Little at Large: Increase your popularity - talk peas and carrots

Social networking website Facebook is supposed to be the next frontier for third sector organisations. But for many it's a very lonely frontier.

Mathew Little
Mathew Little

Take the Directory of Social Change. It runs 300 training courses for thousands of voluntary sector employees each year. But in social networking land, it's struggling for numbers.

The DSC has two groups: 'Grants not Contracts' and 'Are small charities an endangered species?' (which, intriguingly, is accompanied by a photograph of a polar bear devouring a seal). Each group has precisely one member each: the person who created them. That makes the DSC significantly less popular than the 'Peas Vs Carrots' Facebook group, which boasts a total of 46 members, who discuss which they prefer.

- Tory MP Oliver Letwin did it five times, NCVO chair Sir Graham Melmoth managed it eight times in 10 minutes and NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington achieved a whopping 11. We refer to dropping the phrase of the moment, 'civil society', into their speeches at last week's NCVO conference. The booby prize goes to Cabinet Office minister Ed Miliband, who caught himself mid-sentence saying 'voluntary sector' and quickly changed it to 'civil society'. Big Ed then forgot the script and dotted his speech with unfashionable terms including ' the third sector', 'voluntary organisations' and even - gasp! - 'charities'.

- Charities are frequently told they should be inventive about employee benefits in order to make up for the fact that the wages they pay often don't cover the mortgage on a rabbit hutch.

At the Joseph Rowntree Foundation they seem to have taken this to heart. Every week, each employee gets a new potted plant on their desk. Of course, it helps if your grounds contain a park to grow them in. But it's the thought that counts.

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer.

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