Voluntary sector and volunteering, Covid 19 and beyond.

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Some thoughts on our survey, the work we do with groups, and the future.

There has been an explosion of volunteers and community spirit across Cambridgeshire as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Across the county people are coming together to help others in their community by collecting prescriptions, by doing shopping and by donating to foodbanks. From now where new groups have set, old groups have found new activities to engage with charities and community groups have adapted and changed. So, what does this mean for the future of organisations and volunteering?

We have surveyed over 100 local charities to ask them how the pandemic is affecting them and have worked with many more to help them adapt and survive. This has raised a number of questions that I think will be important going forward as we entre a recovery phase, and find out what the new normal is.

We found thousands of staff, volunteers and trustees raising to the challenge to find new ways to support people in these difficult times.

“We have moved all of our services to remote delivery and are offering 1-1 support to LGBTQ+ young people by phone/text/email/video call, and weekly online groups by video call. We have also been distributing relevant books and DVDs to young people by post. We have been investigating how we can move our training delivery online.”

Yet, at the same time some charities are no longer able to deliver services safely and have had to close

“Our small staff group of six are furloughed. The site is closed to co-workers, volunteers, staff and customers.”

Many charities are losing money as they are unable to carry out their usual fundraising, or they are losing income they earn from entrance fees, charity shops or for selling services. We estimate that across Cambridgeshire registered charities will lose over £34.5 million due to the crisis. The total will be even higher if community groups and unregistered charities are included.

Whilst the government has promised charities extra funding this will not plug the gap which NCVO estimate to be £4Billion in England and Wales[1]. Charities that have furloughed workers but are still incurring other costs are not eligible for much of the government support, and we know of groups that will be closing their doors, possibly permanently, when their reserves run out in the next few months.

We know that many charities have benefited from local fundraising, and that many funders including are continuing to support charities. This will not be enough, and most charities do not seem to be eligible for the grants that are being offered to small businesses.

Yet there is still a high level of optimism amongst charities about their future, with 42% being totally confident they will be operating in six months. (These figures should be viewed with a little caution as many of those charities struggling would have furloughed workers, and as such may not have been able to respond.

We also saw that 59% of charities were still using volunteers to deliver services, but only 16% were looking for volunteers. We have heard that many of the local support groups currently have more volunteers than they have roles, and that some are struggling to keep them engaged. What this shows is that volunteers continue to be key to charities delivering services, and that there is an appetite for people to volunteer if they can see a way that they can help.

Moving forward

As we move towards recovery, and as lockdown changes, charities will become even more essential. They will need to be there to support people who have money worries, who have lost relatives, who have mental health problems. They will need to help rebuild communities, and find new ways to bring people together.

“We are very aware that we will experience a significant surge in demand for our services once lock down restrictions have been eased. Many survivors of sexual violence and abuse are unable to reach out to us at the present time due to lack of privacy at home, caring for children, living with abusers etc. So we are trying to plan for how we manage what we will be a significant increase in demand without additional resources or capacity.”

In order for groups to continue to deliver we need to find ways to answer the main concerns that they identified.

As face to face work becomes harder or impossible groups are looking at how they can move their support on to digital platforms. For some this has been a painless experience, but for many it has proved much harder.

Groups are struggling with out of date IT systems and a lack of funds to replace these or invest in the software packages they need. Groups are also struggling with the skills to move to digital delivery and to update their systems.

There are also serious issues with many communities of a growing digital divide, with many people that groups could help digitally not having the technology, skills or data to engage.

As previously mentioned many charities are losing money, however even those that have benefited from new funding support worry about the longer term future. As funders open their coffers to address the crisis this will inevitably impact on the funds available going forward. At the same time the public has dug deeper into their pockets to support local and national campaigns but Caf[2] report that fewer people are saying they will donate in the next months as people are concerned about their own income.

Funding as we move into the recovery phase of the pandemic will be equally as important as it was to meet the initial emergency. If funders have seen endowments reduced, and have offered additional funding immediately then there will be less money available than normal, this will be compounded by local authority and government belt tightening as they seek to address the extra spending they have had to make during the crisis. This will be further compounded as charities continue to lose income from events and activities that will not be able to start for a while, and as the country moves into a recession and donations are impacted.

Volunteers have played a massively important role in the current pandemic and many more people would have had serious problems if it hadn’t been for the army of good neighbours who have stepped forward to help. But there have been problems, locally there have been more volunteers than roles, but also volunteers have been asked to carry out roles without the proper training and support. Nationally the plans to have volunteers run the testing stations went quiet after uproar from the sector, but it is important that volunteers receive the support and training they need.

What the pandemic has shown is that people will volunteer given the right opportunity and a way to do it. Moving forwards if we as a sector are to make the most of this we are going to have to adapt the volunteer roles we have and allow people to volunteer on their terms and not ours.

Mental health services, both those provided by the voluntary sector and those provided by the health sector have done an incredible job in moving their support online or to the phone. Despite this there is a recognition that the mental health impact of the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the physical health impact.[3] The BMJ state

“Early research has brought attention to the psychological impacts of such viral epidemics and protracted physical distancing measures, including those that are expected (such as loss of identity, disruption to usual activity, increases in feelings of loneliness) and those that may be unintended (including increases in domestic violence, child maltreatment and cyberbullying). For many, several coping strategies to deal with this psychological impact can be detrimental to mental health; including alcohol and drug misuse, and online gambling.”

This will impact on staff and volunteers as well as the clients and organisations have to recognise this and adapt to it.

Coming out of lockdown and the immediate crisis charities and community groups will become even more important. As individuals and communities struggle to find their ‘new normal’.

The CAF Coronavirus Briefing shows that in April there was a mixed reaction to this question with only 1 in 4 charities reporting an actual increase in demand. Our research saw charities that might have reduced services due to the virus recognising the fact that there was likely to be increases in demand as they reopen. This will coincide with organisations potentially having reduced capacity or having to find new ways of working. It is important that where possible organisations address this before any surge in demand.

There are two issues here, the first around those organisations that have formed as a direct response to the pandemic, and the second for those organisations that have had to furlough staff to be able to survive.

In the first case groups of well meaning volunteers have suddenly had to think about health and safety, safeguarding, and other issues that keep both the volunteers and those they are helping safe. No one signs up to volunteer around these things, but they have to be there and they have to be understood and acted on.

The second area is where trustees and volunteers are suddenly trying to keep an organisation functioning without staff input. This can be very hard as they are often not connected enough with the operational side of the charity. We have spoken to trustees that have stepped up to take on staff roles and groups where services have been turned round and adapted with little staff input. It is essential that trustees are given the support to do this, but that they also have the time to keep staff on board.

The ‘New normal’

Charities and community groups are doing fantastic work to make a real difference to individuals and communities, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Times are hard and confusing, again this is a given. Charities don’t need support because they need to survive, they need support because of the work they do with people and communities across Cambridgeshire and the country. There is no ‘right’ to continued existence.

But charities will need to adapt, and those that do will come out of this pandemic stronger and able to make a bigger impact.

I believe charities need to think about

Volunteering – It has been proved that people want to and will volunteer, it needs to be on their terms and that means we need to offer more flexible, short term, local opportunities that fit with people’s lives and passions.

Technology – We have all become more digital out of necessary. This will impact on how and what we deliver, but this has to recognise that not everyone has, or wants, access to digital tools or data. Whilst working to incorporate digital delivery we have to reduce the digital divide, and this includes working with our staff and volunteers to give them the skills and confidence to embrace and champion technology.

Partnership – This is going to be increasingly important as we struggle to address complex issues, but also as resources get scarcer. We are going to need to find ways of learning from others as well as thinking about joint work. Organisations that think they can ‘go it alone’ will find themselves being marginalised by funders as well as excluded from policy making and delivering solutions.

At the same time there will need to be a recognition that things have changed for who we work with. We know that behaviours will change, research is showing that inequalities are growing because of the pandemic, and simply winding the clock back to February isn’t, and shouldn’t be, an option. Organisations like CCVS will be there, we will be able to act as a sounding board, we will be able to bring people together, but we don’t have all the answers. I believe that the local charity sector can emerge


[1] https://www.ncvo.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/2748-every-day-counts-as-charities-still-wait-for-government-support#footnote1

[2] https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf-report-coronavirus-how-charities-and-donors-are-reacting.pdf?sfvrsn=15276c47_2

[3] https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/05/05/the-long-term-mental-health-impact-of-covid-19-must-not-be-ignored/

Not another ……… survey – The five reasons why we do an annual survey

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Every year along with our partners from Support Cambridgeshire we carry out a survey of Cambridgeshire charities and community groups, and every year this survey joins the list of surveys that land in peoples inboxes and flashes across their social media feeds. So why do we do it!

Guest blog from Mark Freeman the CCVS CEO and the question master.

Tick with words asking people to take part in the 2020 Survey of Cambridgeshire community Groups and Charities and the Support Cambridgeshire logo
If you are in any way involved in a Cambs charity or community group please take the survey

Doing the annual survey was one of the first things that landed on my lap when I started at CCVS and it still seems to be there, but why do I bother. Here are my 5 reasons, they are specific to the work CCVS and Support Cambs does but are equally applicable for other charities and community groups.

  1. It helps us to develop our services.

As a member organisation dedicated to supporting charities and community groups it is essential that we are delivering what is needed. A big part of knowing what groups want is found out by asking them as part of the survey. These are Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘known unknows’, in other words those areas that groups identify where they need more training or support. If we aren’t delivering these services then we will not be seen as relevant and groups will go elsewhere for support.

  1. It is a perfect way to demonstrate need.

Funders want to know what the need is for the project you are asking them to fund. This is fare enough as they want to fund work that will solve a demonstrable issue. The survey gives us information on the needs of those we work with and allows us to develop new ways to meet those needs, it then gives us the evidence we need for the funders. Local intelligence is a real boon when answering the need question and fills in gaps that national research and information often leaves.

  1. It gives us invaluable insights.

As well as the support side of CCVSs work there is the championing and advocacy role we have for the wider charitable sector across Cambridgeshire. We want to be able to highlight what the sector does, how big it is and what might be stopping it making an even bigger difference. The survey gives us information on this and helps us to understand the ‘state of the sector’. When we are then talking about the sector we have facts and figures that help us make our point, combine this with stories and examples and we are able to build a stronger case and tell a clearer story.

  1. It gives us feedback on what we do.

We have to get people to fund us and this often means we have to demonstrate that we make a difference. For support organisations this is often difficult to measure and the survey allows us to collect valuable satisfaction data. It gives us an opportunity to (hopefully) shout about how well received our work is, it generates a number of nice recommendations and it shows that we are needed.

  1. It gets me through my ‘why do I bother’ patches.

OK, maybe it is only me that sometimes asks “why am I doing this”; as I write another report, try and balance another budget or try and fix the IT/phone/building problems that people seem to assume that I have an answer for.

We are really lucky that we get some fantastic comments about the team, and the work they do as part of the survey. Every so often I simply look back through these and it acts as my very own fast charger, a couple of minutes re-reading the comments gives me the energy and the enthusiasm to keep going. If we were a shiny tech company we would get these painted on office walls, or made into mouse mats or mugs, or written on the side of busses – but I don’t have time or a budget; simply reading them every so often will have to do for now!

The survey is a lot of work, it is a real team effort to try and get people to fill it in, but it gives us a valuable insight into the local charitable sector, it allows us to do our job better, and it helps with fundraising. I firmly believe that it is one of the most important pieces of work we do every year.

If you have anything to do with a Cambridgeshire charity or community group please fill the survey in.

In return I will find some funding to get mugs and mouse mats made for the team.

A #SmallCharity manifesto

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This is our manifesto for #SmallCharities, short and sweet and only one point!

Loads of charities are writing manifestos in the run up to this election and I hope that whoever enters No 10 in December takes a look at these as they all make excellent points in a far more crafted way than I can. You can find some of the best here.

Good practice states that your manifesto should not be too long, and I read somewhere it should have an uneven number of points and have five or less demands. So this works!

To all prospective candidates, to all political parties and to all who are elected this is our #SmallCharity manifesto.

Give #SmallCharities more money.

That’s it! I really don’t care how this happens, but there should be a variety of opportunities to enable funding to flow to different organisations in different places doing different things. So maybe think about

  • Unfreezing all the dormant assets and find a way to spend the money on #SmallCharities, maybe through community foundations (thanks to NCVO for this one)
  • Repaying the lottery money used on the 2012 Olympics (thanks to DSC for this one) and while you are there increasing the percentage of money going to good causes.
  • Increase funding to local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups so they can reinstate and increase grants to local groups.
  • Increase tax and ring fence some of the money to be used to improve local communities.
  • Give us a money tree.

If you do this #SmallCharities will carry on being the powerhouse for good that they have always been.

If you do this #SmallCharities will continue to make the communities we live in better, stronger and more resilient.

If you do this #SmallCharities will be able to grow and prosper and not wither and die.

It may seem a bit crass or simplistic just asking for money, but national research has shown that small charities have suffered more financial pressures in the last 10 years than bigger charities.

“Over the last decade, small charities have seen a 20% decrease in their overall income while income has increased by 30% for major and super-major organisations. At the same time, the proportion of income from government going to small charities has also decreased from 2.7% of the total in 2006/07 to 2.1% in 2015/16.”

https://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2019/01/21/small-charities-key-findings-from-our-data/

“There is no disguising the fact that the cuts have been dramatic and that there is now far less money to go around.”

https://www4.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/value-of-small-final.pdf

Coupled with the loss of funding smaller charities are more susceptible to short term funding decisions and to fluctuations in funding.

“Instability associated with short-term funding streams appears to be a more critical issue for smaller charities, for whom the removal or retention of single funding awards can be the difference between survival and closure.”

http://www.ncvo.org.uk/images/documents/policy_and_research/funding/financial-trends-for-small-and-medium-sized-charities-ncvo-lloyds-bank-foundation-2016.pdf

Not only have #SmallCharities seen disproportionate drops in funding, but by their nature they are less able to deal with these fluctuations. I would therefore ask that while you are finding us the extra money can you also ensure that this can be accessed by charities over longer periods; five years would be good 10 years would be better.

That’s it, my single point manifesto.

Give #SmallCharities more money.

  • With more money we will recruit, manage and train more volunteers.
  • With more money we will deliver more projects to reduce inequality, loneliness and ill health.
  • With more money we will waste less of our time on fundraising and devote more to doing what it is we are best at.
  • With more money we will run more clubs, activities and events for people.
  • With more money we will still be here in the future.

It really doesn’t matter how you do it – just make it happen.

What do you do when your lottery funding stops?

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Or Is sustainability an urban myth?

There is no doubt that lottery funding has revolutionised how organisations are funded across the country, and that it has supported countless good causes. (Why not see what they have funded in your area on 360 giving). But what happens when your lottery funding runs out?

NCVO state that of the £50billion funding that comes into the sector in a year the lottery is responsible for 1% of this, so given the number of organisations that rely on this funding it is a surprisingly small amount. I have not analysed who is funded but this article concentrates on those organisations with incomes between £10K and £1million, that make up just under half the sector.

On the whole these organisations are relying on paid staff as well as volunteers to deliver predominantly local projects. Organisations work across the whole range of issues and causes that charities cover, and unfortunately NCVO research shows that these organisations have been disproportionately impacted by austerity, seeing income drop especially from statutory sources but also in other areas.

Apart from the biggest most of these organisations will not have a fundraiser, or, if they are lucky, they may have a part time fundraiser. Otherwise fundraising falls to other staff and to volunteers or trustees.

So, when these organisations get a three-year Reaching Communities grant, they breathe a sigh of relief and start concentrating on delivering services that make a difference. This funding will often cover the bulk of the programme that is being delivered. It will ensure a vital service continues and the organisation has a (by our terms) long term future. These days the money may also come with a Building Capabilities grant to improve how the organisation works and their sustainability.

But what happens when the funding starts to reach its end? How is this money replaced? What does sustainability mean?

If groups are very, very lucky they may get a second round of lottery funding, but this puts off the problem for another three years or so. But if this is not the case how do groups replace a single significant grant.

Earn your income. According to NCVO the biggest amount of money coming into the sector is from earnt income. This could be from selling services or a charity shop or from contracts. This is not long term income unless you are lucky to be able to get a contract which in the current climate is getting harder for small organisations. Couple this with the fact that many of these organisations are delivering to individuals and communities that can not afford to pay, earning significant income is not going to be a big source of new money. And to be fair the organisation was probably already maximising this to top up their lottery funding!

We have heard of groups being advised to try Social finance, but let’s get real this is a niche funding stream that the vast majority of organisations in this size range will not be able to access even if the trustees have reached the ‘we will try anything’ point to keep the organisation afloat. You can read one take on Social Impact Bonds here

Corporate sponsorship. If I had a pound for everyone that came to CCVS with the idea that this was going to solve their funding issues we could return all our grants! This is not a panacea as business does not have lots of free cash they are waiting to give to worthy causes. Building better relationships with business is extremely positive, many organisations benefit from financial and other support, but this type of fundraising takes time and energy. If you want to look at how business can help there are ways but it is more than simply sending them a well written email.

The public is the biggest external funder of the sector. But most of these organisations do not have the expertise, staff, or time to fund themselves in this way. Raising money from donations or legacies is time consuming. As technology moves on many organisations do not have the wherewithal to collect as much as they did in the past. Even in my local sandwich shop most people pay by card which means less change going into the collection tin on the counter. Fundraising from the public takes time and effort and you need to invest to make it happen. Maybe those organisations who get Building Capabilities funding should include investing in the skills and the technology to facilitate and grow this type of funding.

Statutory grants and commissions. This was a way many organisations were funded in the past but we are seeing grant levels going down, commissions getting bigger and services being taken inhouse. https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/NEF_Local_Government_Austerity_2019.pdf. The truth is they are not in the money so neither are we.

This leaves the staple for many of these organisations, grant funding! But many of these are for small amounts, often they want to fund something new and anything more than one years funding is unusual. We regularly see organisations trying to raise money this way. It didn’t take long to find a local group getting money from 45 different funders to find the £180K needed to run. The time and effort to apply and report to these is phenomenal and it has to be repeated year in year out. No wonder we are seeing burn out, organisations cutting projects and organisations closing.

What is sustainability in the real world. It is something we aspire to, something we pay lip service to because we have to, or something we can only dream about? How many of us are one funding decision away from partial or total collapse? People want our services, so do the professionals, it is not the need that is the issue it is the expectation that we will be there to deliver whatever. How much energy in the sector is wasted in getting the money and reporting and measuring? Energy that would be better used in delivering solutions and solving problems. Pretty much every organisation has the most senior person in the building not actually delivering services but filling in forms and writing reports.

What is the answer?

We need multi year grants from all providers three years minimum, 5 is better.

We need all funders to stop demanding their own reports. Organisations do financial reporting for trustees, they should also be reporting on activities and impact. Let us tell you as funders what we are already reporting and only ask for something different if you desperately need it.

We need more standardisation across how we apply for funds. This is the CV vs application form debate. If organisations have written project plans with budgets, needs analysis, outcomes etc. there should be an easy way to apply using them along with a covering letter about how you meet the funders particular priorities.

We need funding to enable small charities to catch up digitally and technologically with bigger charities in order to allow them to raise funds more effectively.

We need a long term, high profile campaign to change the narrative about charities so that the public recognise charities as the majority and not the minority of mega charities. That way they will think about smaller local organisations when they fundraise, donate or leave a legacy.

We need to reverse cuts to local government and other statutory services and ensure that they are funding local services and groups.

We need the HNS and local Clinical Commissioning groups to put their money where their mouth is about the importance of non-clinical and preventative services. We need to start to fund this to save money in the future.

We have to address inequality as a country in order to reduce its impact on people across all aspects of their lives.

Lottery funding is fantastic (if you are reading this we could do with some here at CCVS) but with it comes the inevitable cliff edge of what happens when it runs out. Fundraising is taking more time, energy, and resources away from delivering solutions. This is especially true in the smaller organisations who have been most impacted by austerity and reductions to income. We really need to address this or more organisations will be forced to close projects or simply cease to exist.

“They heard me… but they listened to you”

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Some wise words from Julia Campbell.

Julia is one of my favorite experts. Despite the fact that she is from ‘across the pond’, and despite the fact that we do very little non grant funding it is worth signing up for her emails etc. The reason for this is because she is fantastic in helping you think about how you communicate and how you tell your story, and whilst these skills are often seen as being those of a great fundraiser I think they should be skills everyone working or volunteering for a small charity or community group should be looking to improve. Check out her website here.

This was the introduction to one of her recent email newsletters, and I love it!

Have you watched the fantastic HBO show Chernobyl?

In the last episode (no spoilers), one of the characters says to another, regarding their influence during the disaster:

“They heard me… but they listened to you.”

One was a scientist, who had all the data, info, and hard facts to back up his hypothesis about the explosion that caused the tragedy.

They heard him, they processed all the facts that he relayed to them patiently, somewhat in disbelief.

One was a career government man, but one of integrity, one that people felt good about listening to.

He carried the weight of trust and credibility, and people literally went into the fire for him.

This reminds me of the famous Maya Angelou quote:

Maya Angelou

You need statistics and data to demonstrate that there is a problem, that it is urgent, and that it needs to be solved.

You need information and education to be seen as credible, and to build trust with your audience.

But if people don’t feel GOOD about the person telling the story, about the people delivering the message, it won’t resonate, and it won’t change hearts and minds.

The truth of human nature is that we trust our guts much more than our heads.

Getting people to pay attention is challenging.

But attention can be manipulated, through irrelevant but eye-catching imagery, click-bait headlines, and other unsavory digital practices that steal attention and interrupt and annoy people.

While getting attention may seem like an uphill battle, it can be purchased, stolen, or exploited.

However, getting people to CARE – that’s much more difficult.

In all of our communications, we need to aim to go deeper than just a click, or a like, or a view.

Attention is great. But action is better.

How are you working not only to get people to hear you, but to listen?

Julia Campbell https://jcsocialmarketing.com/

I suggest you check out Julia’s website sign up to her emails and follow her on twitter @JuliaCSocial or on your social media platform of choice.

And before you ask, no she hasn’t paid me!

Struggling to recruit volunteers, it may be your fault!

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If CCVS had a pound for every group we hear about who are struggling to find volunteers then we would be rich (or at least have a much lower fundraising target)!

As the local support organisation for the sector we get many calls from groups looking for new volunteers or new trustees. I covered some of the issues with trustee recruitment in a previous blog and in this blog I am looking at volunteering.

One of the scariest slides I use when talking about volunteering is from NCVO via the Third Sector Research Centre and this states that 9% of the population are responsible for just over half of formal volunteering. 9% of the Cambridgeshire population equates to 58,340 people which sounds a lot but is only 17 people per square kilometre, so this means those committed volunteers are pretty spread out. I am sure many in the sector will recognise that ‘serial volunteer’ in their community, and in fact my experience is that many who work in the sector are those serial volunteers.

The NCVO research into Volunteering, Time Well Spent, shows that 7 in 10 of us have volunteered at some time in our lives, but only 40% have done so in the last 12 months, and only 7% see volunteering as something that has consistently run through their lives. It also shows that older people are more likely to have volunteered recently, and that those in the higher social classes are more likely to volunteer.

We know we need more volunteers; we also know that people’s lives are changing. And yet are we as organisations changing our volunteering offer and what we are asking of them? All the surveys show that people do have free time, but we are competing with many new distractions and leisure opportunities that take people away from volunteering.

This gets me to the heart of what I think is the issue. I think that some of the problem, and perhaps most of the problem, with the lack of volunteers lies with us, the people looking to engage them and get them on board. I think we have to change two key things. This won’t be easy; it won’t be the same for everyone; and it may mean we have to compromise a bit on what we do.

We have to change how we ask people to volunteer.

Time well spent showed that 35% of people who had never volunteered had not been asked or had not thought about it. This is a ringing indictment of the sector. We need to be asking more people to volunteer, we need to be making this ask engaging, and we need to ensure that the ask stands out from all the other messages people receive.

There are any number of great volunteer recruitment ads doing the rounds. For me they need to concentrate on the impact the volunteer will have or the difference they will make. They need to engage and draw interest so there has to be an eye-catching photo or strapline. An advert should give the basic information about where and what the opportunity is about. There needs to be somewhere for the volunteer to go for more information – a website, the other side of the leaflet, a phone number.

Initially you need to make sure you have grabbed the attention of your audience; this means that you need to know the audience and what will grab their attention. You probably need a series of adverts and asks that appeal to different groups. You will have to invest some time and thought into this. The scout and guide movement have done this, check out some of these images.

I have collected some examples in this Pinterest board but to be honest there are probably more bad examples than good out there, and what I find engaging will not be engaging for everyone. Get creative and understand your audience.

We are not offering the right things

For too long we have had a Henry Ford approach to volunteering offers “You can have any colour as long as it is Black.” In other words organisations develop and define the volunteering opportunity they want, then try and recruit to it. Too often this does not fit with how people want to volunteer or what they are able to commit to. If we are doing this then no wonder we find recruiting hard work. People want to enjoy their volunteering, not feel guilty that they have missed a session.

I volunteer for Junior Parkrun as my youngest enjoys running it. But with young kids and a busy life we do not go every week, so we are probably at 60% of the runs. Luckily the way that Parkrun manage volunteering if I don’t turn up then the run still happens. There is a flexibility that suits me. This may mean a little extra work for those volunteers that organise the runs (and who do have to commit more), but if I had to commit to being there every week, I wouldn’t be able to and I would not volunteer at all!

What I am saying is that organisations have to think about how people want to, and are able to, volunteer and design the volunteering around that. That does not mean that volunteers can mess organisations around. If you have made a commitment it is important that you keep it, as in those weeks where I have signed up to volunteer but on waking up and seeing the rain my daughter decides she is not running – I still turn out and don’t just ‘not bother’.

I understand that in some settings it is important for clients to see people they know so volunteers have to be a bit more consistent, but there are ways of sharing a role or organising an organisations volunteering opportunities so there are a variety of roles that require different commitment levels – this is what the Parkrun model has done.

There are examples of organisations that run regular events like Parkrun but with a different volunteer team each time. Foodcycle https://www.foodcycle.org.uk/ is one, every week they put on meals using volunteers who sign on when they can and for roles they are interested in.  There are systems being developed to help manage this, one example of which comes from the museums sector.

If our volunteering opportunities do not reflect the lifestyle and availability of the potential volunteers then we will struggle to recruit. Similarly if we do not support and train our volunteers and make the activity enjoyable then we will not retain our volunteers. It is up to us to adapt to what potential volunteers want and not expect them to adapt to us. If we do not change potential volunteers will decide to re-watch Game of Thrones, or go for a run, or pop to the pub or do any one of the things people choose to do with their free time.

To Conclude

If 70% of the population have volunteered at some stage, and half of those who have never volunteered are prepared to give it a try that is a lot of potential volunteers.

We need to reach out to the lapsed volunteers and those that have never tried it. We need to ensure that volunteering is fun and flexible as well as rewarding and impactful. We need to create volunteering opportunities that fit with the lifestyles of those we are looking to attract, and adverts that make opportunities stand out.

If you want to get more information on all aspects on Recruiting and retaining volunteers then keep an eye on our training pages we also have a few tips on the website.

Who would be a trustee or committee member?

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Attribution: Alpha Stock Images – http://alphastockimages.com/
Original Author: Nick Youngson – http://www.nyphotographic.com/
Original Image: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/t/trustee.html

If you ask many small charities and groups, the answer to the above question is “not enough people”. If you ask most members of the public, they would probably look at you blankly and ask what a trustee does. Almost nobody volunteers for a charity because of the quality and excitement of their trustee meetings. People get involved because it is a cause, an organisation, a mission they are passionate about; people want to make a difference by doing, campaigning, interacting and not by meeting to check the safeguarding policy is up to date or the annual returns have been posted! Too often trustees are press-ganged into the role, I have lost count of the number of trustees I have met over the years who were dedicated supporters and/or volunteers of a charity and have been co-opted (coerced) onto the board because there was a need for more bodies.

Lots has been written about diversity on boards and this is something that should be encouraged, but too often the reality for most charities is that ‘we will take anyone who offers’. I know any number of charities who are so desperate for a treasurer they would happily accept the Count from Sesame Street as at least he understands numbers. Sometimes diversity or skills are less important than warm bodies who will turn up. We need to think about how smaller groups can turn this around given that there is no budget, and that there is less kudos and more work in small organisations, often trustees have to take on the day to day management tasks as there are not the staff or volunteers to do this. Arguably the role of say the secretary in a small organisation with a £50,000 turnover is more time consuming than it is in a multi-million pound one. In the small organisation you are doing it all, in the larger one you are checking that someone has done ‘it’.

Without a doubt a diverse, highly skilled, and well recruited trustee board is a positive benefit to an organisation. There are lots of people thinking about this at the moment, but I wonder how many will do so in a practical way for small organisations. How much of the advice will take into account the reality of working in rural or more deprived communities?

Recently Susan Elan Jones, the Labour MP for Clwyd South and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering introduced a 10 minute bill that has passed the first stage in parliament. This would add trustees to the list of activities that organisations have to give employees reasonable time off to attend, putting trustees on a par with councillors, magistrates and school governors. This is a good thing but there has been a recent issue with these bills making it through the parliamentary process. And anyway parliament seem to be obsessed with something else at the moment! – We can hope this is successful and you can find out more in this article.

If we assume that this happens will it help our small groups? Yes but …. What is reasonable time off? What does it mean to smaller local firms who may employ the local trustees? What does it mean for those in low income or temporary work who may be the trustees of the grassroots organisations? Will this mean more trustees for small local charities?

Should we pay them

My answer is and always will be no. This may seem idealistic but if you start paying people then motivations change and so does the whole ethos of charities IMHO. So, no payment but let’s be better about expenses. Encourage people to take them, if all do it, it won’t make that person who does need to take them feel stigmatised. If those that don’t need them donate the money back to the charity or another charity great, and we can claim gift aid, so great with a perk! Also remember expenses might include paying for child care or to overcome other barriers to coming out like a carer or interpreter. We all say we pay expenses but how many of us are doing it as no one has asked?

Open recruitment will make us more diverse.

That is what the research says, and I have to agree. But (and there is always a but), how practical is this for small groups with no budget and little experience. Luckily there are lots of resources available including a new guide from Getting on Board called ‘How to recruit trustees for your charity’ This has lots of advice that builds on the ‘Taken on Trust’ research. This included work to support 30 charities to recruit new trustees of which 74% were successful. Whilst this is great if only ¾ were successful when given significant help and support then it shows how difficult it can be for small organisations.

CCVS is there to offer some support so do contact us if you need help, but you have to sell your organisation and the role! Few organisations do advertise, and when they do it is generally in the free places where they are appealing to the ‘usual suspects’. By putting your advert on Reach or on Do-It, or for that matter on the CCVS website, you are advertising to people who are engaged. By advertising on social media, you are competing with all the other noise. This is a start but if you are looking to diversify your board you are going to have to invest time, energy and resources into this then. Use the above guide to try and get it as perfect as possible and be creative with your ad and where you place it..

Why do no diverse people come forward when we advertise?

There is an issue about diversity on boards. The Charity Commission has been (unhelpfully) highlighting this for a while. I am pretty sure that most of those working in the sector are aware of this. Unfortunately, open recruitment will not solve this alone. We need to address some fundamental issues which stem from the ‘that’s not for the likes of me’ syndrome. We need to look at any issues that exist about why some people do not see themselves as trustees. We need to look at why those from the working class or those from lower income groups do not see them selves as trustees. We need to address why there are fewer people from BAME communities who are trustees. We need to think why young people are not becoming trustees. We need to spread the word that trusteeship is about them, that they do have skills, insights and experiences that are important, we need to highlight the things that people can gain from being a trustee (there is a whole blog about what I have gained from it, but do check out this). If whole sections of the community do not see themselves as potential trustees no amount of open advertising is going to improve things.

So what can we do?

I think that there is a disconnect in the advice and the reality for small charities (those with an income below £100K). I also think that there is more that we as a sector can do, and more that we as a local support organisation can do.

  • We see many adverts that list the skills needs for trustees as HR, finance, management, social media etc. and less that stress the need for commitment, passion, interest, lived experience. We need to get better at appealing to a wider group of people, we have to work to write better adverts.
  • We need to find ways to make more people see themselves as trustees. This means that groups working with these individuals need to look at how we educate and inform people that charities want them.
  • We need to find funders that will fund grassroots programmes to provide advice, support and training to get more people to become trustees.
  • Charities have to want diverse boards and not just say they do. Often boards become ‘clubs’ and this is very off putting if you do not naturally fit in. It is important that all organisations look for new ideas and disrupters, and are able to engage with and encourage the change that they bring.
  • We need to think where we are advertising and not simply use the usual channels, and this is where open recruitment needs to be better – if we have an advert that appeals to a certain group, we need to put it in front of that group.
  • We need to put in place appropriate training and support for new trustees. This has to be from infrastructure organisations and also from the trustee’s own organisation. We need to make this support and training flexible and appropriate to trustees from all backgrounds.
  • We need to be better at articulating both the difference that trustees make and the personal benefits that being a trustee brings. Many volunteering opportunities are couched in this way and sometimes it feels that trustees are looked at differently than volunteers when in fact it is simply one form of volunteering.
  • We need to make our meetings accessible to different people, this means looking at the times and venues but also at the use of technology and how we structure meetings.

Without trustees the sector grinds to a halt, yet for many small groups getting trustees is an ongoing struggle. We need investment that will both help the groups look in new places as they recruit, and will also help more people to see themselves as potential trustees. We need good quality advice, support and training for new and existing trustees to ensure they are kept informed and up to date with best practice and legislation. We need everyone, including the Charity Commission, promoting the fantastic work charities do and how trustees contribute to this.

What I need to move my charity forward and be the best it can is someone committed and passionate about our vision. I can’t teach that, I can teach a bit of charity law, or finance or strategic planning.

Advert to a page to find out more about being a trustee on the CCVS website
Advert to Duties of trustees training to be held on 30th April in Cambridge

UPDATED INFORMATION SHEET RELEASED ON THE RE-OPENING OF COMMUNITY BUILDINGS

More updates from Cambridgeshire ACRE.
Well worth a read for all those with community buildings.

Cambridgeshire ACRE's Community Buildings Service

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

The updated information sheet and templates are available to download below.  These documents are also available in the members area of our website http://www.cambsacre.org.uk/members-login.php this update is to cover new information released by Government.

Key changesoutlinedbelow:

Version 4 of the Re-opening Information Sheet for Village Halls has been issued today, to reflect the Government information at 20th July and anticipates changes at 25th July and 1st August.

The changes mainly reflect the Government guidance around the opening of performance and sport venues, which are reflected in revision of Appendix D (Management of Social Distancing – a risk based Approach) and new appendices J and K, which summarise key points as they are most likely to affect village halls and similar facilities, such as allowing yoga, keep fit, rehearsals and live performances.  

Social distancing has caused confusion and updated Government guidance for individuals was released on 18th July, including specific guidance that seated wedding receptions for up to 30 are permitted…

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Keep caring for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are being urged by civic and community leaders from across the county to “Keep caring” for one another, as coronavirus hasn’t gone away.

A campaign has launched to reinvigorate public health messages and remind people that while lockdown restrictions are gradually being lifted – everyone needs to take action to help us all return to a more normal life.

With certain government restrictions relaxed from 4 July, including being able to meet in groups of up to two households in any location – public or private, indoors or outdoors – it remains the case that even inside someone’s home you should continue to keep a safe distance from anyone not in your household or bubble.

The two metre rule being relaxed to a ‘1 metre plus’ approach depends on the setting, and means people are being trusted to continue acting responsibly by following this and the related guidance to care for themselves and each other.

The more people we interact with, the more chance the virus has to spread. Therefore, everyone should still try to limit the number of people they see and get close to. The risk of transmission is also higher indoors, so people should take extra care including wearing a face covering on public transport and in enclosed spaces where you can’t stay two metres apart.

The Keep Caring campaign led by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, and supported by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, East of England Ambulance Service, the local NHS, community organisations and local district councils, outlines ways that people can take care of themselves and each other – for instance highlighting that:

  • Caring is keeping your distance – inside or outside
  • Caring is being responsible – staying isolated if you think you’ve got symptoms, or been close to someone who has
  • Caring is covering your face – even with no symptoms you might still spread virus
  • Caring is washing your hands – regularly, when you enter or leave a new place

It also points out that:

  • Caring is staying and buying local – to support local businesses and jobs
  • Caring is being considerate – rubbish destroys our countryside, and puts those who clear it up at risk

Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough said:

“It is the public who have reduced the transmission of coronavirus so far. By taking care of themselves and each other, fatalities and infection rates in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have continued to fall.

But our message today is that this caring can’t stop now, as the most important thing we can continue to do is to stay alert, control the virus, and, in doing so, save more lives.

The government updated its plan for social distancing from 4 July, but the message remains strong that to continue to reduce the transmission of the virus, we should continue good hygiene rules, washing our hands and surfaces often, remain physically distant from people outside of our household, and keep your mouth and nose covered where you can’t be sure of staying apart.”

Comprehensive advice on current government rules is available on the gov.uk website.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities

More great information from @cambsacre

Cambridgeshire ACRE's Community Buildings Service

Government has today released the following information for community facilities.

Community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activity. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This information is for those managing multi-use community facilities. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces, in line with thegovernment’s roadmapto ease the existing measures to tackle COVID-19.

Until 4 July, community centres will be closed except where they are used to provide the following permitted activities:

(a) essential voluntary activities or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency), or

(b) early years childcare provided by a person registered on the Early Years Register…

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COVID-19: Guidance for managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms

Help for any organisation responsible for outside playgrounds from Cambridgeshire ACRE

Cambridgeshire ACRE's Community Buildings Service

In advance of the change in the law that will allow playgrounds and outdoor gyms to re-open on 4 July, Government has published a guidance note containing practical advice on how these can be reopened and managed effectively to enable their use while minimising the transmission risk of COVID-19.

The guidance note can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-playgrounds-and-outdoor-gyms/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-playgrounds-and-outdoor-gyms

Owners and operators responsible for playgrounds and outdoor gyms will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for activity permitted by legislation, and may decide to keep these areas closed should they feel they are not able to facilitate their safe usage.

Owners and operators responsible for playgrounds or outdoor gyms must assess and manage the risk of potential COVID-19 transmission as relevant to the users of the equipment, such as children, parents, guardians and carers, as well as any staff hired or tasked with the maintenance or cleaning of…

View original post 26 more words

An opportunity not to be wasted?

A guest post from Liz Hughes writing in a personal capacity on charity shops and the possible ‘new normal’. You can follow Liz on LinkedIn

As charity shops prepare to re-open I am wondering when I will next visit one. Pre COVID-19 I was a regular charity shop browser. I loved this green and frugal form of consumerism – a purchase meeting a need or desire, while also offering the warm glow you get from supporting a charity. It wasn’t that I was looking for a particular book or item, it was speculative shopping for me, purchases were the product of happy happenstance. Any discovery being even more of a prize for having been unexpected. But have shopping habits changed in the last twelve weeks?

Charities have been missing the income from their shops (valued at £295 million a year by Charity Retail), and I imagine the community has also been missing the wider good these high street stores do for both donors and buyers. If we didn’t have this glorious cycle of giving and getting things, then arguably we would need to invent it. But in the aftermath of COVID 19 is there an opportunity to look to see if we can reinvent buying from charity shops?

As charity shops reopen in the coming weeks it remains to be seen if we all assume old buying habits. During the lockdown it seemed strange to think that we crowded into small stores to pick through items, when we knew nothing about where they had come from or who had handled them. For a while I have wondered why charity shops have not changed more in response to technological, community and consumer changes over recent years. As we all take steps to move forward in the shadow of COVID 19 is there an opportunity for a creative discussion about how we might reimagine charity shops?

Many former charity shop volunteers have been shielding or isolating and there has been an appeal for new and younger volunteers, as many charity shops have an older volunteer base.  But could we need more than to try and replicate what we had before with a younger workforce?

Many charity shops are small and will find it hard to effectively accommodate social distancing. This could be compounded by the long-time trend for people to shop online more, which has also been accelerated by the crisis. There will also be an issue of trust and safety as people will wonder how they ensure the items in store are not contaminated with the virus.

From my perspective browsing in charity shops was a pastime rather than an efficient way to shop, where purchases were often luck and happenstance rather than a way of reliably finding new clothes for rapidly growing children, or for locating a particular book I was looking for. Are there other ways to deliver the benefits of charity shops, perhaps using technological platforms and partnership working? Could charities work together, to make searching through their combined stock easier to find what you might be looking for? Is anyone interested in having a conversation about what charity shops could become in the future?

In a community the size of Cambridge is there a real opportunity to collectively create a smarter way of operating the stores which could in turn create more benefit and perhaps also have a smaller environmental footprint?