12 months since British Orienteering received confirmation of funding from Sport England I felt it was a suitable time to provide an update on what that funding is enabling us to do for orienteering.
Firstly, a reminder that the main focus of funding from Sport England in the 2017-2021 period is retention of regular participants. This has enabled us to better align the work of the development team with the British Orienteering Strategic Plan and work more closely with members, clubs and volunteers across the sport.
A big part of the funding submission was to enable British Orienteering staff to work closely with a small number of focus clubs to improve the experience for members and regular participants. Coordinated by Tim Herod this work by all the England Development Officers includes supporting improved communication, assessing the experience at club events and the whole club membership offer. Examples include supporting South East Lancs. Orienteering Club's (SELOC) communications plan, targeted Potteries Orienteering Club (POTOC) promotions and Leicestershire Orienteering CLub's (LEI) Flying Coach initiative.
In addition to this, we are working with clubs to test and develop pathways into the sport. Examples include the Bristol Orienteering Klub (BOK) Track to Terrain programme, Dartford Orienteering Klub's (DFOK) School links and Xplorer links.
In support of this work, we have performed data analysis to analyse the level of provision at a club level as well as the membership numbers that support it. We are currently exploring ways to make this level of data and analysis available to all clubs to enable you to better self-analyse.
In December 2017 we launched a consultation called 'Every Junior Matters', led by Phil Conway the consultation received a large amount of interest and submissions. These views were collated and developed into Every Junior Matters Youth Strategy focused on recruitment and retention of young people in the sport which was launched in April 2018. This has been widely well received and there are several clubs working to improve the junior experience of orienteering at a local level.
At a national level, we are exploring ways that the system can be improved to provide a better experience for juniors at the key drop out points including supporting university clubs, consulting on what motivates those not in the talent pathway and finding ways to develop a deeper social connection to the sport.
Volunteer Action Plan
In January 2018 we launched a volunteer consultation building on the back of the Volunteer Needs Group report from 2013. This enabled us to check that the recommendations were still appropriate and update our knowledge in this area. This feedback has led to the creation of a volunteer action plan aimed at increasing the number of volunteers, improving the perception of orienteering and improving the support available to volunteers.
Driven by Peter Brooke the Volunteer Action Plan breaks these aims down into three key areas; Support, Training and Communication. Support is around making the volunteer experience as barrier-free as possible and establishing clear pathways. Training is looking at the most appropriate ways to deliver formal and informal training both locally and nationally. Communication looks at highlighting best practice, improving recognition of volunteers and ensuring our communication systems are volunteer appropriate.
One of our aims for this 4-year period is to become less reliant on government funding and transitioning a previously fully funded programme Xplorer to a commercial operation is a key part of this. Our ambition is that Xplorer becomes a programme that generates enough income to be completely self-sustaining and hopefully supplement British Orienteering expenditure in other areas.
In making this transition we recognised that we would lose a number of delivery partners who had benefited from a fully funded programme and predicted approximately 50% retention of partners. Led by Natalie Weir we are happy to report that from 100 partners in 2017 we have secured 50 partners for 2018. All new partners pay a franchise fee to sign up and then an annual service charge to remain part of the Xplorer family. In addition, they can purchase a variety of Xplorer products such as markers, certificates and banners directly from British Orienteering.
The development team are also working with clubs in Xplorer areas to link activities closer to club provision to generate closer links and a good example of this is Suffolk Orienteering Club (SUFFOC) where a number of events have been closely linked with Xplorer acting as a way into orienteering for newcomers.
With the decision made to stop printing Focus as a magazine, we have implemented a strategic change in our approach to communications. Led by Jennie Taylor Communications Officer we have put the British Orienteering website at the centre of our communications strategy complemented by our increased use of social media channels Facebook and Twitter and supported by our monthly member e-newsletter. We have also added in additional targeted communications such as the Coaching newsletter and direct communications with Club Welfare Officers.
In addition and also led by Jennie Taylor Communications Officer we will be reviewing our member journey with a view to increasing membership retention and making the whole experience a more enjoyable one.
In spring 2018 we implemented a pilot in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to establish regular participant feedback for clubs to analyse their event provision. The first stage was to develop and then pilot the survey with a small number of clubs, Cleveland Orienteering Klub (CLOK), Nottinghamshire Orienteering Club (NOC) and Leicestershire Orienteering Club (LEI), enabling us to test the systems for surveying as well as the questions.
The first stage of this pilot is now complete, and we are awaiting analysis from MMU to discuss with the individual clubs. With Dan Riley moving on we are recruiting for someone to continue to develop and drive this work forward on a national level.