British Legion turns to Facebook for volunteer plea

LONDON - The Royal British Legion is turning to social networking phenomena in its search for young adult volunteers, ahead of its annual 'Poppy appeal' campaign this autumn.

The charity is looking for volunteers to collect money and hand out around 36m poppies in the two weeks before Remembrance Sunday in November.

Around 300,000 people are needed for the event. Many of the charity's older volunteers are becoming increasingly frail, so it is looking for new volunteers to carry on their work.

Facebook is being seen as a key way to carry out this recruitment and the charity has added a
"poppy people" profile to the site, which 45 people are now "friends" of. There is also a "I want to be a poppy appeal collector this November" group, which 30 people have joined; this group includes a link directly to the Legion's volunteer site

Russell Thompson, director of national events and fundraising at The Royal British Legion, said: "Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool to reach out directly to a huge resource of younger people with plenty of energy.

"We are aware that Facebook has very much captured the public imagination and hope that it will prove to be an invaluable tool to recruit new volunteers.

Facebook, which started as a social networking site for students in the US, now has around 28m members globally.

Its popularity, particularly among 25 to 34 year olds, has surged since last September when it opened up to non-students for the first time.

According to latest Nielsen/NetRatings figures, Facebook is gaining ground on social networking market leader, the News Corporation-owned MySpace.

The number of unique visitors in the UK to MySpace fell by 300,000 in May against the previous month, while over the same period Facebook gained 527,000 visitors.

The latest report released by comScore this week recorded an 89% increase in unique visitors in the US for Facebook during the 12 months to May this year.