Reasons to be Cheerful – one, two, three

The sky outside is wet and grey, the taxman’s taken all my dough and money’s too tight to mention but I’m not down.

The voluntary sector continues to surprise and delight me in its ability to meet the needs of the diverse community out there, in its ability to adapt and survive and swing with the punches and its ingenuity in using new technologies to reach out and make a difference.

So what has brought on my burst of positive thinking and is there any basis to it. A recent report and blog post from @Karl Wilding from @NCVO has been the catalyst for this. They have produced The Road Ahead 2014 which looks at the environment that we as a sector are operating in. Karl blogs about this as part of series of blogs linked to a book produced by Civic Exchange called Making Good: The future of the voluntary sector. To be honest Karl’s take is one of the more optimistic in this series of essays and chimes with the feelings that I get from working with groups at CCVS.

Without a doubt the money available from statutory sources is drying up, this is highlighted in the NCVO work and we see it here in Cambridgeshire. The Barnet Graph of Doom is held up as proof that things are going to get worse (Google it to read the arguments for and against). We do know that the City Council have cut their grant budget from £1.19 Million to £900K, that the County have got to find another £32Million in cuts and that the CCG was one of those that was deemed to have significant financial problems. None of this bodes well for the voluntary sector BUT only 20% of those responding to our survey thought funding would reduce next year – rampant optimism, rose-tinted view of reality or simply that many groups do not receive ‘government’ funding. The sector is embracing new fundraising methods, like online funding, crowdsourcing, and impact bonds. On top of this it continues to raise money the old way through events, traditional fundraising and grants. Last year the PTA at the infant school at which I am a governor raised around £17K through hard work and putting on events supported by the parents and children. Money is an issue but as the NCVO almanac shows us the sectors income has remained pretty steady for the last few years.

ncvo graph

I believe that the sector will continue to find ways to raise the money it needs and more importantly will continue to find ways to more effectively use that money. Here at CCVS we are hoping to kick-start a better relationship between the business sector and the VCS that is not about just money but also about the sector doing things more efficiently. Reason to be cheerful One.

I love the way that the sector is embracing new technology and especially the power of the internet. Far from making everyone more insular it seems to be generating more ways for groups to come together. Recent awards for charity CEOs use of social media highlight the positive impacts that can be gained by being engaged. Locally we are seeing the rise of meetup groups such as the one helping VCS organisations to improve their social media skills. We are also seeing the rise of people coming together to ‘do good stuff’ with events like this local un-conference. Nationally charities are utilising apps and games to get their message across; they are using quizzes and parody sites to connect with new audiences. All this on top of the rise in online and mobile giving and the continued innovation in website design and the use of video. Reason to be cheerful Two.

The sector continues to come up with ways of working and with projects that make a real difference. The K9 project who use “the unique bond between humans and dogs to provide a range of services to people of all ages. From children and young people who are not benefitting from conventional education to adults who want to change their lives for the better” are doing wonderful things and have some really inspirational stories about the difference they make. Bluesmile, a “new Cambridgeshire children’s charity that provides counselling and therapy for pupils in schools between the ages of 3 and 13 during a critical window of opportunity for change”, has seen a need and found a way to tackle it. The Cambridge branch of Food Cycle “serve a delicious lunch at The Centre at St Paul’s Church every Saturday to a range of people from the community.” As one volunteer states the charity is ticking all the boxes “You’re doing something which is really positive to the environment by using surplus food, you’re meeting new people, talking to new people, getting new skills, and you’re also giving something back to the community”.

I could continue to list the organisations that inspire and amaze me, all of which are run by dedicated staff and volunteers but I think you get my point – and you probably have your own favorites. Reason to be cheerful Three.

From where I sit everything is awesome the sector looks amazing and is Rising up to the challenge of  working in this ever changing world in which we live in.

“A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it

You’re welcome, we can spare it….

….Reasons to be cheerful one, two, three.”

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