• International Confederation

    Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

    30 million poor people served in the world

  • International Confederation

    Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

    "I would like to embrace the World in a network of charity"

back to list

Reflexion : How a higher profile can attract members

29 August 2016 Projects

photo @ssvp France

There is proof that having a higher profile can pay dividends in terms of attracting new members to the SVP and even starting new Conferences. But does drawing attention to ourselves go against the grain for a Society noted for its modesty and discretion?

Famously described by the Catholic Herald as “the Catholic church’s best-kept secret,” the SVP is now working hard at having a more prominent public image. But is it worth it? Two recent examples from Southwark Central Council prove the value of having a higher profile.

“A few months ago we conducted a major appeal at St George’s Cathedral in Southwark to start a new Conference,” recalls Kieran Knights, Membership Support & Development Manager at National Office. “It was very successful – we had a lot of interest. But then a few days later I took a phone call from someone who was interested in joining the SVP at the Cathedral. ‘Did you see the appeal?’ I asked. ‘What appeal?’ was the deflating response. ‘I’ve been away but I saw your article in The Universe’.” The SVP’s Communications Department had negotiated an item in the weekly Catholic newspaper about joining the SVP as a response to the Year of the Mercy. “Despite our lectern addresses, posters and leaflets, for at least one parishioner it was the article in The Universe that attracted them to join us,” Kieran points out.

The same thing happened again soon after when the Southwark diocesan newspaper, The Pilgrim, published a double-page feature about the SVP. “We received an email a few days later from a group of parishioners in Gravesend, Kent, who had been inspired by the article to want to start a new Conference,” Kieran reveals. “It shows how having a higher profile can really be worthwhile.” But raising the SVP’s profile is not just confined to using the press. Conferences themselves can benefit from promoting themselves within their parishes and beyond. For example, having posters and information displayed on the parish noticeboard, providing regular SVP news items for the parish bulletin, having leaflets available for parishioners to pick up, hosting fundraising events in the parish hall, and trying to involve the parish in SVP activities such as food collections for the local foodbank, can all help give a Conference a more prominent role in parish life.

The SVP Conference at Richmond in Surrey went a step further, contributing a news item to the local borough council website, promoting volunteering with the Society and including a link to the SVP website. Under the heading “Befriending the elderly in Richmond with SVP”, the piece invited local people interested in becoming members to come along to a meeting at the church. Perhaps this approach could be taken further still through use of local newspapers, radio stations and social media. However, does this all conflict with the Society’s low-key traditions? “Often the need to respect the confidentiality of our beneficiaries has meant that SVP Conferences have been operating in so discreet and unobtrusive a way that many parishioners haven’t realised they existed,” Kieran observes. “In addition, most members are modest about their work and feel disinclined to blow their own trumpets. “However, if people don’t know we exist or, worse, view us as mysterious and secretive, how do we ever expect to attract more members?”

Source : summer newsletter - national Council of England and Wales