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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
I enjoyed writing this article because, after what seems like ages, I once again get to question Government plans for volunteering.
I’m not being party political. All the parties get plenty wrong on volunteering. Some even get some things right, sometimes. It’s just that I used to enjoy writing articles highlighting the apparent default ignorance of politicians about what makes for successful volunteer engagement.
So, I was eager to put finger to keyboard last week when reports started coming through in The Huffington Post that the new UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (and deputy Prime Minister), Therese Coffey, had announced a “Call For One Million NHS Volunteers This Winter” (NB. This only applies to the NHS in England). The story then even got a mention on Have I Got News For You!
Wimpole Estate have launched an exciting new initiative offering local community groups free admission to the estate and its facilities.
This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage creativity and connection with nature in a perfect setting to promote happiness, health, and wellbeing and also provide much needed respite for your beneficiaries, their families, and carers.
Polly Ingham-Watts, the General Manager of Wimpole Hall, is passionate that everyone can enjoy all that Wimpole has to offer and recognises that National Trust membership or the standard admission charges are not accessible to everyone. Each pass they issue under this initiative would provide free access for up to 16 people.
Passes may be used on any day except on bank holidays and the weekends preceding bank holidays. Those intending to use the pass are asked to email Wimpole Hall. or call the estate before coming, stating the name of your group, the number of people and approximate time of arrival. Where practical, community groups are encouraged to visit during weekdays as Wimpole can get very busy at weekends when there may be less scope to cater for additional needs.
If your group would be interested in receiving free admission passes, please return the application form via email. If you’d like to speak to someone, please ring: 01223 206000 and state the best phone number and time for them to call you back.
Wimpole Estate consists of a historic mansion, beautiful gardens, a show farm and extensive parkland, there is plenty of free parking for cars and minibuses, a visitor reception centre, electric buggies to assist people with limited mobility, as well as cafes and shops. See website for more information..
Wimpole look forward to providing a Wimple Welcome through the Community Group Admission Pass and hope that visits may be life-enhancing, as they have been for the many who love this special place.