The thin end of the wedge…?


The Government announcement stating that grants will have an exclusion to stop money being used for “lobbying” has a worrying edge to it. The exact phrase that will be inserted into grant agreements refers to activity ‘intended to influence or attempt to influence’. But my concern is how will it be determined (and who will determine) when such activity is ‘lobbying’ and when is it sound feedback and advocacy that will benefit the public through Government policy?

Charities often deal with the weakest and most vulnerable people in society. They deal with thorny issues where there is no “market”, no other support mechanism. So some charities not only help those who have been left out of the system but also raise their issues with those in power. They can be the voice for those who have no voice.

Whilst no one would want to see taxpayers money being misused, surely the issue is about two main elements: transparency of the charity and susceptibility to persuasion of MPs. Charities should state clearly how much money they spend, and how it is spent, and the funders can then decide whether to fund or not. I don’t know a great deal about the dark corridors populated by the lobbyist, but if their case is sound then it is up to the lobbyist to make the case. If it is not sound they should be dismissed and the MPs in question will ignore the approach. There are many cases where advocacy has changed the lives of people for the better. Do we want those voices silenced?

We should not seek to silence the voice of some of the most poorly supported in society, but rather be more transparent about how money is spent – and hope our MPs can ignore the siren call of the unjust lobbyist.

Update – Weds 10th February: NAVCA has expressed concern about the government’s planned anti-lobbying legislation at ‘NAVCA fears gagging clauses will hit the most vulnerable‘, and tonight’s edition of The Moral Maze is devoted to this subject: The Moral Maze, Wednesday 10th Feb 8pm.


One in five of Britain’s biggest charities spends less than 50 per cent on good works, new report claims

vfmThis headline appeared in the Telegraph this week. The team here at Community Impact Bucks spend time working with individuals who often receive little, if any, paid reward and give their time and energy to others through voluntary and charitable work – so I am bound to leap to defend charities. I see the good work most of them do. That is not to say they have all got it right nor do all necessarily give great return on investment.

Typically the headline statement above is based on a very blunt measure that gives, in many cases, a misleading result. In this case the calculation seems to be based on turnover (money in) measured against how much money is spent “directly” on services to beneficiaries. Sounds straightforward? But … what lies behind these headlines is complicated. Yet the damage is done in one swish of the quill (or stab of the laptop keys – but you see the point).

So why do some charities look like they have plenty of money coming in and not an equal amount being spent on beneficiaries? Some of the issue is actually a result of charities trying to survive without grants and donations. Charities are being encouraged to “trade” in order to be self-reliant rather than relying on donations. However, it costs money to “trade” – it is like running any business – and returns will vary, meaning the measure used by the Telegraph takes no account of the cost of running a diversification, such as a high street shop.

It is clear that some charities do not spend enough of their money on the beneficiaries. Yes it does cost to run a charity, and it even costs to support volunteers, but there should be a level of clarity about how much of your donation is used up in areas that do not directly impact on the beneficiary.

But why use such damaging and inaccurate sweeping statements? (Obviously to sell papers!) If there is a silver lining to the statement above it could be that it makes a good case for giving to local small charities that you know. Charities where you can see the impact first hand. But we know that the effect of this headline will not result in people who have given to large charities swapping and giving to a local charity. It will result in those people not giving to any charity. Probably because what most people will read is that charities are at best wasting your money and at worst embezzling it! Despite the headline identifying a few national organisations it will be read as all charities.

What concerns me is that this headline comes after a run of “charity bashing” that has been going on all year. This “charity bashing” is damaging for all of us because it will mean that volunteers will be less likely to give their time to help others, and those who rarely give to charities will feel it less attractive to do so. And it matters. With over 70% of charities in Bucks stating that demand is growing at an unsustainable level they need every hour and every penny to support others.

We all rely on the generosity of others as volunteers and givers to charity. And if you think you don’t just consider how often you, your family or friends have engaged with elderly support services, village events, cancer care, countryside, children’s services …….. and if you have never had the benefit of a charity it probably means that you didn’t realise they were a charity – or you have been extraordinarily lucky in life.

Charities could be better and be more transparent about how they spend their money – but most actually give outstanding return on investment. The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, recently cited one charity as delivering a social return on investment of 140%! ….. but that news didn’t hit the headlines!

Empty Homes…


During the winter, and more so at Christmas, we think of those people living on the streets or in sub-standard housing. This week there has been a flurry of reports about empty properties, about the cost of keeping properties empty, about how they attract vandalism etc. – but the reality is that with about 30 people living on the street in Buckinghamshire it seems frustrating that there are still over 1,000 empty homes in Bucks!

The number of those living on the streets in 2015 is incredible, but the figure hides the huge number of families living in bed and breakfast and sub-standard accommodation. I am aware that some housing in the private rented sector is so bad that it falls below the minimum standards set… but when accommodation is at such a premium people are forced to take what they are offered.

At Community Impact Bucks we have recognised the housing shortage and have established a trading company to help councils solve the problem. Our team has years of experience of working with District Councils to help their teams deliver empty properties back into occupation. See more details here:  Community Impact Bucks Property Services (NB all profits go back to the charity)

What is clear is that when a property stands empty it attracts vandalism and brings down the tone of the neighbourhood, creates an opportunity for trespass. With rents so high and property values rising why would anyone leave a property empty? It is usually complicated. Sometimes the property is inherited and the owner can’t bear the thought of someone else living in the home of a loved friend or family member. Sometimes the property is in poor condition and the owner can’t afford to renovate. On other occasions an investor may want to redevelop but is taking their time while the value goes up. Whatever the reason, when there is so much pressure on housing, it cannot be right to see properties empty.

The District Councils are doing their bit by reducing council tax rebates for empty dwellings – and we will do our bit to try and liberate much needed homes!

Remote Volunteering – a Volunteer’s Perspective

lindsey 1

By Lindsey Chamier

I have been volunteering with Community Impact Bucks since June of this year. I also volunteer for Chiltern Music Therapy who are a charity providing therapy using music, which looks at creating change and improvements in communication, physical, social, cognitive and emotional needs for all ages. I do half a day with each of them every week depending on the work which is required. I decided to get involved in volunteering as I am currently studying part time for an MA in International Relations and so had some time to spare which could be usefully spent helping in my local community. It also helps balance my life and prevent it from become one big self-indulgence! I found both my volunteering “jobs” through the Community Impact Bucks’ website which has a very user-friendly function allowing you to browse in your particular area of interest and then apply for volunteering opportunities. Before I started the MA, I spent a number of years working for the BBC in a variety of roles in television production and then after moving to Buckinghamshire in 1997 I worked for Connexions (a careers organisation) in High Wycombe. I therefore have a variety of skills and experience which I have been able to put to good use.

I have found that the volunteering fits in perfectly with my other commitments. Both organisations are very flexible so that if I have a big essay deadline then I can move the days which I work for them around and they are very supportive. I have done a variety of administrative tasks such as writing Success Stories for Community Impact Bucks and some marketing research and database input for Chiltern Music Therapy. I work at home from my desk overlooking my lovely garden (not so lovely as the winter begins!) which is perfect for me as I have a weak muscle condition which impairs my mobility so not having to concern myself with parking and access is a big bonus. I am in regular contact by phone and email with both charities and so it all works very well. I suspect they will have to try quite hard to get rid of me now! I thoroughly recommend volunteering either to gain experience and skills to enhance your CV, to try out something different or, like me, you have a few hours which you would like to put to good use.


A lot’s been happening behind the scenes at here Community Impact over the past few months. Our CEO, Nick Phillips, joined us in February and we launched a brand new strategy to help create A Better Life for the People of Buckinghamshire.

One of the greatest ways we can make this a reality is by helping YOU (our Not-for-Profit sector) be the best you can possibly be. We know that one of your biggest challenges is FINDING NEW VOLUNTEERS.

So, we are more than a little excited to unveil …..

VolunteeringBucks – the gateway to the
best local volunteering opportunities


VolunteeringBucks is an online platform dedicated to getting people excited about volunteering and showcasing the life-enhancing benefits of becoming a volunteer.

We surveyed almost 2,000 voluntary organisations and this is what you told us you needed: help connecting with new audiences and a different ‘story’ to tell about volunteering.

Everything you see in VolunteeringBucks is the result of insight and research into volunteer motivations, which tells us that the next generation of volunteers value ‘experiences’ and ‘connection’ over ‘altruism’ and ‘doing good’.

The site is designed specifically for individuals looking to volunteer and won’t replace the resources for you on the Community Impact Bucks site.

Making the most of VolunteeringBucks:

We love the new site but, it’s vital that you do too. So, if you have any suggestions on how we can make it even better, please let us know here.

Where will take YOU?!

Top tips for a compelling volunteer role description!


By Hazel Finney

So, you’ve identified that you need more volunteers, you know the types of things that you require support with, but just how do you go about attracting people to come and volunteer for you?

It all starts with putting together an engaging role description – well written and clearly expressed opportunities are far more likely to attract potential volunteers. Spending some time drafting and editing opportunities before you advertise them will pay off in the long term – the volunteer marketplace is busy – it’s all about making your role stand out from the crowd!

Sell, sell, sell… you need to attract someone’s attention in just a few seconds – start with the aim of the role – it needs to be short, sharp and punchy.

Get straight to the point… state when you need the volunteer to start, what the time commitment is, and where the role will be based. Clearly specify the tasks you would like the volunteer to carry out – and what skills/experience you would like them to have.

What’s in it for them? describe how your volunteer will benefit from being involved with you – whether it’s the opportunity to make new friends and have a structure to the day, use professional skills, or even get a massive buzz from changing someone’s life!

The formalities… volunteering should be great fun, but it’s important to have some safeguards in place – so say if references (it’s always best to ask for 2), and DBS checks are required.

Call to action… if someone is interested in your role and wants to find out more information, then you’ve cleared the first hurdle – include the name and contact details (always best to have a phone number and email address) of a named person within your organisation so that it’s easy for them to get in touch.

And finally, good luck!… if you need a bit more help developing a compelling role description, we can help – either attend one of our upcoming FREE Volunteering Advice Surgeries, or sign up for our heavily discounted Inspire Your Volunteers – Creating Strong Teams’ training on 27 January (at South Bucks District Council) or 8 March (Chesham Town Hall). For a role template that you can download, and all things volunteer related, please pop along here:

CIB Developing Volunteer Opportunities

CIB Events

If you’re looking for a volunteer with specialist skills, e.g. marketing or business planning, then we can also help! – please contact one of our very own fantastic volunteers, Marlene Baker, who will be happy to assist:


Hazel Finney is one of the Volunteering Advisers at Community Impact Bucks, if you’d like help creating a winning role description for you, then book a place at our FREE volunteering advice surgery on 14th Dec in High Wycombe.

3 Ways to Future-Proof your Board…


What a year it has been!

Running a Not-for-Profit these days is not for the faint-hearted.

The world has changed. Technology is disrupting the way we engage with supporters and deliver our services, and (based on the Etherington review), charity leaders need to increase their fundraising involvement.

As a Trustee or board member, it can be quite a daunting prospect to suddenly realise that our old tricks aren’t working the same way, but it’s also an exciting time to be in the third sector and a fabulous opportunity to achieve things we never thought possible.

But nobody said it would be easy. The future of the voluntary sector looks vastly different than the past and we, as Trustees, have a responsibility to ensure we are keeping up with the pace of change.

There is no magic formula for a successful board, but these top tips will go a long way to ensuring you are shining bright in tomorrow’s world:

1. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit! Networks are everything, and this is where the board can really add serious value to your organisations’ success. In the new world of Not-for-Profit, everyone is a brand ambassador and it starts at the very top. Strive to attract young, connected trustees who understand the business world and have the energy to keep up momentum and drive through change.
2. Manage Risk – Good governance is the key to resilience. Be clear on your legal obligations and assign specific roles and responsibilities to each board member
3. Know exactly where you’re heading – as Steven Covey famously said ‘Begin with the end in mind’. A robust and clearly defined strategy, which aligns with your mission, is critical to success. And don’t get lost in endless jargon. Keep it simple and always come back to the question – how will this decision affect our beneficiaries?

If this makes for uncomfortable reading, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve created an event that will show you exactly how to do all of this, and more!

The 2016 ‘Future-Proofing’ Trustee Forum is an afternoon of practical inspiration from some of the UK’s leading governance and resilience experts.

Workshops include:

– Boost your Trustee Board
– Trustees and Risk Management
– Fundraising for Trustees
– Strategic Planning for the Future
– Duties of a Trustee

You’ll then have the opportunity to road-test your new skills with potential new board members in our Trustee Dating Session, when eager volunteers from the business community come searching for their dream role.

It’s all happening on 18th January 2016 at the Gateway Conference Centre in Aylesbury. Tickets cost just £15 and are 2for1 until the end of November.

To Future-Proof your board click here.


Wycombe Sound2

Guest blog by Keith Higgins, Wycombe Sound

Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area and run on a not-for-profit basis. They cater for whole communities or for different areas of interest. Community radio stations reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests. A community radio station’s programmes will reflect the needs and interests of its audience. This means creating direct links with its listeners, offering training opportunities and making sure that members of the community can take part in how the station is run.

At Wycombe Sound we are setting up a community radio station as a community interest company that will serve the needs of the town of High Wycombe and the surrounding area. We have already been on air twice for 28 days in 2013 & 2014 and we have another short term licence for broadcasting on 87.9 FM, starting on November 19th. Ofcom have allowed us to use a more powerful transmitter this time so we should be able to reach a wider area than before, especially to the north of the town and to the east. At the moment we are busy getting the studios ready in our new permanent home, which is in Bridge House, Bridge Street, directly opposite the Bus Station.

We have also submitted our application to Ofcom for a 5 year community radio licence. If we are successful, we will be able to work with different groups in our catchment area for a much longer period of time. Our short term broadcasts have shown how we have made an impact on the lives of different people and we want to continue to do this.

It is important that we meet the requirements of Ofcom so we will welcome any members of the community who want to work with us to promote their services & community projects. Many of our listeners have told us how much they value a truly local radio station for High Wycombe. At Wycombe Sound, we are giving the people who live & work in the town and the surrounding area an opportunity to work with us and ensure that the great work people do in our local communities is brought to the attention of a wider audience.

If you want to find out more about Wycombe Sound, do contact either Keith or Pippa, two of the Directors of the CIC.

Keith: 01494 449900 (Studio), 07753 277567, e-mail:
Pippa: 01494 449900 (Studio), 07973 7109763, e-mail:

More, more, more!


Charities just seem to want more these days!

The website UK Fundraising issued an article stating that 75% of charities are bending under the pressure of increased demand for services. They go on to say that “More than half of them are not confident they will survive the next five years.”

This data is based on the Local Charity & Community Group Sustainability Report, which surveyed 538 local voluntary sector organisations from across the UK, and reports that:

  • 81% of local charities are facing an increase in demand for services. However, only 15% of those feel they have enough funds to deal with this.
  • 73% of local groups expect their annual income to either decrease or remain stagnant over the coming financial year.
  • 59% of them say income generation is their most pressing issue
  • 42% of groups have had to use their reserves in the last 12 months
  • 43% are concerned about a lack of reserves
  • only 4% are in a position to prioritise building financial reserves.

This data mirrors almost exactly the recent sector report by Community Impact Bucks on the needs of charities in Buckinghamshire (download here).

If we consider these statistics alongside one more really critical aspect – that only 15% say that they have an adequate business plan – the future for our 5,000 charity and community groups may be tough.

The data is piling up that the charity and voluntary sector is facing a challenge and will be asking for more – but we must remember that the charity sector now carries a great deal more responsibility than it has ever done before. As the government reduces in size the charity sector often picks up the slack.

So yes they are asking for more… but they are doing much more. At CIB we are working with charity and community groups to help them make the most of their resources at Start up, Develop or Crisis – they can contact one number 0300 111 1250 or one email address

3 Ways to Attract More Volunteers


“To help people be altruistic, we need to help them be selfish.

The selfish volunteer is not a bad person, or part of an unwelcome trend –it is at the heart of the future of volunteering.”

(The 21st Century Volunteer) 

Have you noticed that it’s getting harder to attract volunteers? Gone are the days of sticking a card in the newsagent’s window and being inundated with willing workers.  Volunteer recruitment has become a full-time slog, presenting almost as much pain as the dreaded funding search.

So, what’s going on? 

Do people have less free time now? Is there too much competition for volunteers (there are 2500 registered charities in Bucks alone)?  Or is the world just getting more selfish?

In reality, the answer is probably ‘yes’ to all of these questions.

According to researchers, we are now in the age of self-interest, where altruism takes a backseat and experience-seeking is king.

We might be a Not-for-Profit and we might be changing the world, but that will only take us so far. No matter how worthy our cause, at some point we need to accept that not everybody cares as much as we do and what people actually want to know is what volunteering will do for them.

People really don’t want to be seen as do-gooders, anymore.  In fact, this is now the number 1 turn-off for those considering volunteering.

So, how DO we attract volunteers?

  • Sell your Story

You know you need somebody to spend 3 hours a week entering data in your back room, but how appealing does that sound?  Think bigger than that – what does your organisation do? How many lives are benefited as a result of the data entry and what would happen if that person wasn’t there? Volunteers want to experience the spirit and mission of an organisation and feel like part of the solution.

  • Think ‘Intrinsic’

Not all volunteers are the same. Some people volunteer for extrinsic reasons e.g. they need the experience to get into uni, or they want the time credits, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Yet, according to motivational expert Daniel Pink, ‘people who are internally driven to succeed are significantly more effective in the long run than those who are motivated by some carrot or stick’.  So, before you post your latest volunteer role, take a moment to think how it might also benefit their life.

  • Inspire your Volunteers!

If you want to know how to put all of this into practice and set your organisation up for the next-generation of volunteers, then come along to our Inspire Your Volunteers masterclass THIS THURSDAY in High Wycombe.

This is the most comprehensive and practical training you’ll find and is designed specifically for those managing or coordinating volunteers.

Professional training of this kind would usually cost £250, but as a member of the Community Impact Bucks network, it’s available to you for just £35 (full day including materials & refreshments).

If you’d like to inject some magic into your volunteer team, book your place here.