Feelgood Choir has plenty to sing about: Grant funding success!

The Feelgood Choir really does have something to sing about, after being awarded a grant from Awards for All!

I’m really pleased to have been able to help the Feelgood Choir to get established and to access some funding to give it a great kick start!

The Feelgood Choir originally started as Dudley Mind Feelgood Choir, with the idea that group singing could be a wonderful aid to mental health. The choir regularly sang at shows and events, including at two Dudley Volunteer Awards where they really revved up our attendees.

Late last year, two choir members contacted me to explore the idea of setting the choir up as an independent group that might be able to manage itself and make it more sustainable. Due to cuts to the voluntary sector, Dudley Mind could offer the choir limited support and a free venue for rehearsals, but could no longer cover all the costs involved with running the choir.

I got together with Jan and Val and talked them through setting up as a voluntary group. I helped the group get set up on a firm footing by explaining the role of the committee and helping to develop the constitution.

The next step was to think about planning the group’s work so that we could identify what difference the group wanted to make to people’s lives and how it would do that. This also involved thinking about what costs were involved so that any funding application we worked on would be as detailed and specific as possible. We came out with a simple plan and I recommended Awards for All as an appropriate funder to approach.

Jan worked incredibly hard on the funding application, putting in research, stories from members and learning from running the choir with help from Dudley Mind. I was on hand to review the application and make some suggestions for improving it so that it was completely clear. It was a great application; you can always spot a good application but these days the competition is so tough that there’s never any guarantee.

feelgoodAfter a few months of waiting and nailbiting, we finally heard the great news! Jan popped into our July DY1 drop in, with a beautiful orchid and a beaming smile to say thank you for the support. It really was a pleasure to help them and Jan should get great credit for all of the commitment she’s put into making it happen.

While working on the bid, Dudley Mind had to close Dove House where the Feelgood Choir rehearse because of further cuts to its funding. Thankfully, the Feelgood Choir was able to secure another venue – DY1 itself! – to continue rehearsing and now it has room for many more members. So if you’d like to join a fun, welcoming group, you can go along at 6.15pm on Wednesday evenings (except in August). It’s £4 per week and no experience is necessary. They don’t do auditions either; everyone is welcome.

The Feelgood Choir is also holding a summer fundraiser on Friday 21 July, 6.30-9pm at the Carlisle Centre in Stourbridge. Admission is £5 and you’ll enjoy homemade cakes, a quiz and of course performances from the choir itself. For more information on this event and to learn more about the Feelgood Choir, visit its lovely website: feelgoodchoir.co.uk

A year of DY1-stop shop!

It’s been a year since Eileen and I launched ‘DY1-stop shop‘, our monthly drop-in for anyone with questions about community groups, charities, social enterprises, getting involved in community activities or volunteering.

Here’s a little infographic that gives you a little bit more detail about the kinds of conversations we’ve been having over the first year!

DY1-stop shop

I’ve really enjoyed working in this way. It’s a non-threatening way for people to make their first contact with us and it’s quite fun not knowing what to expect from one month to the next! I think Eileen and I have both benefited from each other’s differing knowledge and skills, on top of those of our colleagues we’ve been able to call on by virtue of simply being in the same place – thanks to Donna, Nicki, and Melissa from Healthwatch Dudley for being there for us! It’s meant that people have left us buzzing with new ideas, contacts and lines of inquiry.

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Most recently, Eileen and I met Cllr Steve Waltho and his wife, Jayne, who are part of a new group being set up to keep alive the legacy of Dudley mountain climber and peace campaigner Bert Bissell. I gave Steve some help with a constitution to help formalise the Bert Bissell Memorial Society and Eileen had lots of ideas for connections the new group could make.

At April’s DY1-stop shop we’ll be joined by our Funding Officer, Martin and Inderjit Nijjer who’s the External Funding and Community Grants Manager on the ESF Programme at Walsall Council. Inderjit will be available to answer any questions you may have about the ESF grants programme.

DY1-stop shop is open on the first Wednesday of every month, 10am-1pm in the coffee shop of DY1, Stafford Street, Dudley. Maybe I’ll see you there soon!

A snapshot of our work supporting people, communities and organisations over the last year

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I’m really pleased to share the work that my colleagues and I have been doing over the past year in a our most recent annual report. So new, it’s not yet hot off the press, the 2015-16 annual report is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2015 and March 2016 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

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Bayer Street Allotments flushed with success!

Bayer Street blog‘Flush and grow’ is a great title for a project. This is what Bayer Street Allotments Association have called their new project, which will help people in Coseley grow more green-fingered thanks to a grant of £10,000 from Awards for All. It’s been both fun and fascinating to support this group of volunteers who’ve given so much of their time to the community in recent months.

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Dudley groups that got involved in Small Charity Week

Small Charity Week 2016I just wanted to say a big ‘THANK YOU!’ to everyone who got involved in Small Charity Week in Dudley borough and to highlight the organisations that joined in our conversations.

We had quite a few conversations online and some busy activities that I really hope were useful and stimulating for everyone that joined in.

 

 

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Helping the small charities that do awesome work right here in Dudley

This week is Small Charity Week, an annual and national celebration of the great work of charities, voluntary and community groups and social enterprises that have an income of up to £1.5million. Don’t forget to get involved throughout the week – click this link to see how!

I wanted to share my experience of supporting groups across the last year (April 2015-March 2016), what I’ve helped them with, the amazing people I’ve got to know along the way and the wonderful work they do to enrich people’s lives across Dudley borough.

Supporting groups in numbers

Here’s a little infographic I’ve made that should give you more information about the work I’ve been doing to support groups.

Infographic

Many people get in touch with me wanting support with paperwork and registration (whether as a charity, a company limited by guarantee or a CIC). These kinds of things really seem to daunt people, but honestly, they’re the easiest part of getting up and running and in many cases, they shouldn’t be the starting point. What I’m always keen to do is getting out and supporting people, hopefully taking that fear away and taking the time to work with individuals on what they want to achieve, bringing people together and helping them plot and develop into a team. Paperwork and structures alone don’t make a successful group. Conversely, getting the foundations right by supporting people to understand what they want to achieve and why, building a shared vision can tell us what structure and paperwork is best suited and necessary to the group.

A good example is the work Donna and I did to support Friends of Lye and Wollescote Cemetery, a Lye and Wollescotegroup of people that had been volunteering on the site supported by West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust. They wanted to ensure that they still had a way to liaise with the local authority and to continue volunteering onsite once West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust’s funded project had come to an end. We worked with the volunteers using a variation of Team Canvas, to get them thinking as a collective about their vision, the great skills each of them brought to the group, the kinds of activities they would like to do in the short, medium and longer term. We also got the group thinking about specific things that people could do to support the group, from keeping a list of members, to looking after the Facebook group and leading guided walks. Finally, we collectively dDYCeveloped a short constitution to get all of this into writing.

It’s been lovely to take other groups, such as Coseley Working Together, Together We Strive CIC, Dudley Youth Council, Ehsas Carers, Friends of Hay Green Recreation Ground and others, on a similar journey.

Particular highlights have included:bcip

  • Seeing the launch of Black Country Integration Project, which works to challenge prejudice and
    to bring communities together
  • Working with determined volunteers to resurrect Friday Night Lower Gornal Youth Club
  • Meeting members of the Roma Gypsy community and supporting them to set up a group, now called Reaching Out For Change, using Google Translate to get over our language barrier!

Lower Gornal Youth ClubSo that was my year. I’m already enjoying the challenges of this one and I’m looking forward to sharing more about the amazing work that Dudley’s community groups, charities, social enterprises, volunteers and active citizens do every day.

 

Celebrating our work with people, communities and organisations

Dudley CVS Annual Report, 2014-15

I’m really pleased to share the work I and my wonderful colleagues have done to support individuals, communities and organisations last year. The Dudley CVS Annual Report outlines how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work. It covers the year April 2014-March 2015.

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The New Reality – guidance for digital transformation in our sector

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“The digital revolution has already happened, and we are living in the aftermath”

A really practical report and wonderful set of resources was published by Julie Dodd (@JulieDodd) a few months ago which I would highly recommend having a look at if you work or volunteer in our sector. It is all about how we can make our way along the journey to using digital technology to achieve the outcomes, impact and change which our organisations exist for. The resources have been created and drawn together following interviews with 50 senior leaders and digital experts from both inside and outside the non-profit sector. The New Reality site is a helpfully curated online resource comprising:

  • An overview and links to content about each of the 6 key themes:
    • leadership
    • culture
    • infrastructure
    • innovation
    • funding
    • service delivery
  • Some really lovely and useful resources, called take aways, which include the poster below, snappy slide sets and a video
  • The full report and an executive summary

The following are a few of the insights from the Executive Summary which really resonate with me:

  • Digital services will deliver greater value than anyone can imagine (but first we need to address the culture and infrastructure issues that are standing in the way)
  • Until sector leadership stops delegating responsibility for digital we’re not going to get very far
  • You don’t need a digital strategy. “Having a digital strategy will soon seem as ridiculous as having an electricity strategy”
  • A tried and tested process for delivering transformation already exists – it’s just not being used
  • The next stage of digital for non-profits is not fundraising and marketing
  • We need to think beyond web to a broad range of digital technologies to achieve maximum impact

I’ve been meaning to write here about The New Reality resources for some time (thank you to Paul Webster for bringing this to our attention), and I started working on this post while at Local Gov Camp in Leeds. Local Gov Camp is an unconference bringing together people who care about public services, which has a strong focus on digital / tech. I was fascinated to discover that people who work in local government seem to have many of the same concerns and challenges as people in organisations in our sector, though our starting positions are different. Perhaps there is potential for developing some solutions together.

Below is one of the take aways from The New Reality: 20 ways to achieve digital transformation in our sector (also available in pdf). I’d love to hear what you think about The New Reality research, the resources and what support you would like from Dudley CVS in relation to digital transformation. Leave a comment here or get in touch with us on twitter (@dudleycvs) or Facebook.

poster from The New Reality