A year in the life… Supporting small groups

Photo credit: Lotus Carroll / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Lotus Carroll / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about our annual report, a review of how, collectively, we have helped to build caring, vibrant and strong communities where everyone can achieve their potential. I enjoy taking a step back and looking at what small differences I may have made throughout the year, so I’m inviting you to take a glimpse of my personal snapshot of 2014-15 (April-March), supporting small community groups, voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.

Over the year, I’ve:

  • Supported 91 people and small groups on a range of topics to do with setting up, growing and running efficient not-for-profit organisations;
  • Worked on 194 meetings or pieces of work for the people and groups I’ve supported. This can be a meeting with a group to give guidance, training or support on a given topic, but it can also be a specific piece of work I do for a group in the office, such as a funding search, or some research. There are more interactions than people or groups supported because generally the support I’ve given has been intensive, over a couple of meetings or over a period of weeks.

It’s been really interesting to break down the topics I’ve supported on and how common these have been. Here’s a chart showing the most popular areas of support:

type of support

Funding has always been a popular topic and I’m not surprised that it’s still the most common area of support that I get enquiries about. Of the 91 people and groups I supported, I gave funding support to 41 of them. This support could entail training on making successful bids, planning a project, funding searches and supporting groups with developing their applications, support that I hoped would inspire groups to develop great activities and connect them with funders that could make those projects happen.

The great news is that 23 organisations were awarded grants totalling £61,520! Grants were awarded for a variety of projects, such as sport and fitness activities, community fun days, educational and recreational activities for vulnerable people, WWI commemoration events and growing projects. 11 of those organisations are still awaiting decisions on their applications – fingers crossed!

Compared to last year, the total amount awarded to groups I’ve supported is down. This could reflect the fact that there are fewer grant funding opportunities available and that the ones that are available are now more competitive. But it also reflects the fact that the support I give isn’t always about funding. This year more than any, I’ve seen more people wanting to roll up their sleeves and make something positive happen and the groups I support do wonderful things with minimal resources! This is why I’ve supported a lot of groups with setting up, helping them to understand things like legal structures and constitutions so that they can operate efficiently and safely.

On top of that, groups are looking at other ways of fundraising, other ways of paying for activities that are based on sharing resources, exchanging assets, selling (where they can) and using online tools. This is something I’d like to encourage in the coming year, to help sustain community activity. 

Working with groups is a total privilege. I get to spend time with passionate people that want to make great things happen in their communities and I hope that I make a contribution to helping them achieve their goals. My fondest memories of working with groups have been:

  • Spending evenings with Dudley Al Karim Foundation, helping members to develop their charity, plan their work with young people and connect them with Near Neighbours, who funded their first project, Open Door.
  • Supporting the new committee of Black Country Integration Project with their constitution, business plan, developing their pilot project, connecting them with organisations they could work with and giving them a little support with promotion.
  • Learning about the great work of Ravens Rescue and helping to formalise their organisation as a CIO (charitable incorporated organisation), as well as getting lots of attention from their cats and dogs!
  • Visiting and championing the work of groups such as Diyya, Priory Park Boxing Club, Thomas Pocklington Trust and what they can achieve when they connect with others.

What I’d like to do more of next year

After running a drop in sessions with Caroline and Eileen as part of Trustees Week, I’d like to provide a space for groups to come together and talk about whatever topic they want to discuss.

Connecting groups with each other, with funders and other potential supporters is another area I’d like to explore this year.

Finally, I’d like to continue championing the great work small groups do and supporting them to tell their stories and raise their profiles. I’m looking forward to being involved in more social media surgeries and running activities during Small Charity Week (June 15th-20th).

So that’s a little glimpse of some of the work I’ve been doing over the past year. I’m one tiny part of Dudley CVS and I hope I’ve been able to make a difference. I know that my colleagues have been doing wonderful work which hopefully they can share too!

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