Taking WWOOF UK Forward – Our Strategic Plan for the Next 3 Years
Approach to strategic planning
It is easy to ignore long-term plans when challenging issues and problems of the moment require our full attention. To step back from these immediate urgencies and look at the bigger picture is difficult. With all the internal and external changes (described below) we believe the time is right to remind ourselves of WWOOF’s original vision and values, to fix our direction and clarify our longer-term priorities. So we have developed a plan that clearly describes our strategy over the next 3-5 years, and enables us to regularly review our progress and adjust our priorities.
The strategy will:
- help the Directors to direct, the staff to implement, the members to benefit and the funders to support.
- reinforce our vision and values and enable us to communicate and promote our services consistently.
- demonstrate that we have good management providing a good service to members with good respect for the environment and people’s wellbeing.
- be the first step towards a business plan which will help the Directors and staff set and review financial budgets against the identified priorities.
- build on strengths and future opportunities and plans for weaknesses and future threats.
- reduce wasted time and resources.
- provide a structure for Council meetings and helps to track and review progress.
- provide clarity and a shared understanding about our objectives and priorities
- ensure priorities are a good fit with our vision and objectives
- ensure priorities are realistic and achievable
- ensure priorities are complementary to other organisations
WWOOF UK as the original and founding WWOOF organisation is now 43 years old. It has grown year on year in response to the huge voluntary commitment of its member hosts and WWOOFers. It has also started a worldwide movement of over 60 national organisations supporting the principles of WWOOF, with about 40 emerging national organisations. This movement links volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, thereby helping to building a sustainable global community. With this phenomenal growth has come major challenges in managing and updating our electronic communication with members and our cooperation with other national WWOOF organisations. The new development of the Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FoWo) has also diverted much of the work of WWOOF UK’s staff and Directors. In addition WWOOF UK’s membership has recently grown considerably (about 6%/yr) to nearly 6000 volunteers and 600 hosts (with particularly strong membership in SW England, Wales and Scotland) encouraging us to support hosts with our voluntary Regional Host Contacts. WWOOF UK currently has more members as Hosts and WWOOFers and a bigger financial turnover than ever.
Alongside all these internal changes we are legally required to maintain our educational role based on our charitable object “to advance the education of the public in the principles of the organic movement, and especially of organic farming and gardening, by the provision of bed and board and practical experience in return for help on organic farms and small-holdings.” This implies that we should not just be an online match-maker or placement agency between Hosts and WWOOFers.
During the same period there has been a huge growth in:
- the consumer demand for local and organic produce
- online information and communication
- the opportunities for cheap and easy international travel
- international volunteering
- the interest in learning the English language
- the interests in living a lower impact lifestyle
- the delayed employment of young adults
We have a description of what the world will look like when we are successful.
We want a sustainable global community that grows the organic movement, makes WWOOF a household name and engages with the local community, where adults of all backgrounds and ages are welcomed and have opportunities for experience and learn about low impact farming, food and lifestyles.
We will create this vision by declaring our fundamental purpose.
It is to link volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on non-monetary mutual benefit and trust.
We want WWOOFing to reach and benefit more people and more organic farming and growing throughout the UK.
For us organic farming and growing does not have to be certified. As we also support small-scale, non-commercial and community-based farming and growing it does not necessarily have to be approved to a particular standard by a certifying organisation. The food production and processing can be based on organic principles, small scale and environmentally aware. It is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. It includes techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control and uses natural, organic fertilizers and pesticides. To us it limits the use of petrochemicals, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms and nanomaterials.
3 Publicly declared statements
From WWOOF UK Guide to Hosting, 2014
WWOOF is an exchange – volunteers help in exchange for food, accommodation and learning opportunities in organic agriculture and low impact lifestyles.
The aims of WWOOF are to:
- enable people to learn first-hand about organic growing techniques
- enable people to experience life in the countryside
- help the organic movement, which is labour intensive
- give people in the organic movement a chance to meet, talk, exchange and learn
- provide an opportunity to learn about rural life in other countries by living and working together
From WWOOF UK promotional leaflet, 2014 and WWOOF UK Website
Teach people about organic growing and low impact lifestyles through hands-on experience in the UK.
Charitable objects of WWOOF UK
To advance the education of the public in the principles of the organic movement, and especially of organic farming and gardening.
These values and principles express our underlying beliefs and guide Directors and staff when making decisions. The four Principles of Organic Agriculture – Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care – developed by The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) serve to inspire the organic movement, including WWOOF UK, in its full diversity. They guide all WWOOF UK’s activities, development of projects and standards. Furthermore, they are presented with a vision of their world-wide adoption.
- Health – healthy soils produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people. This is the wholeness and integrity of living systems. We support the promotion of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being.
◦ Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
- Ecology – Everything operates within systems and cycles. We work in ways which reflect this interconnectedness.
◦ Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
- Fairness – is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings. We strive to act fairly and with respect in everything that we do.
◦ Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
- Care – means acting in a responsible manner. We consider our impact on the world, and the needs and values of others in the way we work.
◦ Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
Additionally we have five more core values:
- Voluntarism – the importance and power of voluntary action.
- Diversity and Inclusion – the importance and power of cultural diversity, international understanding and exchange with people of all backgrounds and ages living, working and learning together.
- Mutuality – the importance and power of mutual exchange of help and learning between hosts and WWOOFers.
- Trust – the importance and power of putting trust in other people – their honesty and good intentions.
- Lifelong learning – the importance and power of always being open to experiencing and learning with and from others eg. different ways of producing and processing food and lifestyles.
4 Strategic Issues
- These are fundamental, core decisions that must be made before the plan can be implemented.
- How should we support the global and local WWOOF communities?
- How do we make WWOOF a household name?
- How far should we provide education?
- What sort of WWOOFers should we be targeting?
- What number and type of hosts should we aim for?
- How should we communicate and market to members and what service do they want and should we provide?
- How can we remain financially healthy, and achieve our plan?
- How do we know that we are acting fairly, sustainably and legally?
There are key things we must do, to the exclusion of all else, to be successful moving forward.
- We must recruit more hosts. The current ratio of WWOOFers to hosts is 10:1.
Otherwise some members will not be able to volunteer as WWOOFers.
- We must make WWOOF more of a household name like larger environmental NGOs.
◦ Otherwise our vision will be meaningless and unachievable.
- We must promote relatively more local and regular volunteering by WWOOFers.. The current ratio of UK to non-UK WWOOFers is 1:3.
◦ Otherwise we will be relying unsustainably on international WWOOFers and there is a risk these numbers may decrease due to immigration controls, competition from other organisations, costs of travel etc. We will also drift from our original vision.
- We must ensure that all members have free educational opportunities to learn more about organic food production and low impact lifestyles.
◦ Otherwise our members will not help improve the level and quality of organic farming and smallholding, and there is a risk that we may loose our charitable status.
- We must promote sustainable travel by WWOOFers.
◦ Otherwise we will not be working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- We must communicate, engage and consult with members more regularly.
◦ Otherwise we will not provide a quality service that is needed by the members, and members will not feel part of the global WWOOF movement.
- We must maintain the WWOOF principles and support and cooperate with the worldwide WWOOF movement.
◦ Otherwise our original vision and values will be lost.
- We must provide more opportunities for adults of all backgrounds and ages.
◦ Otherwise we will just provide opportunities for able-bodied, middle-class, educated young adults.
- We must ensure that we are financially healthy and striving to meet our targets at all times by setting and reviewing budgets and performance targets.
◦ Otherwise we will not have the cashflow we need, and not know how well we are following our strategic plan and making the changes we want.
- We must regularly monitor and review the changing number and profile of members.
◦ Otherwise we will not know how well we are following our strategic plan and making the changes we want.
- We must ensure we are acting fairly and legally and to agreed policies and standards.
◦ Otherwise there is a risk that we may act illegally, incurring heavy costs, and that we will damage our reputation.
6 PESTLE Analysis
This is an analysis of the current and potential external influences on WWOOF UK and its activities – Political – Economic – Social – Technological – Legal – Environmental/ethical . It analyses the many external factors that may positively or negatively affect the future development of WWOOF UK. It also feeds into the external opportunities and threats considered in the SWOT analysis of the next section.
- WWOOF UK may not cover Scotland due to the referendum in September 2014 on Scottish devolution from the UK.
- Potential WWOOFers from other overseas countries will have more difficulty and potential cost entering the UK due to tougher immigration controls.
- EU nationals may have more difficulty and potential cost traveling to and volunteering in the UK due to the anti-EU public/political sentiment and potential UK withdrawal from the EU.
- Young adults will have less access to land due to the high monetary value of land and the concentration of landowning in the hands of a minority.
- Organic farmers may receive less political support from the UK Government and the EU as the economic recession continues.
- Farmers may continue to reduce the formal area of organic farming in the UK due to the economic recession. Organic farmers and businesses have suffered like most businesses from the economic crisis of the last seven years. However there has been an upturn in organic sales in 2013.
- Small-scale producers are being squeezed out of farming as large-scale agribusiness is more suited to supermarket-based supply chains.
- Consumer interest in organic food is increased whenever there is a high profile food scares such as the horse meat scandal.
- Non-monetary exchange is growing in popularity partly because of the economic and capitalist crisis.
- WWOOFers, especially from other southern EU countries, are increasing due to the economic recession and unemployment.
- Informal and online education is increasing, at the same time as the cost of higher education is increasing.
- Consistent and insistent branding and use of logos is increasingly common amongst NGOs.
- There is continuing interest in organic and low impact lifestyles.
- The media, especially TV and cooking programmes, gives good coverage to locally-produced, organic foods of known source.
- nternational cultural exchanges and English language learning is increasing.
- Learning by doing is the main form of training for the majority of farmers – 71% of EU farm managers learned their profession through practical experience only.
- The average age of the farming population in the EU is high – In the EU for one young farmer less than 35 years old there are 5 elderly farmers over 55 years old.
- Information and communication technologies are changing very fast and young adults are increasingly expecting high quality, accessible, interactive websites and well-used social media.
- The mechanisation of conventional agriculture means less people work on the land to produce food.
- Unsustainable technical and chemical innovation is often seen as the way to produce more food.
- The charitable status of WWOOF UK (as well as other WWOOF organisations) may be questioned by the Charity Commissioners and HMRC due to a lack of educational service.
- Litigation, especially about insurance, status of volunteers or nature of work, against WWOOF UK by WWOOFers or even Hosts may be a financial and public relations threat.Immigration controls and eligibility for visas are likely to be tightened.
- The exchange of seed not currently commercially available is likely to be controlled by the new EU regulation on the marketing of plant reproductive material. It will have an effect on the availability of rare varieties and farmers’ varieties, and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds, as well as eroding the diversity of crops.
- Climate change is increasing extreme weather, changing the seasons and pests and diseases etc, as well as providing opportunities for farming in a different way.
- Organic farmers are likely to have to control more foreign pests and diseases introduced to UK farms by the huge international trade in livestock, seed, agricultural products.
- The agricultural area under organic farming in the EU continues to increase (now 5.5%).
7 SWOT Analysis
This will help us assess our current internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. It will also help us identify our competitive advantage and niche, as well as our challenges and risks. The world around us is constantly changing.
External influences, over which we have little or no control can make or break our success. So we can only identify opportunities to exploit and threats to minimise.
This can protect us from the worst influences and help us profit from the best influences.
We only need be concerned in this plan about the main issues – those that will be critical to our security and success.
- WWOOF UK is a long established organisation (42+ years) which has spawned a worldwide movement. For many people it has achieved the original and ambitious vision to re-connect people with the land, themselves and each other.
- It is based on a very simple, easily explained and understood concept.
- WWOOF is now a strong, distinctive international brand, having been adopted as a verb.
- WWOOF UK is now financially secure based on membership fees.
- It is part of the increasingly popular green and social economy, based on barter, non-monetary exchange. .
- It promotes low-carbon, low impact farming and smallholding and produces healthy food.
- he focus is on one of the oldest, most fundamental and essential of human activities – growing and eating food. Land is the most important natural resource for humans.
- It increases biodiversity as more land is stewarded responsibly and organically.
- It promotes and celebrates traditional low impact lifestyles.
- It promotes cultural understanding between international WWOOFers, hosts and local communities that are often remote and rural.
- It is often life-changing for WWOOFers.
- It provides voluntary help for WWOOF hosts.
- It promotes international language skills.
- It has a relatively secure and regular cashflow.
- It is financially self-sufficient through its membership fees and is not dependent on external funding.
- The culture of the organisation is unbureaucratic, informal and relaxed.
- The office is decentralised and the small staff team mainly work remotely from their homes, part-time and all receive a standard low salary.
- There is currently no single, unified, collaborative worldwide WWOOF movement.
- It has low engagement with member eg. low numbers of members at the AGM, little communication between Council and members.
- It offers little support to WWOOFers once they are placed with a host.
- It offers little direct educational support to WWOOFers, relying on hosts to do this on a one-to-one basis.
- It offers little support to members who are not accepted by WWOOF hosts, with no refund if they not placed within one year.
- It does not offer insurance for WWOOFers.
- It uses inconsistent branding, descriptive phrases and promotional material.
- It is increasingly reliant on international WWOOFers.
- It is reliant on a small, dedicated staff team.
- It has no written business plan.
- It does not regularly monitor and evaluate the profiles and experiences of WWOOFers and hosts.
- It has few written policies and standards about financial, volunteering or staff management.
- More international WWOOFers, in order to increase income, and due to cheap, quick and easy international travel, the growing trend for international volunteering, especially by young adults, the growing interest in learning the English language, the interests in living a lower impact lifestyle, and the delayed employment of young adults.
- Specific recruitment and marketing of student work experience to further education college practical courses related to organic farming (eg. agriculture, horticulture, catering), in order to recruit more UK WWOOFers and support the organic movement.
- New developments to support WWOOFers eg. of apprenticeship scheme, of placements for agricultural students, career and new enterprise advice, in order to recruit more UK WWOOFers and support the organic movement.
- More development of a social media platform, especially for WWOOFers, in order to compete with other providers.
- More online education, especially for WWOOFers, in order to support the organic movement and remain charitable.
- Provide short taster sessions for targeted groups, in order to recruit more UK WWOOFers.
- Provide sustainable travel advice for international WWOOFers, in order to reduce their unsustainable air travel.
- More older WWOOFers, due to ageing European population, in order to recruit adults of all ages.
- More social and technical networking for local WWOOF hosts, supported by Regional Host Contacts, in order to support the UK organic movement.
- More UK hosts from a variety of farms and smallholdings that cover the whole of the UK, in order to support the UK organic movement.
- More partnerships with WWOOF organisations in other EU countries eg. for discounted group purchasing of insurance, in order to build the global community and support the organic movement.
- More partnerships, especially for shared marketing and education, with related UK organisations, in order to increase the proportion of UK WWOOFers.
- Partnerships with specialist UK organisations in order to provide support for disadvantaged individuals and groups, to provide work experience for agricultural students, to train hosts in managing and supporting volunteers.
- Partnerships with care farming and horticultural therapy organisations to use the land in a therapeutic way, in order to reach UK adults of all backgrounds.
- Communication and marketing
- Better e-communication, information and monitoring through website and social media, in order to improve service to members, due to new information technologies.
- More public interest in WWOOFing, in order to build the global community, due to the steadily growing consumer demand for local and organic produce, and low impact lifestyles.
- Greater promotion of healthy, active, low impact lifestyles, in order to build the global community.
- Potential funding sources for projects with UK and EU partners, for targeted groups, sustainable agriculture etc, in order to build the global community, target our recruitment and marketing, and develop an educational service.
Legislation and litigation
- Loss of charitable status of WWOOF UK (as well as other WWOOF organisations) by the Charity Commissioners and HMRC, due to a lack of educational service as we are legally required to maintain our educational role based on our charitable object.
- Financial and public relations threat, due to litigation (especially about insurance, status of volunteers or nature of work) against WWOOF UK by WWOOFers or even hosts.
- Less international WWOOFers, due to stricter immigration controls with changing definitions of “labour”, “work” and ““help”.
- Less international WWOOFers, due to controls on high impact and more costly air travel.
- Loss of Scottish hosts, due to possible independence of Scotland.
Cooperation and competition
- Less international WWOOfers and hosts, due to other non-monetary exchange organisations (like HelpX and Workaway) as active and growing competitors offering cheaper membership, and a wide range of similar services. See the competitor analysis below.
- Less cooperative global community of WWOOF organisations, due to major challenges for the Federation of WWOOF Organisations in managing its cooperation with the new International WWOOF Association, and its members.
- Loss of members, due to confusion with different WWOOF websites and organisations, rapid pace of innovation in the design of websites and social media, and the competition from other similar websites. Major challenges in managing and updating our electronic communication with members, in the context of competitors.
Reputation and marketing
- Negative perception and reputation for WWOOF UK, due to irresponsible, unfair hosts and bad experiences of WWOOFers.
8 Competitor analysis
Other non-monetary exchange organisations are active and growing competitors offering cheaper membership, and a wide range of similar services.
No. of UK hosts
No. of European hosts
Host reg. cost/yr
Volunteer reg. cost/yr
Host and property photos on website
Host and volunteer feedback on website and e-communication
Google map of regional location
Visitor Book comment. Forum and social media page.
10 euro Free for hosts to contact
Multiple (up to 6) photos. Google map of location
Report a concern. Reviews received. References for helpers.
Multiple photos. Photo and video of volunteer. Google map of location.
Comments. Host list. Host rating. Mobile site. Meet up for travellers. Travel blog. Last minute list. Templates of standard answers.
Several photos and video link
Friends, Messages, Add comments
673 – worldwide
15 euro. May charge up to 50 euro/week. Refund if no offer from host
Multiple photos. Google map of location.
Inactive host projects removed. Mobile site.
Photo and map
Refers to WWOOF and other competitors
Other competitors may include:
- The Gap Year industry
- Community Service Volunteers
- BTCV and National Trust
9 Our members
From our database we know that the average age of WWOOFers is 29 years old. They come from 55 different countries, with 38% from the UK and 45% from other EU countries (France 19%, Germany 8%, Spain 8%, US 7%, Italy 5%).
From our user survey in the last year WWOOFers have mainly come from other non-English speaking countries.
Local area (within 50 miles) 9%
Wider UK 26%
Other English-speaking countries 24%
Other non-English speaking countries 41%
10 Our services and products
- Description and contact details of host
- Visitor book comments about host
- Information, advice and guidance for WWOOFers on volunteering and living with hosts
- Guide to Hosting
- WWOOF UK Newsletter – 4 per year
- Regional network, coordinated by a voluntary Regional Host Contact
- Promotional displays at green events
- Annual General Meeting over weekend
11 Our partners
- Low Impact Lifestyle Initiative (LILI)
- Scottish Crofting Association
- Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FoWo)
Examples of potential partnerships
- Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
- Garden Organic
- Care Farming UK
- CSA Network UK
- Local Volunteer Bureaux
- National Council for Voluntary Organisations
12 Strategic Objectives
These describe what we want to achieve in a given time-frame to meet our mission. The 9 strategic objectives are a mix of financial, social and environmental objectives. They address top priorities. When the strategic plan is reviewed these objectives should be made more “SMART” – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound – in order to review them effectively. The key resources are usually people, money and time – so these need to be identified.
1. Recruit and support more hosts
- Recruit 150 more hosts over the next 3 years from a range of holdings, especially near urban areas and where there are few hosts.
- Recruit and support 13 Regional Host Contacts so they can support hosts and organise networking events.
- Offer guidance and support to WWOOFers who want to become organic growers, through the free online educational website when funding is confirmed.
- Enable hosts to communicate more effectively together online.
- Recruit and celebrate more community-supported hosts.
2. Make WWOOF a household name
- Review and revise our identify to get us recognised and plan ways to make us better known.
3. Target local and motivated WWOOFers
- Recruit and train volunteers from each of the 13 regions to promote local WWOOFing at events and to groups.
- Promote relatively more local, regular and weekend WWOOFing that is not necessarily residential.
- Celebrate these committed and local, short-term WWOOFers.
4. Provide more education
- When our funding bid is confirmed collaborate with WWOOF partners to produce and promote a free online educational website.
5. Communicate and consult more effectively with members
- Improve the way we communicate and consult with members using our website, social media, surveys and events.
6. Support the global and local WWOOF communities
- Support and help develop the Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FoWo).
7. Remain financially healthy, and plan for the future
- Review and update our strategy annually.
- Develop a business plan.
- Set and review budgets and financial targets to keep us financially sustainable.
8. Compare ourselves with other organisations, and ensure best practice
- Improve our services to members by learning from our competitors.
- Ensure best practice for charity governance and management.
9. Act democratically, fairly, sustainably and legally
- Draft, adopt and review some common basic policies that are expected of similar charities.
- Enable both WWOOFers and hosts to make comments about their experience of WWOOFing and their expectations of our organisation.