Dons Trust election: questions and answers (2)

This morning I took part in a live 9yrs Podcast YouTube interview, answering questions sent in by supporters. I was pretty nervous at the start but settled down a bit as we went along.

Being able to think on your feet while knowing you’re going out live is a challenge that I certainly hadn’t faced before, and I doubt any of the candidates had. We’re just supporters, after all, not politicians! And although I trained in journalism, part of my decision to specialise in print journalism was a desire to stay away from being in front of a camera.

The 9yrs Podcast guys interviewed all but two of the candidates live. The other two were unable to make it on the day but will have recorded interviews. The videos should be online soon, I believe later this weekend. I’ll post news of that as soon as I have it. ‘Thank you’ to Stuart, Nick, Mark, Kevin and George from the podcast team, and to John Dolan from the election steering group, for giving up their Saturday to get the interviews done.

As well as that, I’ve been continuing to receive questions from supporters, so thought I should answer a couple more of them.

1. What are your views on iFollow? Do you think the club is doing enough to ensure that fans who can’t attend games are getting the best possible service?

I’ve only used iFollow twice: once for a midweek home match when I couldn’t make it to the game because I was doing work for the club, and the second time for the Gillingham away match. Both times I had technical problems, with either loss of sound or the picture freezing and ‘blocking’. I tried to use it for the recent match at Bristol Rovers but the system kept on rejecting my login details. Eventually I gave up.

This is a tricky one for the club because my understanding, from the little we have heard, is that these are issues with the iFollow platform itself and the EFL, rather than there being anything that the club can do. For instance, for the Gillingham match iFollow’s helpdesk told me it was a global issue. The club has to work with the EFL and try to encourage them to fix it.

Having said that, some sort of communication by the club to fans would be helpful, just explaining that it’s out of the hands of the club (if that is the case) and passing on any updates from the EFL. If the EFL are staying quiet, then we should let our fans know that, too. (I find that hard to believe; the reality, I’m sure, is that behind the scenes the iFollow coders are trying to fix whatever the issues are.)

Beyond that, perhaps we could encourage the EFL to allow free or reduced-price use until all the technical problems are resolved. I appreciate that IT projects can be updated and improved bit by bit behind the scenes, but it seems bizarre to me to launch with a system that is so shoddy, which surely won’t help long-term take-up of the service.

2. How will you maintain and build our volunteer capacity? In what areas do you think we are lacking?

I know I seem to answer ‘communication’ to pretty much every question but – sorry! – I think it’s at the heart of things again. You ask about the areas we’re lacking and to be honest I haven’t got a clue. I think that speaks volumes.

If we are lacking in some areas, why aren’t we being proactive in communicating with people that we need help? There was a recent appeal for turnstile operators, but apart from that I can’t remember hearing anything. Actually asking for help – and being specific about the help that we need and the skills we’re after – is a the surest way of encouraging people to step forward.

And once they have stepped forward, they need to be communicated with and kept engaged to be made to feel that their efforts are appreciated. Never underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you’.

Experiences within different teams probably differ when it comes to this. I volunteer within the team of proofreaders who help produce the matchday programme, and we’re a small team with a team leader who is good at communicating. Other teams might have a different experience. Certainly during this election campaign I’ve heard from volunteers who sadly now count themselves as ex-volunteers because they felt that they were badly communicated with and felt (incorrectly, I’m sure) taken for granted.

So the Trust board should work with the recently appointed volunteer coordinator to encourage good communication, not just in terms of that initial appeal for help but also within teams, to help keep everyone feeling valued and ‘part of the family’.

Do you have any more questions for me? Put them in the comments box below, email me or ask me on Twitter.