For many membership organisations, an AGM is not only a constitutional necessity but also a chance for members to get together and share their news and experiences of the past year. For decades, WWOOF UK has organised an annual Members Gathering during which we have carried out the AGM business, but which is mainly all about WWOOFers, hosts, staff and trustees chatting, eating, learning and sharing.
In recent years we have found ourselves variously in the grand fortress of Laurieston Hall in Scotland, in the green and misty hills of mid Wales at Old Chapel Farm, and under the crags of England’s western Lake District in Kepplewray.
AGM 2015 Old Chapel farm
Usually, around 50 WWOOF folk come along, many taking up the offer of subsidised accommodation and meals and staying for the whole weekend – probably tempted in by the tantalising element of surprise as to whether they’d be sleeping in a barn, bus or bunkhouse.
As time, economics, and our membership have changed over the years though, we have come to ask ourselves whether what has become a traditional Members Gathering and AGM format still meaningfully includes enough of the thousands of WWOOFers and hundreds of hosts who make up WWOOF UK. And that’s not to mention the fact that this format has not usually included non-members.
So… WWOOF staff and trustees have agreed not to hold one big Members Gathering and AGM event in 2018. Although there will still be an official WWOOF UK AGM (we must have one each year, not least to agree on and sign off the annual report and accounts that we send to the Charity Commission, although officially only trustees need be present at an AGM to do that); this year it will just be held during the Council meeting of staff and trustees in October in York. Hosts and WWOOFers won’t be together in the room for the AGM this year, and this is a big change for us all.
AGM 2016 Kepplewray
Over the years, we have asked Members Gathering attendees to tell us what they value most about the annual weekend away. Getting the opportunity to ‘meet each other’, ‘meet staff and trustees’ and ‘look around a host’s place’ are consistently the top three reasons for attending. Taking all that feedback into consideration, we will be piloting a different format whereby WWOOF staff support Regional Host Contacts (RHCs) and hosts to hold Regional Gatherings across the UK throughout the year, which can include all WWOOF UK members and are open to non-members too. These gatherings will be given a small budget to help add a point of interest to the event – perhaps paying someone to run a workshop, or just buying really, really good biscuits – and at least one member of staff or a trustee will attend each gathering. We hope that this way more members will be able to attend at least one WWOOF gathering a year, meaning more people get more of what they want and the WWOOF word spreads wider!
Many RHCs have held and hosted successful regional host gatherings over the years and the staff team are using their example to get more involved in designing engaging one-day Regional Gatherings, managing bookings and generally spreading the word about them to include as many members as possible. We hope this will also kick off a buzz of interest amongst non-members too and help recruit more quality WWOOFers from the UK. Non-members will be asked to pay a small fee to attend, which will then be discounted from their membership fee if they decide to join WWOOF UK – the gatherings will be free for existing members.
AGM 2016 Kepplewray
In fact as we write we are finalising a date for our first Regional Gathering in Shropshire in late September/early October. All members, regardless of their location will receive an invite so keep an eye on your inbox. And if Shropshire feels a bit too far away, or you’re not available on that date, fear not – there will be another WWOOF Regional Gathering somewhere near you very soon and we’ll be making sure you hear about it! And it’s likely there’ll be really, really good biscuits.
We are still looking for ways of involving WWOOFers and hosts in the 2018 AGM in October, possibly by live broadcasting the meeting online so members can listen in and maybe even pitch in with topics for staff and trustees to discuss.
- Do you have any suggestions about the best technology for us to use to do that?
- Would you be interested in watching and taking part?
- As always, we’d love to hear from you about this or anything about the regional gatherings, so please email email@example.com with your suggestions or leave a comment below!
- WWOOF’s annual report is always made publicly available on the Charity Commission’s and our own website.