by Alan Davies, FUW managing director
EARLIER this year we undertook a survey of what members thought about the union. If you visited your county office to complete your SAF then there’s a good chance that you filled in one of the surveys; thank you for doing so. But now: (as they say on the tele) the scores are in! And I thought it worth sharing some of the results with you.
There are two main reasons for joining: Members either want to be part of a Wales focused union or they wanted help with a specific issue ‐ or ongoing problem. Importantly though, over 90 per cent of members thought our lobbying was the most valuable activity undertaken on their behalf.
The stand out message is that once people join the union they stay with us for a long time: Over 80 per cent of members have been with us for more than 10 years and nearly 80 per cent of members insure with FUWIS. (What about the rest I wonder ‐ remember: All profits from our insurance business go to running the union, not to shareholders or rich bankers).
Generally, members were happy with their county offices but some suggested improvements to parking or facilities were requested. Where possible and affordable we will endeavour to make some changes.
Engagement with our offices is low: With around 80 per cent of members only visiting their county office once a year, and that’s to complete SAF. That suggests that our offices might not be the hub we think they are and this requires more thought. We might need an alternative model of meeting members when problems arise and need to consider possible changes to our locations.
For any membership organisation the satisfaction rating of members is key to survival. We tested both satisfaction and weaknesses. Members rated the union as: Helpful, Good Service, Supportive, Friendly. This is reassuring. All of these are the things that people expect in their long term relationship with us and that is probably why 98 per cent of members said that they were more than likely to renew their membership and over 94 per cent would recommend to a friend that they should join the union.
But it’s not all perfect, some see us as a bit old‐fashioned, are concerned about how far they need to travel to meetings and suggest that communication can be improved. We need to take note of this to ensure that we continue to satisfy members whenever we can. Getting closer to members is something we definitely need to look at.
Members were further asked if there were any services in particular that they would like to see from the union in the future. Examples suggested included: Providing farm consultancy services, developing a women’s discussion group, more environmental services, and better planning and diversification advice. It was interesting to note that it was suggested that some of these should be paid services.
It was also interesting to note that there was a very low level of interest in Benchmarking, especially at a time when the Welsh Government is launching a Red Meat Benchmarking programme. We’ll see if this changes during the Red Meat Benchmarking project (worth £1,000 a head to participating farmers ‐ ask your office for details).
Meeting attendance is low with 71 per cent of members saying that they don’t go to any of our meetings. And it doesn’t get much better for Conferences or AGMs with well over 80 per cent expressing no interest in them.
We spend a lot of time and money organising and delivering meetings that are not well attended or possibly even wanted. Now that we know how members feel about them we should give some serious thought as to the best way for the future. Hopefully the start of FUW Academy meetings will go a long way here in delivering engaging events for members.
Every organisation wants to improve its communications and we found that traditional paper based messaging is a preferred option though and 99 per cent of members said that they regularly read Y Tir with 99 per cent saying that the content was useful or better. Particularly pleasing was the note that said that “County news is the most interesting, helping us understand other Counties’ take on matters.” The placing of county news in Y Tir was a bit contentious but this shows that we are possibly on the right track.
When it comes to going online with social media, Facebook is the most used platform, but the overall usage rate is low. Social media is a cheap and efficient way to communicate as part of a wider mix of communication channels. Most users wanted local news as well as general updates but as 81 per cent would welcome an online forum for sharing information and ideas it’s obvious we should do more online soon.
There you have it ‐ we asked some questions, you answered them. Now we need to listen and act on the messages. Thanks again for all those who took part. We will repeat this again next year.