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 firstname.lastname@example.org or can be downloaded from BCTA Website Please make sure you use the latest application, old formats will not be accepted.
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
volunteer recruitment and support
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 email@example.com. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.
Trustees’ Week has landed again and I wanted to share some of the great resources out there that can help you become a better trustee, as well as invite you to an informal Trustees Week chat that we’re hosting alongside our colleagues from SCVO. Many of these resources will help you all year long, whether you’re thinking of become a trustee, you’re new to the role or you want to build upon your experience.
Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. 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.
Trustees’ Week is an annual campaign to showcase the wonderful work trustees do and to open up opportunities for more people to become trustees from all walks of life.
The Trustees’ Week website is a great starting point for information about trustees and the events and resources open to them. Here are some of my picks from the big programme of guidance, events and activities happening across the country, many of which you can access online.
“It’s for people who want to become trustees, trustees who want to keep learning and developing, and for charity leaders who want to understand best practice in trustee recruitment and diversity.
We’ll have an action-packed week of events, with workshops, Ted-style talks, networking events, Q&A clinics, and more.
If you want to learn about: youth leadership, anti-racism in the boardroom, anti-ageism, charity finances, ableism, how to recruit amazing candidates, anti-sexism, how to manage volunteers, diversity & inclusion, safeguarding for trustees, how to be a strategic force for change, what charitable impact is and how to drive it forwards as a trustee, and even more… join us at the Festival of Trusteeship!“
There’s also lots of webinars, workshops and discussions covering topics such as board diversity, governance in challenging times, recruiting new trustees and more. Find the full list here.
On Friday, we’re jointly hosting a Trustees’ Week chat with our colleagues from SCVO. Intentionally without an agenda, you’ll be free to join us to learn more about trusteeship, ask specific questions or share your experience and expertise. If you’d like to join us on this Zoom call, please register here.
A toolkit for small charities looking to recruit new trustees. This is available to NCVO members and has been made available to non-members until 9 November.
NCVO also has great resources and tools available all year round to help you to improve your governance. Visit https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/ for more.
Finally, we offer training to any Dudley-based charity on the roles and responsibilities of trustees using The Essential Trustee and the Charity Governance Code. This training takes boards through the principles of trusteeship and helps you to identify gaps, providing you with support, guidance and knowhow to improve your board’s performance. Please get in touch if you’d like this training.
It’s probably fair to say that it’s an uncertain time for the not-for-profit sector. The Coronavirus pandemic has affected organisations in different ways, depending on their activities, their size or how they’re funded. Some have had to suspend their activities; others have continued but scaled down; some have had their income streams completely dry up; others have faced an unprecendented increase in demand. Odds are also that added into that mix have been the challenges of doing things differently, loss of staff or volunteers due to sickness, shielding or furlough, and mental health implications.
Reassuringly, people have come forward in their droves to help in their community; this is very welcome and many of us are beginning to think about how this impetus is best harnessed as we enter new phases. The increase in volunteering could pose challenges in itself as organisations try to ensure that people volunteer safely.
I wanted to bring together some of the useful things we’ve been sharing to help not-for-profits over the past few months, share what’s coming up and pose some questions for us to explore over the next few months.
I’ll start with what’s coming up.
Next week is Small Charity Week and there are lots of events listed on the Small Charity Week website. We’re hosting three events next week.
On Thursday, we’ll run a brief training workshop on the Charity Governance Code to help trustees understand their role. It will be most useful for trustees of registered charities or people who are thinking of registering their organisation as a charity.
This builds on the excellent series of webinars NCVO has produced on a whole range of topics, from protecting people, financial planning and making decisions during the Coronavirus pandemic. The webinars are all recorded and published on Youtube, so don’t worry if you’ve missed any; you can access them here.
I recently caught the recent NCVO webinar on ‘Board leadership: Supporting your charity through the next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic’
It encourages you to think about where your board of trustees are currently. Have they been helping out with delivery recently? It’s important to understand where the board is so that it can move on from emergency / survival stage and into the next phase; easing the board from management into governance and setting the charity’s direction will be important. And if planning might seem a futile exercise at the moment, there are some tools and tips for planning during uncertain times.
For both individuals who want to help and groups that have been taking on more volunteers during the period. This contains
hints and tips for what individual volunteers can do to keep themselves and others safe
ideas for what people can do to help depending on their circumstances
help and resources for groups that involve volunteers covering safety, confidentiality, lone working guidance and more.
We are still offering one-to-one support to Dudley borough groups. We can offer this support either by email or by online meetings. We do have quite a bit of demand so we appreciate your patience on this; please don’t hesitate to make contact with us!
Over the last six months or so I’ve been publicising this grants programme through our email bulletin. I recently learned that the number of organisations from the Dudley borough applying and receiving funding is very low in comparison to the other local authorities in the Black Country.
As a result I have been discussing alternative approaches with colleagues (Becky and Helena from Dudley CVS, Jacki from Dudley MBC and Ruth from Walsall Council) in order to redress that balance and motivate organisations within the Dudley borough to consider this funding programme. The key area of our discussions has been around the range of support all of us can provide to potential applicants.
The programme itself
The Black Country Community Grants Programme is jointly funded by the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the European Social Fund (ESF) providing small grants (£5,000-£20,000) to be distributed in the Black Country region during the period 1 April 2019-31 July 2021. The administration of the programme is managed by Walsall Council providing a range of support to potential applicants as the Grant Co-ordinating Body.
Small community and voluntary groups, charities or not-for-profit organisations (annual turnover below £300,000) based in and providing services in the Black Country that help an individual’s progress towards employability/access to employment are eligible to apply. Grants can be used for the delivery of a range of skills and employment support activities that will engage with people aged over 16 who are hard to reach, affected by multiple disadvantages, unemployed and economically inactive. Projects should help them improve their skills/job prospects to progress towards/obtain employment with priority for over 50s, females, disabled people and ethnic minorities.
One of the charities to already benefit from Community Grants is Top Church Training (also known as The Connect Project), which has been supported by Dudley CVS colleagues for over 10 years. Top Church Training received a grant of just under £20,000 to run the Choices Project, which aims to empower women and provides a holistic package to support the participant’s wellbeing.
The Choices project offers a range of activities from Craft sessions to Yoga, Coffee mornings to Cooking classes. Each of these sessions take place every week and are ran in groups to help to decrease isolation and low levels of confidence.
The majority of participants are long term unemployed, the Choices project is supporting local women to feel more “work ready” by building up their skills and confidence. Top Church Training’s Head of Operations said:
We are delighted to have been successful with our ESF Community Grants application.
The funding has enabled us to expand our activities and practical support service to help more women in our local community who are feeling lonely and isolated.
We have been able to provide a safe environment for women to come to, to meet new people and to make new friends. By coming to our groups we are hearing how this is improving their mental health, their confidence and self-esteem and for two others, has motivated them to find employment.
The Top Church Training Team
The support available to organisations interested in learning more about and applying to the programme
In Dudley borough, we’ve a team of people who can support organisations making applications to this funding programme:
Martin Jones (Funding Officer at Dudley CVS) can discuss the application process with potential applicants and provide guidance on completion of the application form. Once the form is completed I’ll review the application before submission to ensure all the relevant information is included and all questions have been answered in full.
Jacki Lakin (External Funding and Compliance Officer at Dudley Council) is passionate about Dudley based organisations being properly resourced for their very valuable work in communities and is very keen to assist applicants to this programme helping them obtain funding to continue providing essential activities and projects for their beneficiaries. She will meet with organisations and discuss ways in which she can support them.
Ruth Burgess (External Funding and Community Grants Manager at Walsall MBC) manages a small team running the Black Country Community Grants programme. She is responsible for delivering the programme within each of the four boroughs and meets with organisations on a regular basis both before submission of applications and afterwards if they are successful. Her team provide one-to-one support so that organisations have help and guidance when running their projects.
Becky Pickin (Small Groups Development Officer at Dudley CVS) has been working with small organisations for over a decade helping them not only with applying for grants but also ensuring they are in a position to apply for funding. It is important that organisations are fit for purpose before making funding applications and Becky ensures they have the correct structure in place as well as all relevant policies and procedures. She also assists with business planning ensuring that fundraising is driven by their future priorities and aspirations so they can continue providing excellent services to people in need.
Helena Norman (Dudley CVS Communications Officer) can help organisations tell their stories and celebrate their successes more widely so that they can not only become better known but they can also be more attractive to potential funders. Helena could help organisations develop their social media presence so that they can have a wider and more engaging reach.
Future plans to increase the number of applications to Black Country Community Grants
In January we’ll be producing a podcast about the fund involving ourselves at the CVS alongside Jacki and Ruth. We aim to dispel the myths around the difficulties in running projects/activities and the recording of data/outcomes achieved etc. We will clarify aspects of the whole procedure from application to conclusion and the support available along the way.
We’ll also gauge interest in a Community Grants focused event in February where people can learn more and meet those involved in the programme who can provide support to them.
All of this will take place so that organisations will have the opportunity to apply for a Community Grant in either of the three forthcoming rounds (4, 5 and 6) with deadlines 2 March, 1 May and 3 July 2020.
Watch this space for further communication and details about the Black Country Community Grants programme!
Update, January 2020
Community Grants workshop for Dudley borough!
We’ve organised a workshop where you can learn more about Community Grants, meet us to talk about your ideas and get support.
A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Birmingham for the Good Finance Live event on social investment to meet experts, social investors, not-for-profits that had accessed social investment and, hopefully, to bring some useful information and ideas back to Dudley borough.
I should say that social investment won’t be for every organisation because of its repayable nature. For instance, it wouldn’t suit an organisation that provides free services because that organisation would find it difficult to raise enough money to pay off the investment. But for an organisation that has something to trade, be it facilities for hire, goods, merchandise or services to sell, social investment could be a feasible source of finance to help it develop. As I’m seeing more requests for support around social enterprise development and community asset transfer, repayable finance might be an appropriate option for these types of organisation (a social enterprise is set up to trade to achieve its social or environmental purposes and an organisation with facilities might be able to generate an income from hiring them out).
So what did I get from the day?
Generally speaking, social investment is repayable finance where the investor wants to receive a social return as well as a financial one. But within that, there are many different types of social investment. The conference centre at BVSC was packed with different social investors that support charities and social enterprises. Between them, they provide a whole range of social investment options, such as:
social impact bonds
social investment tax relief (SITR)
A mind-boggling array of options that may sound very daunting. You can find out more about them here on the Good Finance website.
On top of that, while some investors offer general support to any type of not-for-profit, there are some that are interested in certain areas of work or themes, like:
PICNIC – which is interested in delivering social and environmental impact in parks and green spaces
Sporting Capital – which supports organisations that help communities through sport and physical activity
Homeless Link – which supports organisations that aim to reduce homelessness
As well as meeting social investors, it was incredibly helpful to meet and hear from organisations that had been successful in raising one or more kinds of social investment. Particularly inspiring were contributions from:
Wellington Orbit, a cultural hub owned by the community who raised finance through a community share offer and incorporated social investment tax relief SITR into its funding mix in order to open a community cinema and cafe bar
Creative Optimistic Visions CIC, run by the passionate Stacey who shared her journey from setting up her CIC from scratch, being supported through UnLtd finance and mentoring to taking on blended finance, allowing the CIC to employ staff and expand its work
These examples really demonstrated that social finance is not only for large organisations and already well-resourced organisations.
If you’re interested in finding out more about social finance, I’d always recommend learning from other organisations that have gone through it. Many will be happy to share their experiences and learning with you. As well as the two listed above, a couple of months ago I posted about Stretford Public Hall, which ran a successful community share offer.
I’d also recommend starting with the Good Finance website, which is packed with tools and resources to help you decide whether social finance is a good option for your organisation and what social finance options might be most appropriate. It’s a great source of information.
Finally, I’m doing some work behind the scenes to increase knowledge and understanding of social finance in the Dudley borough. This might include sharing more information about social finance, increasing our skills and bringing in experts who can give support and encouragement. If you’re interested in learning more, or getting involved in any initiatives around social finance in Dudley, please let us know and we can keep you informed.
Did you know that over the last 11 years, Martin and I have supported nonprofits to access more than £11million in grant funding? You probably didn’t because we only recently realised this ourselves!
Given that Martin and I have recently completed our eleventh year at Dudley CVS, and because we’re both utter geeks when it comes to keeping records of the people and groups we’ve worked with over that time, we thought it would be interesting to pull together all of our data about successful funding applications we’ve worked on. We’re both pretty staggered by (and proud of) the results.
Martin and I joined Dudley CVS within a month of each other back in 2008. Over those years we’ve worked together and helped each other to offer the best support possible to all types and sizes of not-for-profit.
My role is about helping people that want to establish or develop their not-for-profit by providing them with information, guidance and support on a range of topics they’re likely to run into, including:
What type of not-for-profit? Such as the concept of social enterprise, the definition of charity, appropriate legal structures
Planning, including long term vision, mission, purpose-setting, project planning, reviewing the organisation, financial planning
Roles and responsibilities of the people that lead not-for-profits, including governance training for directors and trustees
Connecting with others, which is becoming increasingly important
Governing documents and registration
Compliance – including regulatory obligations, insurance, reporting and policies and procedures
Asset development and asset transfer
Fundraising and income-generation
When I support groups with funding, it tends to be as part of wider support to help a group become established and ‘funding ready’, such as Dudley Feelgood Choir, Wall Heath Tennis Club and Bayer Street Allotments, though I do also help groups to identify appropriate funders for their work or projects and they do the rest. The idea is to give support in a way that helps groups to become more skilled and confident in putting applications together.
Martin’s role focuses on income-generation and because of this, he primarily supports organisations with larger bids. Martin says,
“Like the support groups give to their beneficiaries to help them to increase their skills, confidence and ability to do things for themselves, the way I work with groups can start quite intensively with a lot of handholding until they are in a position to work on an application themselves with me on hand to review it before it’s submitted. Lots of the people I worked with years ago are now flying with their bidwriting!
I supported Dudley Voices for Choice who received £415,720 at the end of 2018. What stood out for me was how the group involved their beneficiaries throughout the process as well as the enthusiasm of the partners in the project led excellently by Sarah.
Overall 80% of the organisations I have supported during the last 11 years have received funding.
Over the last eleven years, between us, we’ve supported:
With 614 successful applications
To 113 grants programmes
Totalling £11,764,436.65 (65p!)”
Of course, this only covers the work that Martin and I have done to support organisations as that’s the data we have to hand. The real total over that eleven years is likely to be much higher if we could incorporate the support that our previous colleagues gave too. On top of that, for obvious reasons, we can only include the successes that our groups have told us about, which doesn’t always happen. Nonetheless, there’s some interesting things to say about the figures we’ve got.
The largest single grant was for £800,000 from the Football Foundation to a local community football club (one of Martin’s)
The smallest grants were two £30 grants from TESCO and the Blakemore Foundation to help the Seniors Luncheon Club get started in 2009 (they’re still going now!)
Here’s a breakdown by grant size:
86% of grants were valued at £10,000 or less. The majority of grants (35%) were for under £1,000, while 33% of grants ranged from £1,000-£5,000. This means well over half the grants (68%) were awards of up to £5,000. 18% of grants were between £5,000 and £10,000 in value. I think this suggests that most of these awards are contributions towards project costs, rather than core funding.
Which funding programmes have been the most accessed by the groups we’ve supported over the last decade? This graphic shows us:
67 of the 113 (59%) of funding programmes made one grant only (that we know of), the remaining 41% gave multiple grants amongst the groups we supported. When we support groups, we help them to identify the most appropriate funders for their needs, matching projects to funders’ interests areas and criteria. This is why there is a spread of 113 grants programmes.
Within that, the ten most prolific grants programmes were:
Dudley Council’s Community Forums (including previous Area Committee funding)
Awards for All (National Lottery Community Fund, formerly Big Lottery Fund)
Dudley Borough Small Grants Fund
Rant About the Grant
Improving Physical Activity Fund
Reaching Communities (National Lottery Community Fund, formerly Big Lottery Fund)
What’s staggering in this list is that 6 of the ten programmes no longer operate and have not been in operation for some years now (programmes that have come to an end are: Dudley Borough Small Grants Fund, Grassroots Grants, Rant About the Grant, Improving Physical Activity Fund, Dudley Council’s Small Grants, BeActive Coaching Bursary). This chimes with our knowledge and our increasing encouragement of groups to look to new sources of income as grant funding opportunities continue to reduce, because the four remaining funders may not be able to increase their level of award.
What else can we say about these grants programmes? We can see how much they have granted the Dudley borough groups we’ve supported:
An enormous 55% of funding awarded to the groups we’ve supported has come from Reaching Communities, that’s £6,507,553.00 of the £11,764,436.65 total! This is perhaps due to a combination of the size of grants available through this programme, its popularity as a programme and the relatively high success rate it enjoys. Other popular programmes like Awards for All and the Community Forums give smaller grants (up to £10,000 and £5,000 respectively).
“As regards Reaching Communities I have a success rate of almost 60% in both number of successful applications and grant values. 50% of the groups I’ve supported with Reaching Communities have received repeat funding from that programme. These include Phase Trust (3), Dudley Counselling Centre/Dudley Community Church (3), Beacon Centre for the Blind (2), Age UK (2) and Headway Black Country (2).
As for high-value grants, some of my highlights are:
£538,524 over 3 applications to an organisation that supports older people
£513,525 over 3 applications to a disability charity
£1,238,328 from 10 applications from a faith-based organisation that supports vulnerable and disadvantaged people
£679,411 across 4 applications from an advocacy charity
£646,272 from 4 applications by a health-based charity
7 applications with a family support charity, totaling £289,016
7 applications supported with a young persons charity, totaling £1,019,710
15 applications supported from a charity that empowers disadvantaged people, totaling £566,465
6 successful applications supported from a young persons advocacy charity, totaling £614,592″
The National Lottery Community Fund (formerly known as the Big Lottery Fund) which runs Reaching Communities, features elsewhere in this top ten, with Awards for All, Advice Services Fund and the Youth Investment Fund accounting for around 10% of money awarded. So what does the picture look like if we combine the programmes run by one funder?
Unsurprisingly, the National Lottery Community Fund makes up 65% of the total money awarded to groups we’ve supported over the past eleven years. Other funders have contributed as follows:
Football Foundation 6.8%
Young People’s Fund 2.62%
Dudley Council 2.51%
BBC Children in Need 2.42%
Lloyds Bank Foundation 2.39%
Building Better Opportunities 2.38%
Sport England 1.89%
Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust 1.6%
Grassroots Grants 1.3%
Remaining funders combined 11.25
The National Lottery Community Fund is still keen to fund Dudley borough organisations and we have great links with John Goodman, the Funding Officer from The National Lottery Community Fund who covers our patch. John is available at our office on Wednesdays to meet organisations interested in accessing funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. To arrange an appointment, email John at email@example.com.
A new fund for Dudley borough
Finally, Dudley CVS has recently launched a new fund for organisations that can develop and provide creative support for people who frequently use unplanned emergency care services (such as calling 999, attending A&E or Urgent Care Centre).
What a difference a year makes! Priory Community Centre now looks a far cry from the empty, not-quite-finished shell of a building I visited in June 2017. Now it’s vibrant, full of people of all ages doing all sorts of creative things together!
It’s a journey that started long before I started working with the passionate group of people who make up Priory Community Association, a charity that’s been without a home since the North Priory estate in Dudley was flattened and redeveloped in 2010. Priory Community Association volunteers live and breathe their community; they continued to work in the community at other venues to make sure they stayed connected, they maintained links with other community centres for support while they were without a home and they provided a strong voice for what the new community centre should look and feel like.
Last year, I was asked to support Priory Community Association through the asset-transfer process, work that had been started by my former colleague Caroline, who’d worked closely with Dudley Council staff on its asset-transfer strategy. In basic terms, asset transfer is when building or land moves from statutory control into the control of not-for-profit organisations. In Dudley borough, this has in most cases been a transfer of management (through a lease) rather than transferring ownership from the local authority to another organisation. Asset transfer can be a lengthy process (with more work required the longer the lease is), so it’s good to approach it with realistic expectations. Generally, the process involves completing a short expression of interest and then working on a business plan that will show the community support for the transfer, what kinds of activities will happen there and how they will benefit the community and the financial viability. Understandably, the local authority will want to make sure that the transfer will benefit the community and that it is sustainable.
So this is the process we started with Priory Community Association. We got busy with the business plan and I think together we made a really strong case for the community benefits, linking not only with the Dudley Council plan but showing links to priorities of the Health and Wellbeing Board, West Midlands Police and Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group. We had some help and good feedback from Martin, who’s the principle link with the local authority for groups looking at asset transfer – he does an excellent job!
What we all found more difficult was the financial figures. We were lucky enough to be able to get some figures from other community centres, but we weren’t sure how realistic they would be, given that Priory’s was a completely new building (and hopefully more energy efficient!). On top of that, while we were working on the plan, the completed building risked standing empty and Priory Community Association couldn’t give any certainty to potential users and hirers of the centre. So I asked Martin whether a temporary lease might be an option; this would allow Priory Community Association to get in the building and start managing it, giving them experience, building interest and providing a more realistic view of what the costs would be thus making their business plan more robust. At the same time, the building wouldn’t have to stand empty for too long and be at risk of deterioration.
Dudley Council was open to this, which was wonderful news! We thought ahead and it seemed that the timings might coincide with the summer holidays, so I suggested that Awards for All might be interested in funding a playscheme with a difference – one that would help to launch the brand new community centre and kickstart other activities that would happen there. Together we worked on the application – it was a good one! – and Priory Community Association landed a grant of around £5,000 from Awards for All. The group also successfully applied to Dudley Council’s Community Forums to help them furnish the kitchen and other areas of the centre, and their good relationships with other community centres in the borough meant they had lots of chairs and tables donated.
I recently went back to the centre on the last day of the playscheme to see how things had gone. I was utterly staggered by what this passionate group of people has achieved! They’ve made connections with children and families who’ve come to the playscheme and joined in the range of the activities on offer, connections that will last many years judging by the ‘Thank you’ cards on display and the wonderful comments Priory Community Centre has received on its Facebook page, which has been joyously charting each day of the playscheme. Honestly, if you want to brighten your day, take a look at the wonderful pictures and comments like the ones below:
During my visit a group of children and adults descended on trustees and volunteers with flowers and chocolates to say thank you for the two weeks of fun they’d had. Of course, I had to get a snap!
Leaders, people like Celia, Sally and Rachel, have also instilled the sense that the community centre is for absolutely anyone and everyone. The behaviours the leaders have shown and the language they’ve used have helped people feel a sense of ownership. Children have made posters encouraging everyone to tidy up after themselves and people feel like they can contribute to making activities happen. The fact that they had enough volunteers to cover a day trip of 59 people to Weston and keep activities going at the centre shows that people are willing to help and volunteers are valued there. This is great news for the future of the centre!
The people I spoke to had lovely things to say about the local PCSO’s too. They went to each day of the play scheme, getting involved in the activities, judging competitions, doing the less attractive jobs! It seems like the play scheme has been a great way to connect communities with each other and with the people that serve those communities, like the Police, who want to be visible and engaged there.
The future looks good. Throughout the last few months, Priory Community Association have been engaging with people and organisations that might want to use the centre. There’s an exciting plan in the pipeline with young people’s charity Top Church Training, which might see the Community Centre cafe opening regularly, and there’s been a lot of learning about what works from the play scheme – a regular families session might be on the cards!
Whatever the plans, I wish Priory Community Centre every success. The people involved make my job an utter privilege and we’ll always be happy to support them as they develop.
I’m really pleased that one of the small charities that Dudley CVS has supported has been awarded funding from one of Dudley Council’s Community Forums (Netherton, Woodside and St. Andrews and Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood Community Forum) to set up a pilot project to help people build important social connections where they live.
Netherton Regeneration Group is setting up a pilot in the Darby End area to train volunteers to help lonely people to get out and about. We are setting up a network of street champions and lots of interesting and healthy activities open to all comers. We want to help people who are not able to get out easily, have lost touch with friends, need something to get them moving, get help with health problems, find out about healthy foods and exercise, but mainly to have some fun!
We have been awarded £2,300 from the Community Forum and hope to win some more funds through DMBC’s Innovation Fund for the Voluntary Sector.
Our idea is simple!
We will create a regular support group, to help people become more active and less isolated. People will be offered lots of fun activities including:
cooking food together
having a cup of tea and a chat
making new friends
learning to grow plants and vegetables
cooking easy, healthy meals and sharing them
taking part in healthy walks
arts and crafts activities
playing games and having a good time!
practical community work to make Netherton a better place to live and work
setting up a patients’ garden in the Health Centre courtyard over the next year! Instead of looking at weeds, we will be able to see fresh flowers and herbs that we have grown!! Funds are being provided from the Health Centre’s Patient Participation Group Purse to set up the garden.
Volunteers are needed now!
We will be training ten volunteers to help us run the programme and they will get free First Aid and Food Hygiene courses provided.
If you’re interested in helping to make any of this happen, please contact us using our Facebook page and letting us know what kinds of things you’d like to help with.
A couple of local volunteers working with our Trustee, Chris, to tidy up Joe Darby’s statue in Netherton Centre last summer.
CoLab Dudley team members have been doing and inviting people from all walks of life to get involved in all sorts of practical projects which build and strengthen connections. The team will be releasing a full report on its work very soon.
I’m really pleased that Netherton Regeneration Group is thinking about how its members can help people to get involved with building kinder communities and I like that there are lots of different opportunities to participate.
I’m sure there are lots of other ways people are building links with each other across Dudley borough, whether that’s on an individual level or through a group or charity. If you’re inspired to get involved, get in touch with Netherton Regeneration Group through its Facebook page or get in touch with us if you want to be linked to people doing good things somewhere else in Dudley borough.