put on their CV or a chance to influence. It is helpful if this ‘unwritten contract‘ is out in the open, along with what level of commitment the organisation is looking for, and policies on behaviour (e.g. advance warning of absences, conforming to equal opportunities requirements) and expenses, for instance. You should make sure that this can’t be interpreted as an employment contract, which could open a whole can of worms.

For issues around trade union relations and how volunteers relate to paid staff in providing services, see our Glossary, under Drain Guidelines, for Guidelines for relations between volunteers and paid workers in the Health and Personal Social Services.

For legal issues see Volunteers section under Legal matters, or Volunteer expenses.

Older volunteers

VITA (Volunteering Initiative for the Third Age) was a project of WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service), to raise the profile of volunteering by older people, and to remove barriers. Project closed Nov ’06.

Insurance can be an issue leading to upper age limits being imposed. Proper health and safety risk assessments could be a better way of deciding whether a volunteer is suitable for/capable of a particular job.

Time Management



For many voluntary sector managers, the work to be done simply will not fit into the time available, and this can lead to considerable stress. Failure to manage time effectively can have a cumulative effect: it increases pressure on you, which is likely to reduce your efficiency, and it can make you feel as if you are not doing your job properly. Dr Jill Mordaunt of the Open University Business School examines some of the causes of poor time management.

Problems with time management are likely to include wasted time, interruptions and changing priorities. One way of addressing this difficulty within your work routine is to examine your actual use of time and compare this to how you would like to use your time.

  • Plan how you should use your time to be more effective at work.
  • Analyse how you currently use your time.
  • Reflect on how these differ and what you want to change.
  • Change your use of time.
  • Review progress to ensure your approach is still appropriate.

Plan your time

Crisis management or ‘fire-fighting’ can easily become a habit. Balancing the urgent with the important is a problem faced by every voluntary sector manager! Important activities are often more long-term than urgent ones, and are likely to affect key issues of staffing, investment, planning, customer relations, systems development and so on. Issues like managing the day to day necessities of ensuring that staff/volunteers are available for opening times, can easily take over from longer term issues such as cataloguing or planning new exhibits. Urgent tasks may not have the same long-term impact, but unless they are dealt with quickly there may be no long term. Taking time to plan both urgent and important tasks can also reduce your stress by making you feel more in control of your workload.

Analyse your time use

Keep a detailed log for a typical week at work. Probe long task lists to identify key work areas. For example, how much time do you spend in:

  • managing and supporting staff
  • managing organisational tasks
  • managing your own tasks.

Reflect on how you use your time

Reflecting on how you could use your time better entails making comparisons and identifying alternatives before deciding on a course of action. Experience is important in management, but it’s only valuable if you learn from it! If you develop the habit of reflection you should be able to use your experience as a vehicle for learning. The technique of keeping a time log, analysing it and then using it to reflect enables you to learn from your own experience.

Analysing your time will also enable you to compare the actual use of your time against your management objectives; the time you allocate to important work, and to urgent matters.

Change your use of time

Having acquired an understanding of how you use your time, and examined possibilities for improvement, you then have the opportunity to make changes. Here are a number of approaches which might help you improve your use of time:

  • Be clear about your role as a senior manager
  • Negotiate your commitments – this is particularly important, if you identify that you have too much to do. It may be more realistic to try to do less.
  • Adjust the balance of your working day
  • Undertake further training to develop your skills
  • Plan and schedule use of time more carefully
  • Use your diary as a planning tool
  • Delegate routine tasks
  • Prioritise tasks to be achieved in a day/week
  • Spend more time managing; not as a ‘player’
  • Identify three things you will achieve in the next week to improve time management

Reviewing progress

After two or three weeks, stop and review your time management: what has gone well, what could have been improved, and what went wrong and why. This exercise should be repeated occasionally, and especially if your workload changes. Above all remember that one of the hardest task drivers is often our own high standards. Make your slogan ‘Good enough is good’!


This article is based on the workbooks of The Open University Business School’s Managing – for Public and Non-Profit Sectors and was written by Dr Jill Mordaunt, one of the course team. This course is part of the Open University’s Professional Certificate in Management Programme. The courses are presented at regular intervals throughout the year. For next course start dates and deadlines for registration, contact the OUBS Information Line on 08700 100311 or visit the OUBS website. © OUBS


Self Management

Handling Stress

This is not just a personal responsibility – how your job is defined, internal and external expectations, organisational structures are some other areas which ought to be looked at. But it can be a very personal thing, with your own motivation and personality type making a huge difference.

BurnoutBusters is part of (we love the name). American, so while the differences in issues wont be that great, the availability of further resources (e.g. books) may be.

International Stress Management Association UK is more for the personnel professional, and exists to promote sound knowledge and best practice in the prevention and reduction of human stress.

Managing your manager (and colleagues)

Where you report to a management committee, particular trustee or such, take a look at the Governance page. There may well be issues around responsibility and power in the organisation.

Managing upwards is a skill in itself. It can be tricky getting across to your boss why something is important, especially if it falls outside their immediate remit or experience. They are likely to have their own pressures and priorities which they can’t relate to your concerns, so you have to help them. Certainly most in the voluntary sector have, or did have, some commitment to the cause, which can be an advantage in finding a way of communicating (by connecting on an area of mutual interest for instance). However, there are also downsides in that individuals can care passionately about a particular aspect or have come to the organisation with their own agenda. If you disagree, relations can become very tense.

Trustee and Member Resources


Don’t forget that trustees often go under another name. In charities which are limited companies, they will also be company directors. The board might be called a management committee.

Training, Advice, Networks

There have been a number of initiatives around ‘Good Trusteeship’ over the years, although some have now disappeared off the web. Here are some useful current results.

Charity Trustee Networks became part of Small Charities Coalition in 2011.

NCVO’s Governance and Leadership pages now generally refer elsewhere.

In Northern Ireland Volunteer Development Agency, which has become part of Volunteer Now, had a governance project offering training, support and information for management committee members – now defunct? But see the next item.

DIY Committee Guide provides online access to “extensive resources and guidance for voluntary management committees in Northern Ireland”.

TrusteElearning has 12 online training modules developed by the Governance Hub and Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisation.

See Functional support bodies for Charity Treasurers’ Forum.

Other umbrella bodies have useful material. For example Supported Housing Alliance has Job descriptions for Company Secretary, Treasurer, Management Committee member etc. (look under Publications).

Published Guidance

Codes of conduct:

Duties of Charity Trustees pocket size introduction to the issues from specialist solicitors Bates Wells and Braithwaite.

Charity Commission also publishes guidance. See The Essential Trustee (CC3) for instance and check out other material on their web site. Also of interest CC24 Users on Board: Beneficiaries who become trustees looking at how potential conflicts of interest can occur, suggests ways to minimise their effects and lists sources of further guidance for charities looking at the issue. Publications order line 01823 345427.

There’s a trustee’s checklist on our Governance issues page.


REACH recruits volunteers (to be placed in a charity of community group) with managerial, professional and technical experience, including for trustee positions. 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TP, phone 020 7582 6543. Also has Scottish, Welsh and NI bases.

Bar in the Community is a Bar Council initiative which aims to help voluntary sector groups by identifying barristers willing to serve on Management Committees. It is not about barristers providing free legal advice, rather that they have many other valuable skills which would benefit voluntary organisations. Bar in the Community, c/o Bar Pro Bono Unit, 289-293 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HZ, phone 020 7611 9511.

ICSA (company secretaries) runs a trustee register to help with the recruitment of charity trustees.

Trustees Unlimited is a joint venture of NCVO, Bates Wells and Russam, to support good governance and find new trustees. Note: nota free service.

Trustee Finder is a service from Small Charities Coalition and the volunteering site Do-it.

Business in the Community NI can help with skilled volunteers, including board members.

Also see: our Consultancy page for projects putting professionals with particular skills in touch with local projects (under Business Links). Sector support bodies sometimes publish such ‘opportunities’ or have lists.


Voluntary organisations have members for a whole host of reasons. Some exist purely for their members, such as self-help groups (educational as well as supportive), others want member involvement in campaigns, raising funds or volunteer activities to carry out various functions . While there are many membership issues in common, such as keeping records (see Membership Software), others will be more particular. If making comparisons with other groups on how they handle members, do think about what is different in your case and apply lessons appropriately.


The Charity Commission has produced (April 1999) with ICSA, a guide to Charities and meetings (ref CC48), with suggestions on good practice, specimen notice and venue checklist as well guidance on the law. Registered charities should obtain in the usual way from the Charity Commission.

Members’ Code of Conduct

When asked a question on this, we wondered why this wasn’t an issue with a higher profile. Perhaps it is because of the diversity of the sector. On a quick Google search, we came up with 2 contrasting examples: a family history society and a Lesbian, gay centre (ie building based), while the enquirer was going to have service users alongside community professionals and public sector members . What is essential for one could be completely over the top for another. We’ve looked at these as we put together something of a checklist on issues to consider. We would suggest that shortness, clarity and keeping the Code as ‘unheavy’ as possible are good guiding rules.

  • Control of the identity and intellectual property of the organisation. Should you highlight the need for permission to use the logo or name, reproduction or re-use of (published) material, who is allowed to speak on your behalf?
  • Conduct on the premises. In many instances, reference to ‘acceptable types of behaviour’ may be sufficient; in more sensitive contexts explicit reference to unacceptable actions which will result in immediate suspension/removal may be appropriate. What members should do if encountering abuse (of themselves, another person or the premises/equipment).
  • Codes for undertaking activities – e.g. field work. This starts to overlap with volunteering codes or policies, but if member means effectively the same as volunteer, does there need to be a separate document?
  • Are there more than one type of member? E.g. service users, service providers or volunteers. Where is the appropriate place to define conduct or boundaries of relationships? Are there possible professional discretions which could complicate a wish for complete openness, for instance?
  • Complaints, grievances. Who to address them to, how, timescales for response, maybe set procedures.
  • Disciplinary procedure / why and how someone’s membership might be revoked.
  • More positive statements about supporting the ideals and aims of the organisation. Tolerance of views, lifestyles, equal ops.
  • Establishing common expectations amongst members, to enhance interaction and understanding, reduce conflicts. Declarations of interest when debating issues.
  • Appropriate reference to the constitution. Try not to repeat or overlap too much, as that complicates any later amendments and peoples understanding of the legal position. The constitution, whether for a club, trust or a limited company, should always be seen as the prime document. Standing orders for meetings is another place for rules which could connect up (e.g. exercising voting rights, rules of debate).

Where membership may, entirely or partly, consist of other organisations, issues are more likely to be about avoiding conflicts of interest, clarity of roles and legal responsibility (which body is a person representing?).