Online fundraising in rural communities: learn and share

Join us on 10th Dec 6pm to 7.30pm to look at alternatives to grant funding particularly for rural groups and communities.

This event will include a presentation by Naomh Campbell (Co-op member pioneer coordinator for the Eastern Region) who, with her team is looking to work with more local causes offering support and advise.  We will also have interviews from two successful community fundraisers with one running  a crowdfunding campaign and another putting their community fundraising events online. 

We will touch on social investment and community share schemes to assess the level of interest for a future more in depth session on these topics.

To book your place

“Good things come in small parcels”

“Good things come in small parcels”

I am not sure where this quote comes from so I will attribute it to my Mum (who was small), who used it every Christmas when someone (usually me) complained that they didn’t have any big presents.

And you know what my Mum was obviously very wise!

The Glue that binds


Every day here at CCVS we work with groups that are doing amazing things, and many of those are doing that with very little funding and little or no paid staff time. In fact, this year 58% of those groups who responded to our annual survey had an income below £50,000 a year; 69% had 5 or less staff, and 35% had no staff.

These groups are at the core of what makes the communities in which we live ‘good places to live’. These small groups bring people together. These small groups provide services to fellow community members. These small groups, unfortunately, replace underfunded statutory services. If I look at the village where I live there are groups doing all these things and more. The archaeology society has brought people together through its programme of digging test pits across the village, its local talks, and now its work with local schools. The local Baptist Church runs a mother and baby/toddler group that allows parents to come together, make friends, and provides activities for the children. The local infant school PTA raised over £20,000 to provide the children with new IT, exciting learning opportunities and additional resources.

Robert Putnam said that we are now bowling alone and the latest national survey shows that volunteer numbers have reduced and that people volunteer for shorter periods. But I wonder if the small groups working in communities and the volunteers they have simply fly so far beneath the radar that few, outside their communities, know they are there. We know that some groups are struggling to get volunteers. We know that volunteering patterns are changing. We know that people work more hours for more years. Whilst these problems are real, and groups need help recruiting and retaining volunteers and developing volunteering opportunities that fit with people’s other commitments, I am always astounded by what people do and what the groups and organisations they give time to do. Last weekend alone me and 12,405 other people across the UK volunteered at Parkrun and Junior Parkrun events; 116,928 people finished the events. People were connected, active, healthy, and doing something in and for their communities.

So, there you are, small community organisations and volunteer led groups are the glue that binds communities together; as well as the deliverer of untold numbers of services and activities.

The growing darkness

dark moonNational research has shown that it is the smaller organisations that have been most impacted by austerity measures and changes to how national and local government fund the sector.

We have seen grants from local authorities fall in real terms for several years, and there is a real postcode lottery as to the funding a group might get dependent on where it operates. Coupled to this we have seen changes to how and what the Big Lottery will fund; and the consolidation (locally) of many corporate grants programmes into the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation.

Linked to the downturn in funding availability is the upturn in demand. As local authority and health thresholds for statutory help increase, more people are left to seek help from voluntary groups. There has been a marked increase in the use of Food banks. Many organisations working with those with mental health issues are seeing clients with increasingly complex needs and their ability to refer on to statutory or clinical services has gone down.

At the same time, there are growing pressures to get organisations of all size to meet different sets of regulations or rules. Changes in fundraising practice which came about following the failings of a number of big charities will have some knock-on effect on the small ones. Data protection will become an even bigger issue for all organisations regardless of their size. The charity commission is no longer there to support organisations but to regulate them. Whilst the impacts of all these changes may be less for smaller organisations their ability to know about them never mind implement them is a growing issue.

Organisations are run by volunteers in the form of trustees, and whilst calls to end charity such as that in the Guardian[1] are misplaced and written as ‘click bait’ the expectations and pressures are growing. Many small organisations are governed by individuals who are passionate about the work or cause; very few trustees are passionate about governance. Generally, trustees find themselves in the role after becoming a long term volunteer or by having been ‘asked’ by existing trustees in their acquaintance. It is essential that trustees are aware of all the different regulations, rules and laws that cover their work. From insurance requirements to financial management requirements and employment rights, the list is endless (or at least very long).

The light at the end of the tunnel

tunnelSo, to recap. We need small voluntary groups and charities for healthy local communities.

Healthy communities are better able to support, sustain and nurture individuals.

Small voluntary groups and charities are finding it harder to find the money they need to operate.

The trustees of the small voluntary groups and charities are being drowned under increasing regulation.

What these small groups, communities and individuals need is somewhere to turn to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver their services and stay sustainable. They also need someone who will champion their needs with statutory bodies and the wider public.

They need local infrastructure organisations like those in the Support Cambridgeshire partnership.

The Support Cambridgeshire annual survey shows the fact that organisations value their membership of both CCVS and Hunts Forum. They value the work we do to represent their needs and those of the wider sector and they appreciate the advice, support, training and communications. It is essential that this local service remains. Despite the wisdom of ages being available at the click of a Goggle search many organisations want some help in identifying the best resources, and in transferring the information into knowledge. Groups want access to local, free training that it is pitched at the right level. They want to be able to contact someone who will answer their question on all aspects of running a voluntary group. They want help identifying and applying for relevant funding pots. They don’t need consultants or long-term scrutiny; they don’t need courses in London or online.

Local infrastructure may well have fallen out of favour with many funders and with national government. Local authorities may try and squeeze it by asking for more for less. But local organisations value the service. By investing in strong and sustainable local infrastructure you are investing in a diverse and sustainable local voluntary and community sector; and therefore, in strong, resilient communities.

Local infrastructure may not impact directly on individuals lives and well-being but it does ensure that there are more groups out there that can, and do.

“It is difficult to sum up the support from CCVS in a few words! It is, quite simply, vital for organisations like ours who are small and inexperienced in many areas and also who sometimes struggle with confidence on bigger issues. It is amazing to know that there is high-quality support for us, and also such frequent and detailed updates about funding and what is going on in the sector. Thank you for all you do for us and organisations like us”


One month into the New Year and I have been to a LOT of meetings

meeting 2

January is over, I have already failed on most of my New Year Resolutions and I have been to a lot of meetings. These meetings are important and as a CVS it is our role to go and represent the sector, but I do wonder what would happen if we were not there. Would the world stop turning – NO; would you stop providing services – NO; would the statutory organisations who generally call these meetings stop having them – NO; would the sector get forgotten about or marginalise – MAYBE; would the sector be misrepresented and misunderstood – MAYBE; would the sector be assumed to be able to do ‘stuff’ for ‘nothing’ – YOU BETCHA’

This is not the first time that this thought about the value of meetings has made me think What would happen differently if these meetings did not exist? It is important that we keep evaluating what it is we do and why; here at CCVS we are currently in the beginning stages of looking at what our strategy will be in the future, so once again I questioned why so much of my time is spent sitting in meetings with lots of important people talking about stuff.

For info the meetings I have attended in January include

  • The Fenland Health and Wellbeing Partnership
  • A County Council Communications and Project Board Meeting
  • The South Cambridgeshire Local Health Partnership
  • The Fenland Community safety Partnership
  • A City Council Prevent meeting
  • The City Council Local Health Partnership

At all these meetings the work that voluntary sector groups do is integral to the work, priorities and targets of the statutory partners; sometimes this work is recognised and the groups involved are obvious, hardly ever are the efforts of the groups rewarded with funding and support. Often the work of many groups is not thought to be contributing when it is, both directly and indirectly – and that is a big part of my job. I am there to remind people of all the wonderful and diverse work that the sector does; to point out that this work needs to be resourced; and to highlight the fact that just because a lunch club does not see itself as providing health benefits it is doing so in many ways – by reducing isolation and loneliness, by serving nutritious food and by noticing when someone unexpectedly misses a session and popping round to check they are OK.

I am good at getting the sectors profile raised; I have learnt how to sound a little less like a stuck record when reminding people that we do need money; I have helped some people who did not understand the sector understand it better. This is all good but in the long run in this time of austerity will it bring in more funding and more support and better opportunities for you to engage? A recent blog by Joe Saxton for NFP synergy railed against voluntary groups spending time lobbying politicians, my response to that was that at a local level we were not and that we are continuing to get on with helping people and doing our thing. I do however believe that we are affected by the things that happen in politics both nationally and locally. We have to make people aware of:

  • the work we do,
  • the impact of their decisions on those that we work with and support
  • the issues that are affecting the lives of people in their constituency/district

I will continue to speak up for the sector but you need to as well. I will continue to attend meetings so that you do not have to and can get on with your important work. But at the same time CCVS relies on your input to give us a bird’s eye view of what is happening on the ground. So my challenge to you is to let me have your insights and stories, what is great about what you have done? What are the burning issues? What ways can we join up with strategies that are in place and what ways can we ensure we drive agendas in the future?

As an incentive I will donate £5 of my own money to my new favorite campaign,harrisons fund

Harrisons Fund for the first five VCS organisations in Cambridge, South Cambs and Fenland that get back to me with their stories and ideas of how we can drive change and show statutory partners the difference we make.

What the Health is going on?

Hands up – it has been a while since any reports on attendance at health meetings, so this blog is designed to rectify that and to draw together some general thoughts on health related issues and the voluntary sector.

So what is going on – the big news is that the new provider for adult services has been announced. UnitingCare Partnership, which is a consortium of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, are the lucky winners. They will have a duty to work with voluntary sector providers and we will need to keep a close eye on how the sector can get involved and especially how smaller local providers can be supported.

Another big announcement saw the publication of the Public Health Annual Report This can be viewed here. This report sets out the different health issues facing the county broken down by district. The report will inform much of the future work across the council and CCG and should be regarded as a source of information for VCS organisations.

Other big health news includes

  • The Better Care Fund which is a government plan for allowing local areas to reform health care. It looks to move funding from acute to community health provision. The County Council are responsible for this and have put in their initial plans to government. This has been a long and difficult process and the sector have been involved to some part, but expressions of interest for projects have not been taken forward despite the time and effort put into preparing them. More information can be found in the papers from the latest Health and Wellbeing Board here.
  • The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group CCG have been developing a Five Year Plan. More information can be found on the CCG website. There is ongoing discussion as to the role of the VCS in this and it is important that we keep an eye on how providers can get involved. The fact that this area is one of the countries ‘financially challenged health authorities’ probably precludes lots of money for grants to support projects, this does not mean that some funding should not flow into the sector.

These notes follow attendance at the following meetings (if papers are available follow the links)

So what does all this tell us about health and what the voluntary sector can do?

There seem to a whole raft of positives for the sector in all these new initiatives. Firstly everyone is expressing their love for the work that we do to ensure healthier communities; secondly there is a real narrative that services have to move to a more preventative nature, this is great for the sector because as a rule it is where the bulk of our work is situated. Thirdly there is a move to a more person centred, local style of service, again right up the sectors street. There are undoubtedly going to be opportunities for sector providers to play a role in the new ways of working but things are not all rosy – given that there are severe financial constraints, given that commissioning does not generally favour the small, localised and specialist services that a lot of CCVS members provide, and given that acute services can not be stopped and will continue to demand greater funding despite the desire to work more preventively.

Finally we must recognise that change brings about a certain amount of introspection and this has been evident in those organisations responsible for funding health and wellbeing; hopefully, although there are still changes happening, both the CCG and the County Council are looking out more and more. I believe that it is important that as they start looking out they see a confident and professional VCS waiting to take up the opportunities that arise. There needs to be more joined up thinking about how the sector delivers and this is starting to happen, and there needs to be projects that clearly align with the priorities that have been articulated.

South Cambs still a safe place to live

The South Cambridgeshire Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (papers available here) met recently for its bi-annual stakeholder event, and it is official South Cambs is still a safe place. Not as safe as previously reported where South Cambs was reported to be the least crime ridden (?) of all its comparable districts, but still generally safe. It appears that things were never quite as safe as had been indicated as there were anomalies in how crimes were reported, but things are back to being recorded correctly, and whilst this does show crime rates will have climbed, it is not crime that is going up, just the crime reports.

I hope that is clear, because to be honest I am not sure what real difference it makes, the real test of how safe a place is to live is how safe people feel it is and this can often have no bearing on the reality of the number of offenses that are committed, reported and solved. For those of you who have a morbid curiosity about the number of offences committed where you live check out county information on the Crime and Community Safety Atlas, or national information on

What I can not say is if either of these are based on the old recording method or the new one, but my understanding is that for more serious offences there will be little or no difference. As soon as the figures that were used in the meeting are verified and published I will post a link.

The meeting also heard an update on the community trigger which is a new power relating to reporting Anti-Social Behavior (See a previous blog What’s wrong with a good old fashioned clip round the ear?) The South Cambs trigger will replicate that of other districts across the county and will need three reports in a six month period to be eligible for activation (Find out more about the national pilots here). I am a bit disappointed that districts have not followed Brighton and Hove’s example of having a much lower trigger point (check out the website), but as things move forward then there is no reason that changes can not be made. Whatever happens then we need to make sure that reporting is easy and not time consuming; again there are lessons to be learnt from the pilots.