Your chance to get a closer look at a historic building right on our doorstep and meet the people who look after it

If you know Gornal, you might have walked past Ruiton Windmill and thought it was someone’s home. Perhaps you’ve passed it many times and never got a closer look. Maybe you’ve always been curious about it. Well, now’s your chance to learn more about this fabulous building at an open day on Saturday 9 October, 10am-4pm.

Ruiton Windmill is actually a former windmill and now open as a public building where lots of activities take place such as caving, amateur radio transmission and paranormal investigations! The people who look after the windmill will be throwing open its doors to anyone curious to learn more about what happens there, see the view from the top or share ideas about what other things could go on in this brilliant building.

My own story is that I’ve often seen Ruiton Mill on the horizon from a nature reserve where I often walk. From there it looked like a castle keep and I often wondered what it was! I got the chance to put two and two together when I was invited by Dudley Council and West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust colleagues to support the Ruiton Mill Preservation Trust (the charity that looks after the mill) with trustee recruitment and the general development of the charity. The building is owned by Dudley Council and managed by the charity as a place where the local community can come together, learn and take part in educational and recreational activities.

At the end of July, I got my chance to visit the mill and to take a peek inside (and from the top!). It was amazing – full of potential for all sorts of things! It’s divided into three floors, plus a cellar and the roof (where the views are stunning) and it was once the HQ of Dudley Cave Rescue, now Dudley Caving Club. It’s also home to Dudley Amateur Radio Society and Paranormal Hauntings Investigations and it has been used for overnight stays (it has a bunk room!) for uniformed groups and others, and it could be used for so much more too!

I met David, trustee of the charity that looks after the mill and a member of Dudley Caving Club (and the former Cave Rescue) to learn more. As well as charity trustees, the charity would love to make links with the community and other community groups who could use the mill as well as people who could give practical help so that it’s an attractive place that people want to visit. All of this will help to sustain this historic building for generations to come.

So we thought an open day might be a lovely way to show people what the mill has to offer and I’ve been helping to plan it with brilliant help from Melissa from Healthwatch Dudley, who will also be there on the day to talk to local people. I’m really impressed with David’s enthusiasm for the open day (which you can see in some of the fun photos I managed to take for the press release advertising it!). As well as being principal tour guide and sharing his incredible knowledge of caving and local geology on the day, David has brought together a team from the various groups to make sure there’ll be lots to see and learn on the day. There’ll be demonstrations and talks from John Smith, an original member of Dudley Cave Rescue, Dudley and District Amateur Radio Society, Dudley Caving Club, Paranormal Hauntings Investigations. Refreshments will be available to purchase and there’ll be activities to entertain all ages. Melissa has even enlisted 1st Sedgley Morris who’ll be performing in the courtyard.

I can’t promise the weather will behave like it did when I visited in July and September, but we can promise a warm welcome, some fabulous views and fascinating stories. We’d love to see you there anytime between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 9 October.

Please note that parking is limited, so please consider that if you’re planning a trip. In addition, to keep the event Covid-safe, numbers in and out of the building will be managed, so you may have a little wait in the courtyard when you arrive.

New Dudley CVS podcast: Why funding bids can fail

Martin and I recently got together to have a conversation about why funding bids can sometimes fail and we recorded it for you. Bringing together a list pitfalls and mistakes direct from funders and sharing our own experiences of what turns funders off, this episode will hopefully help you to improve your chances when you’re bidding for grant funding.

You can watch the podcast as a video here:

Or if you prefer just to listen, it’s available as audio only here:

Spotlight on Moms Mindful Hub, a small group with a big heart

Moms Mindful Hub is a small, volunteer-led group that’s there for moms, their mental health and wellbeing. The group is brought together by Leonie McDonald, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with over the last ten years or so. Although the group has stayed small in size, like many other community groups, they don’t let that get in the way of getting stuck in to make a great impact to the lives of moms.

A mom herself to three lovely children, Leonie takes her own experiences and uses them to build a supportive network of moms who care for one another without judgement. I started working with Leonie when Moms Mindful Hub was just an idea and, instead of pushing her straight into becoming a voluntary group with its added bureaucracy, I encouraged Leonie to reach out to others who might be able to help lead the group, share the vision and the burden. Amazingly, Leonie spent the next five or so years engaging moms from all walks of life, welcoming them in, supporting them (and being supported by them herself) and offering them a space where they could talk openly about the highs and lows of motherhood and take part in joint activities that would improve their health and wellbeing.

This all led eventually to Leonie identifying some moms who could help her to formalise Moms Mindful Hub into a constituted voluntary group and a couple of years ago it got its very own committee and constitution, which would help it to develop its activities and apply for funding if that was necessary.

Moms Mindful Hub has done loads on a shoe-string with only a few grants here and there. Leonie is a Queen of linking with others and working together in a way that means Moms Mindful Hub can work from multiple venues, such as Jasmine Road Community Gardens, Huntingtree Park Hub and, more recently, Age Concern in Stourbridge. Not having grants can give a group a lot of freedom to do what its community want it to do without having to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops, and the group has received some lovely press for the variety of work it’s doing. Just take a look at this Express and Star piece about Moms Mindful hub’s work at Age Concern Stourbridge.

Moms Mindful Hub didn’t let the pandemic stop its work, either. Although lockdown felt like a step backwards from all the progress the group had made, the group focused on staying positive and helping moms to stay positive by moving their activities online. They offered coffee mornings on Zoom as a way to help people stay connected, and they successfully applied to the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) Covid-19 Fund, which allowed the group to put together wellbeing care packages with leaflets, tips for recognising low mood, online resources for activities that could be done at home. They collaborated with the NHS to offer care packages to new and young moms.

As restrictions began to ease, Leonie and the group tentatively moved to outdoor activities, meeting for socially distanced walks three times a week and getting children and moms involved in nature play and education at Jasmine Road Community Gardens. Most recently, Moms Mindful Hub has linked with Age Concern Stourbridge, where they can offer indoor and outdoor stay and play activities. In future, the group is looking at outdoor, nature-based activities, developing its work with Rethink and is always on the lookout for organisations to work with to make this kind of stuff happen.

I’m constantly bowled over by Leonie’s energy and drive to work with other organisations in order to improve the health and wellbeing of the moms in the network. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this now! It’s a testament to Leonie’s resilience, generosity and thoughtfulness that Moms Mindful Hub has been able to develop and flourish during such a challenging year, and long may it continue!

Moms Mindful Hub is very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not join them if you’d like to learn more or get some friendly support? I know you’ll be really welcome.

We’ve never met in person: Spirit of Djembe and Partners With Industry, two not-for-profits supported during a turbulent year

In March 2020, life as we knew it changed dramatically. As news of Covid-19 became increasingly concerning, Dudley CVS made the decision to suspend face-to-face meetings and we were faced with the task of pivoting to working remotely and holding virtual meetings, on top of adapting our work to support the community response to the pandemic.

I love my job. Every week is different. But a massive chunk of my time, perhaps 40%-50% of it, is spent in some form of face-to-face meeting. Whether it’s meeting groups and supporting them with setting up, planning, funding bids and the like, giving training, holding drop in sessions in cafes around the borough with Eileen, meeting with colleagues to cook up new ways to support the sector and at conferences.

In March 2020 all of that changed. How would we continue to support groups and help with the huge-scale efforts to keep those shielding or isolating connected?

Looking back into the whirlwind of that time from a much calmer vantage point, we moved to online support very quickly. We supported groups by email, phone and video meeting (first with Skype and then with Zoom and Teams!), learning as we went and supporting colleagues as well as groups with using online platforms. We offered drop ins, training events, networking meetings, one-to-one support and so many people and groups connected with us, many with a renewed eagerness to work together.

I’m amazed to learn that I supported 90 groups last year, giving support and guidance on the usual things like setting up, planning, community asset transfer and fundraising, and on new things like thinking through Covid-19 procedures and holding virtual AGMs, even helping to run a few! And I’ve helped people to set up not-for-profits without ever meeting them face-to-face. Sprit of Djembe and Partners With Industry are two very different not-for-profits that formalised during the year.

Spirit of Djembe

Spirit of Djembe preparing to play in Mary Stevens Park in the summer before lockdown

Spirit of Djembe is an African drumming group based in Stourbridge. Their founder, Faith, got in touch with me to talk about formalising as a small not-for-profit with a constitution, something that they could work on while they were unable to get together for rehearsals and drumming sessions. Over a couple of months, I talked Faith through the process, introduced her to a simple constitution that would allow the group to open a bank account and fundraise in its own name, and supported Faith to engage with members in a way that involved them in the process and spread the leadership.

This work culminated in a Zoom meeting where I met some of the members of Spirit of Djembe, one of the loveliest meetings I’ve been involved in over the course of the pandemic. What struck me most about this welcoming group, was how members were so supportive of one another. Although clearly missing coming together face-to-face, they’d made an effort to come together socially on Zoom, and even worked out a way to rehearse their drumming online. Everyone made me feel so welcome. I know constitutions don’t get many people excited and engaged, but as I talked them through their draft, answered questions and made changes they wanted for their group, I felt that everyone was participating. At the meeting, I also helped them appoint their first committee and talked to the members about the roles and responsibilities of the committee. I left the meeting feeling that the group was really well organised and I hoped they would be able to get together to do what they love soon.

Fast forward a few months later and I’ve given the group some guidance around data protection principles and some pointers on insurance as Faith told me they have their first booking since the first lockdown began!

And if you’re looking for something new to do as restrictions ease, if you’d like to meet a welcoming and supportive group of people and learn something new, then now might be a good time to join Spirit of Djembe. If you’re interested in joining, you can call Faith on 07526 261250.

I do hope that as restrictions ease, Spirit of Djembe goes from strength to strength!

Partners With Industry CIC

Back in October, Partners With Industry CIC existed only as an idea of its founder Richard. Richard’s background was in automation and robotics and he wanted to set up an organisation that focused on equipping people who were unemployed or wanted to retrain with the skills required for jobs in the modern automated working environment of the future. Richard also wanted this work to benefit people with learning disabilities and the training would go from reskilling complete beginners to learn new skills to advanced skills to help existing engineers get back into the workplace.

I offered Richard a virtual meeting to have an initial chat about the possible routes available in our sector and the types of rules and regulations a not-for-profit would be subject to, and to learn more about Richard’s vision. At our meeting, I was really pleased to learn that Richard had started planning and had made links with Dudley College, West Midlands Combined Authority and Dudley Business First. Richard also told me that he was particularly interested in helping people living with dyslexia and autism to train and to have better opportunities to get into the industry. This seemed quite compatible with being a social enterprise, which is a business set up for social purposes.

I talked Richard through a resource which shows the similarities and differences between a charity, a social enterprise and a profit-making business/sole trader and the extra rules and expectations associated with being a not-for-profit. Richard was interested in learning more about social enterprise models; it felt like the CIC might be a good fit for the new organisation, which would allow it to pursue social aims for the benefit of the community and raise income in a range of ways, such as trading.

I gave Richard some guidance about CICs and directed him to some great resources provided by the CIC Regulator and encouraged him to look at examples of social enterprises provided by organisations like Social Enterprise UK and was on hand to talk through ideas that Richard was testing. I was really impressed with Richard’s ideas for operating as a business in order to benefit communities and the links he’d begun to make with potential partner organisations.

Richard brought a colleague on board and they decided to pursue the CIC route. Because both were new to CICs, I offered training on governance for CICs and supported them to get the company set up, giving step by step guidance, helping with the social purpose and explaining the memorandum and articles.

Then in January, I was pleased to learn Partners With Industry had officially become a community interest company. Richard got in touch to tell me the good news and told me

“We very much appreciate your help and it would have been impossible for us to do without your help, advice and guidance.”

Since then, Partners With Industry has set up its website, expanded its business to offer paid services to businesses and made partnerships across the country. I’ve also connected Richard with Eileen from our Volunteer Centre so that Partners With Industry can offer a great volunteering experience too. Richard also hopes to be a Voice of Innovation for the West Midlands Innovation Alliance, which promotes innovation in science and technology.

It’s been great supporting these and many other organisations during a challenging year, and I’m looking forward to working with more as we emerge from the pandemic.

In fact, Dudley CVS is collaborating with consultant David Waterfall to bring an exciting new opportunity to support the sector in Dudley borough to reset and rebuild following the pandemic.

Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will provide the opportunity, with guided expert external facilitation, for the sector to take stock, refocus and reimagine where next in terms of rebuild and recovery. More specifically Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will offer:

  • Opportunities to explore and share together what impact the pandemic has had on your organisation
  • The opportunity to help co-design future Reset, Rebuild and Reimagine sessions
  • Opportunities to develop and learn new skills and insights from a range of external professionals. Topics may include: improving resilience, employment law in relation to Covid-19, help with technology adoption, market development, engaging clients in new ways, business modelling, impact evaluations, financial sustainability, forward strategy etc
  • Dedicated time and space for peer support and action learning
  • A platform for embarking on a journey of exploration, skills development and shared learning together for resetting, rebuilding and reimagining the future of the VCFS across Dudley Borough, and
  • A platform to share amazing stories about how you have adapted your organisation to meet the needs of Dudley residents.

Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will kick start with two sessions on 28 June to co-design with you the shape and content of this exciting and innovative programme, with two places per organisation available. For more information and to book, please visit our story on Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine.

Lots on offer during Small Charity Week and June’s Month of Community

Small Charity Week runs from 14-19 June and is a national campaign to raise the profile of small charities and the big impact they have in our communities. To mark the week, we’ve teamed up with our friends SCVO to bring you some activities and sessions to help you learn, connect and celebrate.

Each day of Small Charity Week has a particular theme:

  • Monday: I Love Small Charities Day
  • Tuesday: Big Advice Day
  • Wednesday: Policy Day
  • Thursday: Fundraising Day
  • Friday: Small Charity Big Impact Day
  • Saturday: Appreciation Day

Here’s what we have on offer during Small Charity Week:

Monday 14 June – An Introduction to Charities, for anyone who wants to learn more about how charities work. Book here.

Tuesday 15 June – SCVO will host as Higgs and Sons join us to talk Volunteers and the Law. Book here.

Wednesday 16 June – Being a Charity Trustee. A brief introduction to the legal duties of charities trustees. Book here.

Thursday 17 June – Dudley Brew, the network for the not-for-profit sector in Dudley borough. Book here.

Thursday 17 June – Meet the Funder, featuring the Tudor Trust. Book here.
Friday 18 June – Trustee Chat, a supportive network for established and new trustees and anyone interested in becoming a charity trustee. Book here.

We’re also cooking up a social media Q&A event for Friday 18 June. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook or news page for details!

Don’t forget, you can check out other events happening during Small Charity Week right here.

Month of Community

This year, the national partners behind Small Charity Week have teamed up with others for the Month of Community. Month of Community is about creating a focal point in the year to bring people together to reconnect, celebrate what’s local and help bolster the recovery effort with something that touches everyone. It’s an opportunity to bring our neighbourhoods closer and shine a light on the amazing communities we live in and to give community spirit a boost as we head into summer.

Despite the difficult times for every one of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people feel that there have been some positive things to come out of this time. Spending more time at home and being more present in our communities has brought with it a heartening wave of community action, seeing neighbours talking and supporting one another far more than ever before.

Good causes across the UK have teamed up to celebrate summer 2021 with a #MonthOfCommunity. Join in when it works for you and your community, whether that’s to say cheers to volunteers, connect with your neighbours, support a cause you care about or simply to say thank you.

Events include:

This year, the our brilliant Volunteer Centre colleague Eileen is inviting you to share your great volunteering stories and how you’re recognising your volunteers this Volunteers Week. Eileen has also created free customisable certificates for you to download to say a big THANK YOU to your volunteers.

Conversations with the funder – Black Country ESF Community Grants

Last week we held a third ‘Meet the Funder’ event for not-for-profit organisations across Dudley borough. This time we welcomed Ruth Burgess, Grant Manager at Black Country ESF Community Grants. We were also joined by not-for-profits from across the Black Country who heard more about the programmes criteria and priorities.

The session was recorded and is now available as a video and audio podcast.

Ruth has also shared a lovely case study about a Dudley-based organisation that successfully applied to Black Country ESF Community Grants. Scroll down to read more about this and to get more inspiration from a real-life example.

Here’s the video, complete with slides.

And here’s the audio only version:

Example of a fantastic Dudley based project: Magic Touch Network was funded by ESF Community Grants in the summer 2020 to run the “Progression Project”. The project worked with women in Dudley running courses focused on health and beauty as well as additional support with English speaking, reading and writing. The project was designed to help the participants move closer to the job market and equip them with the social and interpersonal skills needed to improve self-confidence.  

Ruth from ESF Black Country Community Grants spoke with Sumaira and Maz from the Magic Touch project to find out more about their project

You were funded during a pandemic, what was the biggest challenge of running a project in 2020? Magic Touch: The biggest challenge was the delays and complications caused by Covid 19. Local people still needed a lot of support but it was hard to balance this with the pandemic restrictions. There were delays in starting the project and a lot more paperwork to do. We had to plan our activities in more detail and be very careful in the way we ran the project in order to keep everyone supported yet safe.

The project managed to get 8 people into work which is an amazing achievement. How did you manage this and what kind of work did participants go into? Magic Touch: Our success was due to working with the ladies on a detailed one to one basis. We had taken on learners genuinely interested in finding employment and worked with them in each session to apply for jobs that they were suited to. Care work was the area that women were mostly interested in and we worked really hard to create connections with care agencies and employers. We supported our learners in making connections with the agencies, this really helped as the informal connections led to interviews and job appointments for learners.

What difference do you think your project made to the people who took part? Our learners gained confidence, moving into jobs has made them feel more positive about their future. The project was a positive and productive experience, it bought them hope and positivity in the dark times of Covid19. 

ESF Community Grants New Rounds:

 ESF Community Grants awards funding of up to £20,000 to organisations who can run projects that support people unemployed (for 6 months minimum) back into work/ training.

The dates for the next 3 rounds are:

7th June 2021

29th July 2021

9th September 2021

Projects need to demonstrate how they can move participants closer to the job market and particularly how they get the long term unemployed ready for work. We aim to fund projects despite the current restrictions and applicants will need to demonstrate how they can adjust their project if needed, for example using remote delivery.

The guidelines, application and hourly rate calculator are available on request by emailing communitygrants@walsall.gov.uk or can be downloaded from BCTA Website  Please make sure you use the latest application, old formats will not be accepted.

Before you apply please contact Ruth.Burgess@walsall.gov.uk for an informal conversation about your application.

Conversations with the funder – Enovert Community Trust, The National Lottery Community Fund and Severn Trent Community Fund

Following our first online ‘Meet the Funder’ event with Lloyds Bank Foundation, we held another focusing on three funders a few days later. This time, the ‘Meet the Funder’ event welcomed and heard from Angela Haymonds from Enovert Community Trust, John Goodman from The National Lottery Community Fund and Jade Gough from Severn Trent Community Fund.

The session was recorded and is now available as an audio podcast or a video of highlights.

The full session complete with Q&A is available to listen to below:

Find specific presentations at the following times:

  • Enovert Community Trust: 33 seconds in
  • The National Lottery Community Fund: 35 minutes
  • Severn Trent Community Fund: 49 minutes

The shorter version, complete with presentation slides is available as a video here:

Our next virtual ‘Meet the Funder’ event on May 10th will welcome Ruth Burgess, who’ll be talking to us about ESF Black Country Community Grants. To attend, book your place here.

Conversations with the funder – Lloyds Bank Foundation

Last week, we held a ‘Meet the Funder’ session for charities working in Dudley borough to learn from and connect with the Lloyds Bank Foundation. Peter Cunnison, Grants Manager for the Lloyds Bank Foundation, joined us and other participants to tell us more about the aims and priorities of the Foundation, which opened to applications earlier this month.

The session was recorded and you can now listen to or watch it here:

Audio only:

Video (with slides)

Make an impact for a small charity: Become a trustee of ARC-AID

Are you interested in becoming a charity trustee? Do you have the skills to make a big impact to a small charity? Do you want to help lead campaigns that raise awareness for people and families affected by industrial cancers and diseases?

This might be the opportunity for you.

ARC-AID (which stands for Asbestos Related Conditions – Allied Industrial Diseases) is a small charity based in Dudley and it is seeking new trustees to help it maximise its work in raising awareness of industrial cancers and diseases, typically caused by exposure to asbestos . The charity raises awareness and campaigns for people and families affected by Mesothelioma and other industrial diseases. The principle ways ARC-AID does this are through awareness raising events and by providing grants and donations to charities that support people affected by Mesothelioma and cancers caused by exposure to asbestos, such as Mesothelioma UK.

The bulk of ARC-AID’s work is raising a platform of awareness through its shop and through talks. The charity runs a little charity shop in Dudley town centre and host a variety of fundraising events throughout the year. They would love to get more people involved, both at trustee and volunteer levels in order to maximise the support the charity can offer, improve its networks and amplify its messages so that more people and families can be helped.

In particular, ARC-AID is looking for a chair, secretary and people with skills in areas such as

  • financial management
  • digital
  • volunteer recruitment and support
  • fundraising
  • legal
  • marketing
  • networking.

Trustees are the people in charge of a charity, which means they do have legal responsibilities. They often give their time in the background, making sure their charity operates properly, safeguarding its staff/volunteers and the people it supports and making sure the charity fulfils its purposes. I’m currently offering support to the charity and can give in-depth training and support (through online video meeting) to anyone interested in this role. You won’t be left alone and I’ll support you every step of the way.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a trustee, or you’d like to find out more, download ARC-AID’s trustee recruitment pack and feel free to contact me at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.

If you’d like to find out more about being a charity trustee, meet other trustees and get further support, why not join us at our next virtual Trustee Chat on Tuesday 23 February at 10am, which we’re running with our friends SCVO? Book your place here.

Make a difference in Pensnett: Help to breathe new life into Fens Pool Community Centre

Are you passionate about bringing the community together? Do you believe that residents can lead, organise and create projects that bring life to a community? Do you have skills, passion and time to give to make things happen and help the community in Pensnett to thrive?

If any of these questions apply to you, this might be just the opportunity for you!

Pensnett-based charity, Fens Pool Voluntary Association, is urgently looking for new trustees to help bring new life into its community centre. The charity has traditionally run activities for children and young people as well as recreational and social activities for older people, bringing people together to improve the community’s wellbeing.

Fens Pool Voluntary Association faces significant challenges as sources of funding have steadily diminished over the years and trustees and other volunteers have moved on. Members of the Association are seeking new trustees to breathe new life into the charity and get it back on track.

Like all charities, Fens Pool Voluntary Association is set up to achieve its charitable objects – they’re its reason for existing. In summary, the charitable objects are to bring the community together in a common effort to advance education and provide facilities for the community in a way that supports social welfare. This means that new trustees will have the freedom to set up any projects or activities that will contribute to those aims, so this could be an exciting opportunity for people who want to make new things happen.

Trustees are the people in charge of a charity, which means they do have legal responsibilities. They often give their time in the background, making sure their charity operates properly, safeguarding its staff and the people it supports and making sure the charity fulfils its purposes. I’m currently supporting some of the members of Fens Pool Voluntary Association who are looking for trustees and I’m pleased to offer in-depth training and support (through online video meeting) to anyone interested in this role. You won’t be left alone and I’ll support you every step of the way.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a trustee, or you’d like to find out more, download the trustee recruitment pack and feel free to contact me at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.