All posts by communityimpactbucksks

The independent charity that gives support, advice and training to other charities, community groups and rural communities throughout Bucks and also to those people who volunteer or wish to volunteer.

Key Steps to Reinvigorate your Board

By Hazel Finney, Lead – Volunteering, October 2017

Hazel Finney

Back in April, I wrote a blog highlighting the key points from the House of Lords’ report, ‘Stronger charities for a stronger community‘.  One of these points was the importance of having a diverse range of skill sets on Trustee Boards.

Trustees Week logoWith Trustees’ Week (13-17 November) fast approaching, now is an excellent time to take stock of your Board and work out if there are any skills’ gaps.  We might be in a digital age, but I find that the best way of doing this is sitting down with the Board and systematically completing a skills’ audit.  This is one time when the old-fashioned flipchart stands head and shoulders above any digital device!

Reach out for great resources!

Reach Volunteering, one of Community Impact Bucks’ (CIB) partners, has a Knowledge Centre packed with information for organisations looking to enhance their Boards; this includes a downloadable skills’ audit, model role descriptions, and 4 top tips for recruiting great Trustees.  Reach also runs a highly successful Trustee recruitment service called TrusteeWorks, which is free to charities with a turnover of less than £1m.  Having placed over 2,000 trustees since the service started in 2009, they must be doing something right!

As Janet Thorne, Reach Volunteering’s CEO, says: “Reach is a great way to find trustees. We attract a broad range of people who want to share their expertise and  many are actively looking for trustee positions. You can promote your role to this community of volunteers, and beyond through our partnerships with LinkedIn, businesses and others. You can also search for people who look like a great fit and approach them directly. Flattery can work wonders! Charities tell us that the trustees that they recruit through our service make a really positive difference to their Boards, so I’d encourage you to give it a try.”

If you advertise your Trustee roles with Reach, you will also benefit from the added bonus of having them streamed live on Volunteering Bucks, CIB’s online portal for volunteers in Buckinghamshire.

Building Boards for a Digital Age

The House of Lords’ report also stresses the importance of bringing on-board Trustees with digital skills.  And, in the words of Sarah Atkinson from the Charity Commission, “Digital trustees can contribute significantly to making sure Boards have the skills they need.”

Visit the Digital Boards’ section of Reach’s website for everything you need to build a Board for the digital age.

How CIB can help

If you’d prefer to sit down with someone face-to-face, then help is at hand!  On 7 November I am running a CPD-accredited afternoon workshop at our office in Monks Risborough on How to Find New Trustees, and on 14 November, an advice surgery in Beaconsfield.  Places at the advice surgery are FREE and confidential – they go fast, so book your slot whilst you can!

Finally, winter might be creeping upon us, but if you set some time aside now to plan for the future of your Board, you will hopefully be able to benefit from new growth and renewal before too long!

 

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A Beginners Guide to Google Ad Grants

By Susan Lambiase, upriseUP

Susan Lambiase

At upriseUP we’re delighted to be part of Community Impact Bucks’ Digital Journey Conference, and can’t wait to run our session on one of our biggest loves – Google Ad Grants . In this blog we’ll explain the application process as we are evangelical about getting charities of all sizes to make the most of this fantastic resource.

What is a Google Ad Grant?
If you are a registered charity with a website you can (and should!) apply for an Ad Grant from Google where you are given the equivalent of $10,000 a month to spend on Pay Per Click advertising in Google AdWords to promote your organisation!

Why you can’t ignore them
You can use a Google Ad Grant to attract potential donors, raise awareness, promote campaigns and so much more. We love Google Grants because they are:

  • Effective
    Nothing is more effective than being in front of somebody at the exact time they are looking for your product or service. This can mean an extra 300+ well qualified web visits per day.
  • Quick
    After a little bit of admin at the start it can be quick to get your Google Ad Grant approved and as soon as you have that green light you can get going, having your ads show, straight away.
  • Free!
    This is advertising for free! In this case there IS such a thing as a free lunch. Yes there are some restrictions but can you really afford to not tap into this resource?

Am I eligible?
In the UK you need to be registered with the Charity Commission with a charity number, or have charitable exempt status with the HMRC. There are a few types of charities that are not eligible (including government entities, hospitals and academic institution) and google reserves the right to decline an application for any reason, but this is rare!

How do I apply?
There are a few steps but we’ve usually managed to get a grant within a month. Don’t be put off!

  • Register with TT-Exchange (Technology Trust)
    You may well already be registered, as TT-Exchange offer reduced cost software for charities. We often find someone else in your organisation has signed up. If not, signing up for is straightforward for registered charities, you will need basic information including your charities mission statement (those that are apply with only charitable exempt status from the HMRC will need to submit a number of supporting docs).
  • Apply for Google for Nonprofits
    You will need a ‘token’ that you generate from your TT-Exchange account once that is approved and again need to provide a few details including a one sentence mission statement.
  • Set up a Google AdWords Account
    Whilst step 2 is in progress you can set up a Google AdWords account. Make sure you set the currency as USD and that you don’t complete ANY billing details. You will need to set up at least one campaign, one active unpaused ad, and at least one keyword in order to be considered eligible. Your campaign must be set to the Search Network only, and the destination URL for your ad must be a location on your charities site.
  • Apply for a Google Ad Grant
    Once you receive the notification from Google for Nonprofits that you are signed up, and you have set up your AdWords account as per step 3, you can take the final step and apply for the Google Ad Grant.

Log into your Google for Non-Profits account, and click ‘Enrol for Google Ad Grants’ under My Organisations > Enrolments. The form requires your AdWords Customer ID, as well as a checklist that your account satisfies the criteria for the Google Ad Grant, you will also need to supply 300-500 words describing how your organisation plans to use AdWords to make a social impact.

Once the account has been authorised by the Google Grants Team (it can take 30 days from submission of the application, although in our experience it is reviewed much more quickly than this), you will have a $330 to ‘spend’ each day in Google AdWords!

Now what do I do?
Now the fun starts! At upriseUP we specialise in the charity sector and have worked on over 50 accounts. We are experts at getting the best results from Google AdWords and think it is time we shared some of our learnings.  To help charities understand where to start and where to concentrate their efforts we’ve pulled together a whole guide to help you .

We can help
Come along to our session at the Digital Journey Conference where we’ll be giving practical guidance on how to get the most out of Google AdWords – we’d love to see you. We’ll also be exhibiting so do pop by our stand.

If you would like any more information, or help with applying for a Google Ad Grant, then please get in touch .

3 things I’ll be talking about at The Digital Journey

By Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Communications & keynote speaker at The Digital Journey conference

I’m really excited to be giving the key note speech at The Digital Journey, Community Impact Bucks’ conference on 5 October next week.

Ahead of that I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts on what I’ll be talking about. There are 3 key points I’ll be focusing on.

  • Why go digital? Nick Philips, CEO of Community Impact Bucks has tasked me with convincing everyone who comes to the conference about the value of digital in 45 minutes. This reminded me that a friend of mine was talking to a charity trustee recently who told her that digital was irrelevant to their charity. I would challenge this view. No organisation operates in a vacuum, and all the trends indicate that digital is going to be an increasingly important part of the way we live and work. According to digital agency’s We are Social’s latest data, 51% of the world’s population use the internet, with 40% actively using social media. Ofcom’s latest data also shows that two-thirds of adults in the UK use a computer, whether a desktop, laptop or netbook, with a quarter of 16-34 year olds (24%) now only using a device other than a computer to go online. And, dispelling the myth that digital is just for young people, that same report showed that there has also been a significant increase in the number of internet users aged 75 and over embracing social media, with 41% having a social media profile in 2016, compared to 19% the year before. The facts speak for themselves. The question shouldn’t be: why is digital relevant to my charity? Instead, organisations should be asking themselves, ‘How can we use digital to remain as relevant and closely connected to our audience as possible?’
  • You don’t need to be a big charity to do digital well. I’ve spoken to many small charities who think that you need a whole digital team and a budget with lots of 000s on the end to do digital effectively. I’ll be honest- whilst resources do help, it is just as important to have a clear sense of purpose. Take National Ugly Mugs, a project developed by The UK Network of Sex Work Projects, a non-profit voluntary association of agencies and individuals working with sex workers. National Ugly Mugs has a small team but have developed an online reporting system, emails and texts connecting thousands of sex workers and hundreds of support services.  The project collates reports of incidents from sex workers and shares anonymised warnings with sex workers and support projects across the UK. They also share this information with the police (once consent has been obtained) and sex workers make full reports. Almost 50% of the sex workers who receive their alerts have been able to avoid dangerous offenders. So, before your charity plans anything in digital, ask yourself: why do we exist and how can we use digital to improve the lives of your beneficiaries?
  • Your CEO and board need to lead from the front on digital. When we co-wrote The Charity Digital Skills Report earlier this year leaders and boards emerged as a major issue. 80% of respondents want their leadership team to provide a clear vision of digital and what it could help them achieve, whilst 66% want a good digital strategy. Almost three quarters (71%) of charities cite their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement. If you need to get your CEO and trustee up to speed with digital consider offering them training  or take a look at the Charity Commission’s guidelines on digital, Making Digital Work, for inspiration.

I can’t wait to meet you at The Digital Journey conference. Please do come and say hello.

Book your place at The Digital Journey, 5 October 2017, Aylesbury.

What does digital transformation mean to you and your social purpose organisation?

By Frazer Lewis, co-founder, Rephrase

Our take on digital transformation and what it means in a social purpose organisation

Digital Transformation is a popular phrase these days, especially in not for profit (or social purpose) organisations. But what does it actually mean? Almost certainly different things to different people. We have taken a look back at the projects we have delivered over the past few years and drawn our own conclusions which we are sharing in this blog post.

And to set a few parameters, we are looking at digital transformation in terms of organisations who are moving their operations from Excel, Outlook, paper and legacy databases no longer fit for purpose across to a centralised database such as Salesforce.com.

Also, digital transformation projects can be challenging since they leave no stone unturned. It’s rare to achieve the perfect solution and indeed, results are often iterative with progressive improvements being introduced over time. However, I think it’s fair to say that any initiative to “go digital” is a positive step forward and can yield meaningful results in a short space of time.

Here are our observations:

Structured information

Once data lives in a single system that is accessible by all staff members, amazing things begin to happen. Everyone is using the same source of data and adding their own contributions which help to create a common repository of knowledge for the benefit of all. Information becomes available on demand and since everything is inter-connected, it becomes easy to click through from record to record. Try doing that in a proliferation of Excel spreadsheets. The net result is that staff are able to quickly find the answers to questions and take informed decisions.

Streamlined processes

The great thing about a system is the way it can handle large amounts of information in a consistent and pre-defined way. This can be put to great effect where manual repetitive tasks can be automated thus saving enormous amounts of wasted time. Time that can then be put to good use elsewhere.  Taking this one step further, the system can be setup to send notifications or alerts to team members at critical process points which helps to keep data flowing around the organisation.

Scaleable solutions

I’m sure it’s fair to say that social purpose organisations are being asked to deliver more with less resource which puts them under increasing pressure. One of the outcomes from moving systems and processes across to digital is the additional capacity gain. Organisations can handle greater demand without the need to increase their resourcing levels.

Client and stakeholder engagement

We live in a connected society where individuals expect to receive communications which are relevant and tailored to them. Whilst this is not feasible when creating emails or letters one by one, it is easily achievable using a database system. Mass personalisation at the click of a button.

Improved analytics and insights

As organisations grow, so does the amount of data being collected. Spreadsheets or old databases no longer fit for purpose make life hard when it comes to making sense of all this information. A huge benefit of a successful digital transformation is the ability to easily segment data and then take action, obtain answers to specific questions using bang up to date information, generate dashboards that present key metrics graphically and make it easy to spot trends or exceptions. In summary, to equip you with all the information you need to really understand how your organisation is performing and the impact you are creating.

Enhanced team working

A recurring theme that every organisation experiences is data living in silos instead of residing in a central system. This clearly causes difficulties ranging from fragmented reporting to disconnects across teams. Moving data into a central database is no easy task, but once done, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Something as simple as updating basic contact details or logging a key interaction is no longer an isolated activity. Instead, all team members have access to this information. The system becomes a repository of knowledge for everyone to benefit from.

Stronger data governance

With data spread across multiple spreadsheets and other sources, a major challenge is knowing what is up to date, out of date or incomplete. And where multiple versions of data exist, which one is current. And whilst moving data into a single system is a challenge as we said earlier, cleaning it up takes further effort. But once this task is complete and a regular process to maintain data quality is up and running,  your organisation can begin to enjoy the benefits. Data accuracy improves and your team’s trust in this data grows (often from rock bottom levels). You are able to control access to data in ways that were simply never possible before. Changes to records are tracked so it’s clear who has done what. And the system can apply business logic to the entry of data to help keep it in good shape.

Conclusion

“Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today”.

Moving away from paper, email and Excel based processes is often seen as a revolution within organisations. There is often a sense of being liberated from the old ways of doing things which are recognised to be inefficient and frustrating. This is also present challenges of it’s own – change is difficult even if everyone knows it needs to happen. But the rewards are worth the effort since ultimately your organisation will be able to amplify its impact.

Frazer Lewis is a co-founder of Rephrase, a Chesham based consultancy that specialises in creating tailored solutions using the Salesforce.com system.  Frazer is hosting the “Data and how to use it” breakout session at The Digital Journey conference on 5th October 2017.

New Charity Governance Code

By Dan Francis, governance consultant, NCVO

When I came to speak at Community Impact Bucks’ trustee conference back in January, we had just launched a draft version of the new governance code and were consulting on the changes we were proposing.  I’d like to thank everyone at the event for their constructive feedback on the code and to those that fed in via the online survey.

Having now analysed over 200 consultation responses and made a series of edits to the draft code I am delighted that earlier this month we launched the final Charity Governance Code. This code is intended to set a range of standards of governance which charities and their trustees can aspire to and work toward.

The new code represents a collective sector contribution to strengthening charity governance with the insight of our chair Rosie Chapman and the cross-sector steering group. I hope you will agree the code is an opportunity for boards to reflect on, and improve, their governance.

There are seven principles and a foundation which make up the new code.

With the support of our funders, Clothworkers Foundation and Barrow Cadbury Trust, we have also developed a new, simple to use, free to access website: www.charitygovernancecode.org. This allows trustees and users to easily access the new code.

Recommended practice

The principles, rationale and outcomes are intended to apply universally to charities, while we have developed varied recommended practice depending on a charity’s income.

There are a range of significant changes to the previous code, including:

  • an expectation that the board will review its own performance and that of individual trustees, including the chair, every year, with an external evaluation for larger organisations every three years
  • that no trustee should serve more than nine years without good reason and that term limits are important for accountability
  • thinking carefully about how boards recruit a diverse range of trustees with the skills and experience required to lead a charity
  • boards involving stakeholders in key decisions and operating with the presumption of openness
  • emphasis on the role of the chair and vice chair in supporting and achieving good governance
  • increased oversight for large charities when dealing with subsidiary companies, registers of interests and third parties such as fundraising agencies or commercial ventures
  • that the board evaluate a charity’s impact by measuring and assessing results, outputs and outcomes.

Adopting the code

I would recommend that trustees use the code as part of their board development exercises. The code is not a legal requirement, it is deliberately aspirational, and it will without doubt be a stretch to achieve some elements of its recommended practice. This is intentional as we want the code to be a tool for continuous improvement rather than a tick-box exercise.

The code encourages trustees to work toward the principles and outcomes of the code by either applying the recommended practice or explaining what they have done instead or why they haven’t applied it.

At NCVO we have a range of tools and support to help you in working with the code, including:

I am also sure that Community Impact Bucks’ will support boards hoping to use the code.

At its core, this code is intended as a practical tool to help trustees improve governance and increase the effectiveness of their charities – I hope you find it useful.

Dan Francis is NCVO’s governance consultant. For more regular updates follow @mynameisdanfran or @NCVO on Twitter.

 

 

Launch of the Charity Governance Code

By Helen Cracknell, lead support for groups, Community Impact Bucks

The Charity Governance Code  launched in mid-July has been developed through cross-sector collaboration and consultation over the last year. The result is a practical tool to help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance. Although it is not a regulatory requirement, the need for charities to rebuild public trust and aspire to higher standards of governance has probably never been greater, given some of the high-profile issues which have been in the headlines recently.

The aim of the Code is to help charities and their trustees develop these high standards of governance. As a sector, we owe it to our beneficiaries, stakeholders and supporters to demonstrate exemplary leadership and governance.

The diagram below shows the key principles, building on the foundation of understanding of the trustees’ roles and responsibilities and commitment to high standards of governance.  Each principle in the code has a brief description, a rationale (the reasons why it is important), key outcomes (what you would expect to see if the principle were adopted) and recommended practice (what a charity might do to implement the principle).

There are a range of significant changes to the previous code, including:

  • an expectation that the board will review its own performance and that of individual trustees, including the chair, every year, with an external evaluation for larger organisations every three years
  • that no trustee should serve more than nine years without good reason and that term limits are important for accountability
  • thinking carefully about how boards recruit a diverse range of trustees with the skills and experience required to lead a charity
  • boards involving stakeholders in key decisions and operating with the presumption of openness
  • emphasis on the role of the chair and vice chair in supporting and achieving good governance
  • increased oversight for large charities when dealing with subsidiary companies, registers of interests and third parties such as fundraising agencies or commercial ventures
  • that the board evaluate a charity’s impact by measuring and assessing results, outputs and outcomes.

In the Charity Commission’s response to the consultation their Director of Policy and Communication Sarah Atkinson, said: ‘We intend to continue to endorse and promote [the Code] as the standard of good governance practice to which all charities should aspire (unless some other Code takes precedence), following and applying its principles proportionately to their circumstances. ’The Charity Commission also said it will be withdrawing its guidance ‘Hallmarks of an effective charity’ (CC10) and will refer charities to the Charity Governance Code instead. See her blog for more comment.

Fundraising and Charity Law Updates: Is Your Charity Compliant?

By Rosie Brass, senior solicitor, IBB Solicitors

Whilst news about data protection and consent has been the focus of the fundraising arena recently  and charities have been busy planning for compliance with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), developments with the new Fundraising Regulator (‘Regulator’), which took over the regulation of charitable fundraising in July 2016, also deserve our attention.

New Requirements for Fundraising Agreements

All fundraising agreements with paid fundraisers (‘Professional Fundraisers’) and businesses that represent donations are being made to a charity (‘Commercial Participators’) must now comply with the new requirements which stem from the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 (‘Act’). Whilst the new requirements came into force on the 1st November 2016, the grace period of 5 months granted by the Regulator (for organisations to get their paperwork in order before they are in breach of the new law) expired on the 31st March 2017.

The new requirements are that the compulsory written agreements between charities and Professional Fundraisers and/or Commercial Participators must include extra information covering:

  • The scheme for regulating fundraising or recognised fundraising standards that will apply to the Professional Fundraiser or Commercial Participator in carrying out the agreement (such as the Code of Fundraising Practice);
  • How the Professional Fundraiser or Commercial Participator will protect the public, including vulnerable people, from unreasonably intrusive or persistent fundraising approaches and undue pressure to donate; and
  • How charities will monitor the Professional Fundraiser’s or Commercial Participator’s compliance with these requirements.

As a result of the new requirements, any new agreements must now incorporate the above points and existing agreements will need to be amended too.

The Fundraising Levy

The Regulator has issued formal letters and invoices to more than 2000 of the largest charities (whose annual fundraising expenditure is more than £100,000) requesting payment of a fee for “regulatory services”. The levy is required to fund the Regulator and the Charity Commission has confirmed that payment of it is a proper use of charitable funds. Technically however, charities are not obliged to pay the levy as payment is voluntary and so each charity must consider, bearing in mind its own circumstances and the potential reputational consequences, whether payment of the levy is appropriate. The Minister for Civil Society has nevertheless warned charities that if insufficient voluntary payments are forthcoming, the reserve powers in the Act  will be used to make payment of the levy a legal requirement.

Registration with the Fundraising Regulator

Registered charities can now apply to register with the Fundraising Regulator. Charities which have already paid the fundraising levy will already be registered and all other registered charities can pay an annual administration fee of £50. Registration means that charities have made a commitment to donors and the public as set out in the Fundraising Promise that their fundraising activities are “legal, open, honest and respectful”, and that they agree to comply with standards for fundraising in the Code of Fundraising Practice.  In return, charities will receive a registration pack containing the ‘registered with’ badge in several formats which can be applied to all fundraising materials, performing a similar role to the Fundraising Standard Board’s non-redundant tick . As with payment of the levy, registration is not compulsory. Charities are therefore free to decide that registration is not appropriate but in any event trustees are still under a legal duty to ensure that all fundraising activities carried out in their charity’s name comply with the current legislation and good practice requirements and are in line with their charity’s values.

The New Fundraising Preference Service

The Regulator has made its final decisions on the development of the new Fundraising Preference Service (‘FPS’) and has announced that it is expected in the summer. It is now clear that the FPS will enable members of the public to register that they no longer want to be contacted by specific charities for fundraising purposes, by re-setting their fundraising preferences. This small reset button is a departure from the big red button which would have allowed people to opt-out of communications from all charities which was originally envisaged and could have risked individuals unwittingly blocking charities they would have otherwise been happy to support. Registration is likely to be time limited to 24 months, and the Regulator will ensure that charities are notified of people opting out, which will helpfully avoid the need to check suppression lists as was initially feared.

Some elements of the FPS will however continue to cause widespread concern in the sector:

  • It will apply to all charity fundraising communications even if the core purpose of the communication is not to raise funds. This means that, for example, inviting people to events and including links to donations or appeals in the signature of emails will be caught.
  • The final proposals have removed the opportunity for charities to check in with pre-existing supporters to make sure that they no longer wished to hear from them. Some slight comfort has since been provided by the Regulator here as they have indicated that a charity may still be able to contact a committed donor in relation to direct debits and other matters where it is in its legitimate interests to do so, and has also indicated a willingness to work with charities to resolve any problems in this area.

Rosie Brass is a senior solicitor in IBB’s charities team. For further information on  charity fundraising regulations or any other charity  law matter   please contact our  solicitors  on 01895 207290 or email charities@ibblaw.co.uk.

 

Do small charities matter?

By Helen Cracknell, lead support for groups at Community Impact Bucks

As Small Charity Week (19-24th June 2017) approaches I have been reflecting on the fact that when we talk about charities most people tend to think about their favourite cause or some national, well known charities – whether they are known for positive reasons or not.  But small charities are quite different. When I asked my partner what came to mind when he thought about a small charity he said “something local, run by volunteers.” My own personal experience of small charities, for example both as a member and then volunteering with a local job club after redundancy, is exactly like this. In my role with Community Impact Bucks as Lead Support to Groups most of the people who come to us for help are small, local groups either entirely run by volunteers or with very few paid staff.

NCVO defines small charities* as under £100,000 income, which represent 83% of the total. As most of these charities are local (some 70-80%) they have a fantastically important role in dealing with grass roots issues and making a positive difference to the vulnerable people in our communities. However, classifying charities just by the size of their income doesn’t give you the real picture.  It’s the impact they are making that really matters.

Just imagine what life would be like if these small charities weren’t there: for people who are depending upon them for their trip to the local social club in the community bus; for help getting back on their feet after bereavement, redundancy or other life-changing events; having a local hall or community building where people can attend local activities and events; activities which bring different parts of the community together; and all the other ways in which individuals and communities benefit from their work. And imagine this scenario against the backdrop of the squeeze on public services, which hits the vulnerable in our societies even harder. So I believe that small charities matter much more than we perhaps understand or give credit for.

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the scale of problems around us which stops us from doing anything at all. I have always loved the story of the young girl walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish.” After a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

So, if you run or work in a small charity make the most of Small Charity Week to get your own charity recognised for the great work you are doing. And if you want to get involved in a small charity you won’t need to look far for groups of people who would really appreciate your energy and skills. In the words of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

*A focus on small charities NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac https://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac16/a-focus-on-small-charities/

Six Steps to Volunteering Heaven!

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

Trying to land your ideal volunteer role is a bit like dating.  You have a perfect opportunity in mind, a mental “check list”, and heaps of expectation.  You meet a few organisations all full of enthusiasm, but sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there, the reality is not all it’s cracked up to be, and your volunteering bubble is well and truly burst!

So, how do you keep motivated and scoop the prize with your pride intact?  Well, like all things worth having, it may take a little time, perseverance and a side order of good luck. Sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time, but here are my 6 top tips to help you find your perfect match:

  1. Know yourself, and be clear about what you’re looking for

You might not be embarking on something as serious as a new job, but you’re preparing to make a change in your life for the better.  It’s worth taking half an hour or so to sit down and think about the following: What do you hope to achieve from volunteering?  There are a whole host of volunteering opportunities out there – what skills do you want to use or gain?  How much time do you have to volunteer: are you looking for a one-off volunteering role or something more longer term?  What type of charity/community group are you interested in?  Are you happy being micro-managed, or do you want the freedom to take charge and do things your way?  If you really relish responsibility, being a Trustee is something to seriously consider – it could help your personal development and leadership skills.

  1. Ensure your CV or list of skills are tip top

At the end of the day, we all need to sell ourselves to other people and demonstrate why we’re best suited to do something.  Why are you the best person for a particular role?  What are your strengths (and weaknesses)?  If you’re interested in a role requiring specialist skills, for example, fundraising, marketing/digital communications, business planning or finance, why do you stand out from the crowd – and what qualifications do you have?

  1. Widen your search as much as possible

From Volunteering Bucks, the online volunteer portal for Buckinghamshire, you can access Do-it, the national volunteer recruitment website, which is a great place to start looking for a role – create a profile, select your preferences, and get searching!  We’ve developed a handy guide to help you.

If you want to offer specialist skills (e.g. marketing, IT, finance), or are looking for a Trustee role, Community Impact Bucks is a proud partner of Reach Volunteering, the national organisation that connects charities and not-for-profits with skilled and experienced volunteers, and we’re now live streaming the latest Buckinghamshire-based roles on our volunteering portal: Skilled roles, Trustee roles.

You can also check out our portal for access to other recruitment sites that you might find useful.

Don’t forget to also look at local publications/noticeboards if you’re wanting a role close to where you live.

  1. Take heed of red flags!

If you’ve applied for a role and you don’t hear back after a week, it’s worth contacting them again – there may be a genuine reason for this.  If there’s still nothing, steer well clear – they’re obviously not worthy of you; we all deserve a little respect.  It’s time to move on and not waste any more time.

  1. Did you get ‘the feeling’?

If you are asked by an organisation to meet them, how did it go?  Were they friendly and welcoming? Did they give you time to say what you wanted?  Were you able to just be yourself and let your natural enthusiasm shine through?  Did they explain the next steps with a timeframe?  If you left feeling a bit flat, then the role probably isn’t for you – but if things just felt right then this is a really good sign – you could be on a winning streak!

  1. Coming on-board

Congratulations – you’ve been offered the role!  If you accept it, this is a really crucial stage as you are undoubtedly fully committed, and being let down now could take the wind out of your sails.  But – if you’re sent through any paperwork promptly, and given a thorough induction including any necessary training, then it sounds like you’ve hit the jackpot!  Relax, and enjoy the journey.

Good luck!  I hope you find what you’re looking for!

 

Struggling to recruit volunteers, and need some advice?

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

Let’s face it – sometimes recruiting, managing and retaining volunteers can be damned hard work – especially if you’re not involved with a large national charity with a healthy budget and a ‘sexy’ cause that really tugs at the heart strings. In the grand scheme of things, you might not be saving lives, but at a local level, the charity or community group you work or volunteer for could still be having a massive, life enhancing, impact. Take the man who, due to a weekly activity group, is dealing more effectively with his depression, or the woman who is feeling better now there’s a volunteer driver to take her to her hospital appointments. Remove all the voluntary organisations and the volunteers that facilitate their services at a county level, and suddenly you’re left with a massive deficit that will be noticed on the wider stage.

I meet a lot of switched on, driven, people in my job – well, you have to be to have the presence of mind and tenacity to start a charitable organisation from scratch, successfully diversify your funding streams, or have the gumption to leave a well paid job in the private sector to do something that really matters to you. But everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, especially when this involves support around volunteers, the lifeblood of the voluntary sector.

If you could benefit from advice about involving volunteers, Community Impact Bucks can help. We’re the nationally accredited Volunteer Centre for Buckinghamshire, and so know a thing or two about volunteering. Whether you just have a query that requires a quick email or phone call, or a more complex concern, there is a variety of support available:

Visit our website

– Call us on 0300 111 1250

– Email us on info@communityimpactbucks.org.uk

– Attend a FREE 45 minute advice surgery slot: the next one on 8 June is full up, but the next ones are on 12 July (Winslow), and 16 August (Amersham)

– Attend a half or full day masterclass: next one on 22 August in South Bucks.

Use this Volunteers’ Week to take stock, and think about asking for help if you need it – from that niggling question, to a problem which is beginning to feel insurmountable, we can’t promise to work miracles, but sometimes it’s just good to talk!

Here’s what some of our service users have had to say:

“I thought the pace and variety of activities was really good and think the model forms will be really valuable.” St. Francis Children Society

“Really well run workshop.” Carers Bucks

“I am very pleased to announce that working with CIB, we have at STARS/Oasis Partnership managed to recruit a volunteer to fulfil our Caretaker position. It was after attending one of the volunteer surgeries that CIB provide, they encouraged us to add our volunteer roles on to the Do-it website. This role will make a huge difference to the team in Aylesbury and hopefully provide our volunteer with the confidence and up-to-date work experience to move forward in getting a paid job.” The Oasis Partnership

“Thank you so much for meeting me last week, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to have someone listen to me! The information you have provided is very helpful and I intend to put in practice most of your suggestions over the next few weeks.” Anonymous