Associate Professor Jodie Conduit, from the University of Adelaide, recently conducted a survey of members of the St Vincent de Paul Society. The purpose of this survey was to understand the views and concerns of the members around Australia prior to the congress in October.
Nearly 900 members replied, either via an online survey or posting a response, showing the enthusiasm and desire of the members to shape the future of the Society.
The survey showed what a dedicated and loyal group of members the Society is lucky to have, but it also demonstrated some areas for future improvement. The current profile of members is reasonably split between males and females (51 per cent and 49 per cent), with 70 per cent of members retired, 86 per cent aged over 55 years, and 94 per cent affiliated with the Catholic faith. Many of our members (35 per cent) have been volunteering with us for over 10 years. This highlights the loyalty of our current members, but also raises the question of whether we need to consider recruiting future members from a broader range of diverse backgrounds.
Members perceive the St Vincent de Paul Society as having strong brand values of compassion, empathy, respect, integrity and trust. They have a very strong emotional connection with the Society and are largely satisfied with their experience (65 per cent said they were ‘highly satisfied’ and 96 per cent were at least ‘somewhat satisfied’). However, there were a range of suggestions for how the National Congress and the leadership in general could better support the members and, in turn, help members to assist those in need in our Society—our companions.
While most members spoke very highly of the Society, we were able to identify some key areas in which members would like more support and/or focus. These areas (and others) will form part of the discussion at the National Congress in October. Some of the key themes identified in the report included:
- how to recruit new members, possibly from more a diverse member base
- how to continue to grow while maintaining the Vincentian values and spiritual foundation of the Society
- how to ensure that members continue to feel supported and empowered at the conference level
- how to ensure members can provide regular feedback and become more involved in planning the direction of the Society
- how to support members to make a difference in the lives of the companions, when their needs are often becoming more complex and difficult.
Overall, the survey highlighted that we have a great Society with dedicated members, but that we can continue to strive to make it even better. It has given us much to consider leading into the National Congress.
Jodie Conduit is an Associate Professor in Marketing and Associate Head, Research at the University of Adelaide Business School.