Online Volunteer Coffee Mornings and Walk and Talk With CCVS 

by CCVS Volunteer Amy. January 2023.

Hello! It’s Amy here. I’d like to talk to you about the online Coffee Mornings and the Walk and Talk that I assist Ellie with as part of my volunteering with CCVS. Myself and Ellie decided to organise both of these as an opportunity for people who may be interested in volunteering to meet and talk to people from organisations who recruit volunteers. This is a good way to find out what volunteering opportunities are out there which you may wish to look into further. 

Some people feel more comfortable to meet online (which is where the coffee mornings come in). They’re on Zoom and we usually start with an introduction and a brief chat. Then someone from an organisation does a presentation and participants have a chance to ask questions (perhaps to find out more about volunteering there) or general questions about the organisation. For example, we’ve had speakers from Kettle’s Yard, Safe Soulmates and the Red Hen. 

These online coffee mornings are good because they give people the chance to find out what’s out there in terms of volunteering opportunities (as well as getting a general feel of what’s out there in the community) and can be done in an environment where they feel comfortable. They can also be a good opportunity for people within organisations to connect with each other (if they want to). 

It’s always interesting to hear about what each organisation does and what volunteering opportunities they have. We’ve heard from lots of different organisations in the last year and there’s so much that could have been overlooked if they hadn’t taken the time to talk to us. It also gives the participants a chance to talk about their experience of volunteering as well as finding out what opportunities are out there. 

The idea of the Walk and Talk events are similar to the online coffee mornings (but more active and in the great outdoors) and gives potential volunteers a chance to meet others (including people from organisations who recruit volunteers) face to face. It’s just chat and a chance to talk about your interests in terms of volunteering (rather than a presentation as such). It’s not as structured as the online coffee mornings and always weather permitting!

These walks are different each time and sometimes we get a small group and sometimes big ones. We’ve heard lots of interesting things from both participants and people from organisations (including Cambridge University Museum, Fight Bladder Cancer and more). It’s good when people feel relaxed and want to chat about lots of things (their experiences as volunteers, their goals and aspirations, mental and physical health for example). Of course, it’s up to people themselves what they want to talk about, though. 

Amy out and about at one of the walk and talk sessions.

If you would like to join us for our walk and talk and/or coffee mornings, get in touch with Ellie at or 07840989719. We are looking forward to seeing you!

Why we need to deliver angrily


By Mark Freeman, CEO of CCVS. November 2022.

This blog is about why we as a sector need to be angry. It sets out my thoughts on why we need to deliver angrily and starts to think about how we might communicate our anger. The blog was inspired by the latest CCVS research.

Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian that

“For the first time since the welfare state was created, it is the food bank, not social security, that is now our safety net, and charity, not universal credit, that is our last line of defence.”

Foodbanks have become the norm, so much so that we have seen politicians visiting, opening, and congratulating them on their work.

We are helping set up warm hubs because people can’t heat their homes.

More people are losing their homes as they find rent, mortgage or energy costs spiralling.

Everyone working in the sector will have their own story. They have told us how demand has increased. How the people they help have more complex needs as they cannot get access to services.

Yet as a sector we quite rightly try to do that bit more, raise that bit of extra funding, ask those volunteers to do that one extra shift. The sector quite rightly doubles down and keeps delivering. that is how it should be. that is what you do.

But if our research has shown anything it is not a bottomless pot of capacity, organisations and individuals are stretched. We know staff have left; volunteers not returned after the pandemic. We know that money is harder to come by but still we keep delivering, right up to the point where we can’t anymore.

Gordon Brown goes on to say

“Just as need rises, our country’s voluntary sector finds itself as beleaguered as the people it is helping. Compassion is not running out but cash is. Donors who have a little and generously give to those who have nothing will soon be unable to give at all. Gifts left on supermarket trolleys are declining. Many charities, like a local welfare fund I know, are flat broke. Even churches, which have selflessly offered their heated halls to help elderly people stay warm, fear they will now struggle to pay their own fuel bills.”

So, what are we, what are you going to do about it?

I suggest that you start to deliver angrily.

That is not to direct anger at those you work with, for them you will be the helpful, approachable, non-judgemental professionals you have always been.

  • Reserve that anger for the people who have put us and more importantly those we work with in this position.
  • Reserve your anger for those that spread the myths of the striver and the shirker.
  • Reserve your anger for those that blame the people in need and t those who make decisions that are about preserving their power or their fortune.
  • Reserve your anger for those that deny there is a problem or offer too little too late

Those people need to hear the roar of the small charity and the community group.

Too often the voices of our larger cousins in the charitable world are lost or are just one side of a balanced news item or are dismissed as fake news.

But when the thousands of small charities raise their voices how powerful could that become.

I ask you to tell your stories and those of the people you work with

I ask that you make more opportunities to explain why you have to exist and what you are dealing with

I ask you to call out the consequences of decision makers at all levels.

I ask you tell people what needs to change so that your services are no longer needed, however unlikely that is to be the case.

I ask you to join together with other local voices to amplify your message.

Your organisations should not be the safety net, they should be the support that helps people get off the net once you have landed on it or the harness that ensures people do not fall onto the net.

It is no longer enough to just be brilliant at what you do. I am asking you to shout. To stamp your feet, to demand change.

I am asking you to deliver angrily

Romsey Mill becomes Living Wage accredited

Our thanks to Neil Thompson of Romsey Mill for this write up.

Romsey Mill is a Cambridge-based charity that has been engaging with disadvantaged young people, children and families, and helping to grow community, since 1980.

The charity’s vision is for a transformed society where everyone can fully belong, positively contribute and thrive.

Romsey Mill works to making this vision a reality by creating opportunities with young people, children and families to overcome disadvantage, promote inclusion and develop personal, social and spiritual wellbeing.

This vision for the future and purpose in the present is inspired by beliefs and values that are rooted in the Christian faith. 

Romsey Mill engages with over 2,000 local young people, children and families, and also provides facilities for community use at Romsey Mill Centre, as well as managing two other local community centres on behalf of the City Council.

We have a team of 50 employees, working part and full-time engaged in programme delivery and administrative support. Over 100 volunteers help in a wide variety of ways.

For many years, the Trustees and Management Team of Romsey Mill have committed to paying the Real Living Wage to all of its employees, including sessional workers.

Earlier this year, we took the decision to apply for accreditation as a Real Living Wage employer.

We did this because we wanted to make public our commitment to paying the Real Living Wage. We also wanted to join with others in promoting this as the right thing for all employers to do, particularly in Cambridge, the most unequal city in the UK, according to recent studies by the Centre for Cities.  

The accreditation process was relatively straight forward, with excellent support and training from Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service.

We have now completed the application process and received our accreditation, and our commitment to paying the Real Living Wage can be made more public, re-enforcing our commitment to being alongside and working with local people overcome disadvantage.

We would now encourage other organisations in Cambridge to do the same. Particularly those who have already been paying all their staff the Real Living Wage. Gaining accreditation is a small administrative and financial price for organisations to pay for helping to overcome disadvantage and inequality in our city.

Sally Page, Development Worker at CCVS says: “CCVS are delighted that Romsey Mill have become an accredited Living Wage Employer and are proud to be working with Cambridge City Council to administrate grants, available to cover the initial Living Wage Foundation accreditation cost for Cambridge based voluntary organisations

With the cost of living going up, the need to take action to enable better pay across our sector is as vital as ever. Whilst this is just one cog in the wheel, if you join us in becoming a Living Wage Employer you will be contributing towards Cambridge becoming a fairer city, and that can only be a good thing.” 

6 essential tips when thinking about charity monitoring and evaluation.

No one (or at least almost no one) goes into working or volunteering for a charity or community group to do evaluation, because they love data, or they like filling in forms. But the reality is that as soon as you start delivering a service or an activity you should be thinking about how you will understand the difference it is making and how successful it is.
The chances are that if you are receiving funding it is likely that whoever gave you the money will ask for a report. If you have trustees or a committee they need to know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and will need to see the ‘proof’. Monitoring and evaluation should not just be a chore that you have to do to get funding, it should be something built into the very bones of your organisation or group.
This blog gives our 6 essential tips, but if you want to know more check out the CCVS training or that offered by other local and national support bodies.

1 - It has to be useful to you not just a chore imposed by others

If monitoring and evaluation is simply something you do because others have ‘forced’ you then it is only ever going to be a chore and you will have missed out on important learning.

Look for ways that allow you to meet the needs of lots of different stakeholders at the same time. But also make sure the process is working for the organisation. It is your opportunity to get information that helps tell your story and to promote your successes. How much better to say that we helped groups gain £10 million in income rather than that 50 people came to our fundraising training.

2 - You have to think about this at the start of the project

If you get to the end of a project and only then think about the evaluation and monitoring it will be much harder or impossible to do.

You need to start thinking about this aspect of the project as you are planning the project. Start thinking about what you are trying to change, how you might measure this and how you will capture the data you need. If the monitoring and evaluation takes place throughout the project then there are opportunities to change how you do things to improve what you offer. Also by making sure you are taking the time to collect data as you go it will give you more to work with when you have to report.

There is also a chance that collecting feedback and data as you go will give you useful quotes etc to help tell your story, and also help you to raise additional funding by helping to answer those questions about need, about clients informing your work as well as about the difference you make. Never under estimate the value of a good quote from someone who has used your services, and more importantly never feel shy about using it at every possible opportunity.

3 - It does not have to be complicated, but there is some jargon

There are some common words that you will need to get your head around so that you can be sure you are doing what will be most useful and informative for you and other stakeholders.

You will need to get your head around the inputs and outputs, the outcomes and impacts, qualitative and quantitative. A good place to start is the NCVO website or the NPC website or sign up to one of our training sessions.

Once you have mastered some of the language, what you are monitoring and how you evaluate it does not have to be complicated. It is important that what you do reflects the size of the project you are doing, and that it enables you to answer the questions you need answering and show the difference you are making. For a small project it may simply be about collecting numbers of attendees and where they are from, but if you can add some feedback in the form of quotes or produce a case study this will help add depth to your report.

4 - There are lots of ways to collect data - be creative

Sometimes it will not be possible to measure what you want to know about. Sometimes there will not be an obvious way to look at the difference you make. This does not mean you can’t evaluate your work and monitor things.

You may have to think about proxy indicators that allow you to show your difference with your time scale and budget. If you work with young people you can’t tell if your project has kept them out of prison, but you may be able to get feedback about how positive they are about their life following your activity.

Also think about how you can be creative in getting feedback in a way that is suitable for your audience. This could involve using technology or art but it does not always have to be a happy sheet or an interview. There are loads of resources on this as well as how to be more creative about how you use data.

NPC and from Catalyst

5 - How you present your findings is important

If your data is not understandable, then there is no point having it. If it is not presented in an engaging way no one will read it.

Loads of people have written about this and there are example blogs from the US and from Just Giving.

You have to find ways to engage people and to tell a compelling story. At the same time, you may want to think about what platforms you will be sharing on and ensure that any reports or slides etc are able to work for you across different platforms and with different audiences.

6 - Learn from the feedback don't just ignore it.

It may seem obvious but how many reports are produced and then simply put on a shelf and ignored.

If you have gone to the effort of doing the monitoring and evaluation make sure you use it. This is about shouting about the difference you make. It is about looking at ways that you can improve and build on the work you are doing. It is about using what you find to demonstrate need if you want to look for extra or continuation funding. The chances are that once you have the data then it will be useful in producing your annual report and review. It will be useful to trustees to enable them to see that the charity is doing what it should. Think about how you can make the information you have work as hard as possible for you.

This is part of telling your story and all charities should be looking at how they do that. Tips on this from CAF and Charity Digital. Also keep an eye out for the CCVS training on telling stories.

Quote from Melissa Steginus "Review is essential to evaluation, which is essential to progress."

Evaluation has to be linked to everything you do. Done well

  • you will be able to find solutions that will address the needs of many different stakeholders.
  • it will tell your story and prove your worth.
  • you will clearly see what was good, not so good and what was excellent and you will be able to deliver better and better projects.

The NPC website has some brilliant resources as does NCVO  

A Break in Berlin – what I learnt from my volunteering sabbatical

Yet another fantastic volunteering blog. This time Rob is just the introducer 🙂

Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd

In this guest post from Laura White, you have a fantastic opportunity learn first had about volunteering in Berlin and gains ’em insights that you can apply in your own organisations wherever you are in the world.

Over to Laura…

It’s rare that someone gets to drop out of their normal life for twelve weeks, but thanks to Sustrans’ career break policy, that’s exactly what I was able to do between April and July this year. I put cover in place for my job for three months, packed my bags and travelled to Germany with literally zero plans, apart from to try to volunteer.

I wasn’t sure how easy it would be – I can speak a bit of German, but I wondered if volunteering opportunities might be limited by the fact that I couldn’t commit long-term. In my job looking after volunteering on Scotland’s National Cycle Network, I’ve…

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