Building recognition for BMC volunteers: Lynn Robinson's new strategy

Posted by Peter Burnside on 22/03/2018
Happy volunteers after a hard day cutting back Rhododendrons at the Roaches.

Volunteers are integral to many facets of the BMC, and we are exceptionally grateful for the hard work and generous amounts of time they donate. One incredible volunteer has recognised that the BMC needs to give more back to volunteers and has created an astounding strategy to accomplish this. Let’s find out from Lynn Robinson, BMC vice president and rock-star volunteer, what she’s come up with.

When Lynn Robinson was elected as vice president of the BMC in April 2017, she became the Executive Committee lead for the Volunteering Strategy. The work of the BMC covers a broad range of areas from access and conservsation to guidebooks and competitions, and all of these committess are extremely dependent on volunteers. 

These traditional roles within the BMC unfortunately fail to attract a diverse range of volunteers. We're grateful for all that willingly give their time and effort, but with no clear award or recognition scheme for volunteers there isn't enough incentive for volunteering. That's why Lynn embarked on the project to develop a BMC Volunteering Strategy and create new awards to further recognise the service of our volunteers.

The new awards are ready and awaiting nominees; read more about them and an interview with Lynn below.

What are the new volunteer awards and how do you nominate people for them?

Rehan Siddiqui Award for Exceptional Voluntary Contribution towards promoting Equality and Diversity in the BMC

The aim of this award is to recognise those who have made a significant BMC voluntary contribution and commitment to increasing opportunities for under-represented groups to participate in climbing, hillwalking or mountaineering and the work of the BMC. It was established by the BMC National Council on 17 February 2018.

The Executive Committee is the awarding body. Nominations should be submitted in confidence to Kate Anwyl at the BMC using the Rehan Siddiqui Award Nomination Form. Download the form here.

Young Volunteer of the Year Award for exceptional voluntary contribution in climbing, hillwalking or mountaineering and the work of the BMC

The aim of this award is to recognise those young people who have made a significant BMC voluntary contribution and commitment. It was established by the BMC National Council on 17 February 2018.

Nominees should be under the age of 25 in the year of the award. They should be a role model to other young people, to encourage volunteering in the BMC. Nominations should be submitted in confidence to Kate Anwyl at the BMC using the Young Volunteer of the Year Award Nomination Form. Download the form here.

The George Band Award: find out how to nominate someone here

Nomination forms must be completed and sent by 23 April.

Former BMC president Rehan Siddiqui said: “I would like to thank the BMC for introducing this award. I am honoured that my name will be associated with encouraging and celebrating equality and diversity in climbing, mountaineering and hill walking. The BMC has been a huge part of my life since I started climbing as a young boy and is excellent at safeguarding and promoting the benefits of our activities to everyone.

“There has been a long tradition of outstanding accomplishments by inspirational females in our sport and they continue to excel on the world-stage. The BMC leads the way among sporting representative and governing  bodies in encouraging all under-represented groups to engage with, benefit from and excel in our activities and I welcome this award as a way of championing endeavour, success and perseverance ongoing.”

Interview: Lynn Robinson explains the new strategy

What motivated you to create this new strategy?
The current volunteering system is ad hoc and volunteers are managed individually by BMC employed officers. There is currently no formal volunteering policy, nor induction for volunteers. There is no clear process for the recruitment of volunteers, and it isn’t easy to find volunteer role specifications and opportunities within the BMC publicity and information sources.

When I was elected as Vice-President of the BMC in April 2017, I put myself forward as the Executive Committee lead for the Volunteering Strategy. As I had been involved, as a volunteer myself, in many aspects of the work of the BMC I had a clear vision of how I wanted the work of volunteering to be more structured to ensure all volunteers were treated and recognised in the same way, whatever their contribution.

You have a long history of volunteering for the BMC. Why did you initially get involved? What made you stick around?
I initially got involved in committee work when I became the first female President of my university mountaineering club. I remember phoning up the BMC asking for advice because the Student’s Union (SU) had become obsessed with what they perceived as ‘safe’ climbing, whilst I was of the clear view that the club needed to encourage good practice whilst maintaining the tradition of adventure climbing. For example, we went for a week’s winter mountaineering each year in Scotland. One year the SU decided before we left for Scotland they wanted me to submit a plan of which routes we would do on each day. Using the advice from the BMC I completely changed their mind. I also remember attending the BMC student club training weekends and other BMC supported seminars, such as the Winter Mountaineering Skills lecture.

Then I started to go to the BMC local area meetings in the Peak and learning more in relation to the work of the BMC and what it does. Whilst training to traverse the Cuillin Ridge, I decided to climb every route on Stanage that was VS and below. I discovered a fair few ‘sand-bags’ and various other concerns that led to my involvement in guidebook work. I have been involved in every guide of the new BMC series, was co-editor of Froggatt to Black Rocks, and I am a member of the BMC guidebook committee. I still remain passionate about this area of volunteering and I continue to be amazed with how many people give up their free time and skills to produce world-class-quality guidebooks and help maintain access to our fabulous climbing and hill walking.

What makes me stick around? A few things really – firstly it’s got to be the people I’ve met, whether BMC paid staff or other volunteers. Everyone is completely passionate and committed to the work they do. I share my passion / obsession with climbing with my partner, who also volunteers with the BMC. I also think no one should take for granted access to our beautiful countryside and the fabulous access work the BMC oversees, whether at national policy level or very local level, which has arguably never been more important.

What’s your favourite thing about volunteering?
...you don’t get paid for the work you do!!?? No seriously, you work with like-minded volunteers, from a wide range of backgrounds. Also, I’ve got so much out of climbing and mountaineering over the years, and it has enhanced by life beyond explanation that I’m glad to be in the lucky position of being be able to put something back into the BMC community, to hopefully ensure the essential work of the BMC continues from strength to strength.

I feel I have made a significant difference as a volunteer during my very extensive guidebook and Peak Area committee work and more recently on the Women’s Development Group. On guidebooks the usability, accuracy, balance of content and taking lower-grade climbing seriously (these climbers buy most of the guidebooks!) is now where I wanted it to be when I first became involved. I feel my contribution to the Peak Area has helped consolidate interest in local BMC issues and assisted in raising attendance to the largest any local area has seen so far. Slowly, but surely, more women are getting involved in volunteering for the BMC, whether at executive or local level. The BMC has helped run the Women in Adventure Award at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival: last year there were 15 film entries, this year that number doubled to 30 – and it’s great to be part of this.

Why do you think it’s important that people volunteer? How should the BMC go about recruiting new volunteers?
The work of the BMC is wide-ranging and diverse, which I think is its main strength. People care passionately about their chosen activities, which sometimes creates tensions and challenges, but I think everyone’s contribution is valid. Volunteers really enhance the work of the BMC paid officers. Volunteers bring different skills, knowledge and experience from their life which richly enhances the work of the BMC. Most of the work in the BMC is done by volunteers.

I have always thought that ‘the BMC’ is all its members. People already involved should encourage their friends to go along to their Local Area meeting, a great place to start. I want to have a dedicated area on the website for volunteers, or potential volunteers, using social media...but if anyone has any other ideas – I’m always open to suggestions – please get in touch with me.

You won the George Band Award last year. Tell me what that meant to you.
When Dave Turnbull announced my name at the BMC Peak Area meeting, as being one of the recipients of the 2017 George Band Award, I was completely shocked and speechless – hard to imagine I know! It’s something I’m incredibly proud of – being the first woman to receive this award, and also dare I say it, the youngest! The print that I received hangs in pride of place on my living room wall. Unexpected thanks and recognition for all those hours and hours of pouring over guidebook scripts; arguing over venue prices for the Peak Area meetings with landlords; being kicked off ‘private’ land whilst checking the most esoterica crags in the Peak; typing up pages and pages of notes from Area meetings and trying to gently steer the BMC to improved diversity.

Tell me about these new award and recognition schemes; why make new awards?
There is currently the George Band Award, and Honorary membership but these are limited to exceptional contributions, and there is no clear award and recognition scheme for the main mass of volunteers. After research into other membership led sporting organisations, I concluded that the BMC’s current award and recognition scheme was outdated and therefore I put a proposal to National Council. As well as the already established exceptional contribution awards, I have set up the Rehan Siddiqui Award for exceptional voluntary contribution towards promoting equality and diversity in the BMC. Rehan is a great source of inspiration for me and I want this award to recognise people who tirelessly work towards promoting equality and diversity within the work of the BMC, which will only strengthen its work.  I have also introduced a Young Volunteer Award to recognise and encourage the contribution and commitment of younger volunteers. If the BMC is to continue to grow and strengthen, then we need to be nurturing and inspiring the next generations to get involved. Next is a new Long Service Award that recognises the contribution of volunteers who have committed 25 years or more to the BMC, regardless of their role.

If you could give the new awards retrospectively, who would you give them to and why?
The Rehan Siddiqui Award is easy – to the man himself! What he achieved being the first black president of the BMC was no easy feat. I have nothing but admiration for him.

In relation to the George Band Award – this was established in 2010, so I would have to award it to Angela Soper. When I interviewed her last year as part of her being awarded Honorary membership of the BMC, I was blown away with how much input and direction she had put into the BMC when she was Vice-President.

I can’t really think of anyone specific for the Young Volunteer of the Year Award…but there are many, especially in affiliated clubs and the competition area, who have put in significant efforts. Hopefully things are changing and people of all ages and backgrounds are becoming more involved in this wonderfully diverse organisation.

How will the new volunteering strategy tie in with the ORG? What will the next step be?
I can’t predict the outcome of the ORG recommendations, but ensuring that the BMC remains a membership led, democratic organisation, run mainly by volunteers, with support from BMC officers, is central in my thinking when I worked on developing the strategy. The results of an annual volunteer survey formed the basis of this strategy, so hopefully people will think it is membership led and not something dreamed up by someone sat alone in an office somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester.


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