In December 2019 VHS surveyed our 145 associate member in order to build a profile of their professional interests and their reasons for membership of VHS. Full VHS Members are voluntary health organisations, but all current Associate Members are individuals. Associate Membership is free of charge.
We aim to use the results to inform our future engagement with Associate Members and in the development of our 2021-24 Strategy. We received 42 completed surveys, a 29% response rate.
62% of Associate Members who responded come from the third sector, 22% from the NHS, 8% from local authorities, 5% from universities or colleges, and 3% from the Scottish Government.
The majority of respondents were in either a Chair or other Trustee role within a third sector organisation. Other respondents were senior managers, directors, volunteers or patient or service user representatives. Some were health specialists, frontline staff, consultants, students or researchers.
When we asked people to freely describe what their interest or activity in health was, the biggest single category was mental health. People referred to it either on its own or alongside other conditions or demographics; for example, “mental health and cancer” or “mental health and suicide prevention”. The second highest area of interest or activity was around supporting certain conditions or demographics; for example, “older people, homelessness, sight loss”. Wider inequalities were also cited (e.g. housing, homelessness and addiction) and the health and wellbeing of children and young people. Many also talked about individual and community wellbeing, for example, “loneliness and social isolation and improving wellbeing, gardening for wellbeing and arts for wellbeing”. Overall, the range of health related interests were extremely wide, including palliative care, life-limiting conditions, inequalities, loneliness and social isolation, arts and wellbeing, adolescents with complex needs, gender based violence, community justice, dementia, sight loss, and self-management – to name but a few.
We asked people what paid work or volunteering they were involved in. The majority said they were involved in direct service delivery, peer support or service planning. A few said research and campaigning.
As to why they are VHS members, the majority said they are members because they want to get news about the voluntary health sector, with almost equal numbers saying they are part of VHS because they want to support the voluntary health sector. Others are members in order to get news about health matters generally or simply to engage with us. The majority of respondents told us they want to be involved with VHS through attending or supporting our events, with smaller numbers saying they would like to write a blog for our website or speak at an event.
The survey revealed an enormous breadth of interests and involvement in health, leading us to conclude that Associate Members are currently a rich but untapped resource to VHS and our Full Members. We were encouraged to hear from respondents that they like to actively engage with us through attendance at our events and by using our resources to keep abreast of what is happening in the voluntary health sector. A significant number said they would welcome opportunities to contribute their expertise to VHS, for example by writing blogs, speaking at our events or supporting our policy work. Just six of the respondents worked/volunteered for an organisation that is in itself a Full Member of VHS, demonstrating that Associate Membership has little overlap with our Full Membership and is therefore enabling us to reach additional audiences with our work. We discovered that many of our Associate Members are Trustees (including Chairs) of voluntary organisations, and that suggests we are meeting a particular need in terms of the information and opportunities that we provide.
To the 42 people who did respond to the survey, we extend a sincere thank you, their contribution was much appreciated and is giving us a great deal of food for thought. We will be in touch with those who offered to write, speak or get involved more actively in some other way, and as we start to plan our Strategy for 2021-24, we will be taking the survey results into consideration.
If your organisation is interested in joining VHS as a Full Member please contact our Membership and Administrative Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org 0131 474 6189