Tsunami - one month on: VSO combines appeal for givers and helpers

VSO's new press ads calling for 200 skilled volunteers to help with tsunami relief are its first promotional materials to combine both fundraising and volunteer requests.

The international development charity integrated its fundraising, branding and marketing policies into a single strategy 18 months ago, but until last week hadn't found a way to integrate the separate appeals.

"The motivations to volunteer or give money are usually quite different, but we felt there was something in the current climate after the tsunami that made it easier for people to support in either way," said Glyn Williams, director of communications at VSO.

The first four days of the campaign saw 10,000 individual visitors to VSO's website, three times the average for a similar period. The ads will appear in the national press until the end of this week, but the response won't translate into volunteer numbers until applicants have been checked in March.

Some 1,500 people have contacted VSO since the tsunami, but the new campaign was prompted by fears that the initial motivation to volunteer may have passed now that the disaster is no longer front-page news.

VSO is also pressing ahead with a separate one-month ad campaign on 400 London Underground train carriage panels from 17 January. This was planned before the disaster.

The need for skilled volunteers was highlighted last week, when Oxfam revealed that incompetent workers at inexperienced aid agencies were hampering the tsunami relief effort.

Its report, Learning the Lessons of the Tsunami: one month on, complained that some charities working on the ground were failing to consult local communities about how best to help them.

"The amount of money raised means that governments and aid agencies must address issues of quality, not just quantity, of aid," said Oxfam GB director Barbara Stocking.

Building houses too close together to allow for proper sanitation in Sri Lanka and poor co-ordination between agencies, particularly in southern India, were among the failures mentioned.

The report also called for governments of the devastated region to accredit international agencies. The UN backed the plan the next day.

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