Why v is ditching the word 'volunteering' and using an 'f' word in its place

Volunteering will now be known as 'favours' by the youth volunteering charity

"They see it as signing up to the unknown," Terry Ryall, chief executive of v, told Third Sector last week. "A third said volunteering was geeky - their word, not ours. But asked if they had ever done a favour for someone they weren't close to, 80 per cent said yes."

But the 'v' word will not be banned altogether. "We're not getting rid of the word 'volunteering' - we're getting rid of its negative connotations by associating it with something else," said Ryall.

She was speaking at last Thursday's launch of Fashion Favours, v's project to encourage people to recycle and customise old clothes to be spruced up by fashion designers who give their time for free. The clothes, including garments worn by Gordon Brown, will be auctioned for HIV charity Body and Soul.

V is changing not only the language of volunteering, but also its nature, according to Ryall. "We're broadening its scope," she said. "We've created a new flow of volunteering opportunities - now we need to create a demand. It would have been awful to create the demand first with a campaign about how great volunteering is if there wasn't the flow of opportunities to match."

One aim of the new plan is to appeal to young people's creative interests - partly, Ryall said, to develop the skills that employers say are lacking. But asked if this was part of a government drive, she was quick to assert v's independence. "We want to develop a caring civil society that young people want to contribute to," she said. "But we're not driven by any government agenda. We're grateful for our government funding, but we interpret the way it should be spent."

The new face of volunteering is also being promoted by the Cabinet Office and the Communities and Local Government department, which issued press releases after the show.

Other volunteering groups agreed the word 'volunteering' did not always appeal to youth. A spokesman for CSV said it tended not to use the word in headlines on promotional material, but it had no plans to drop the word from its name.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said the word conjured up old-fashioned stereotypes. "The challenge is to harness the energy of young people to ensure that they have the chance to serve in the fray and not on the fringe," she said.

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