Nurturing caring, vibrant and caring communities – A snapshot of our story over the last year

We are really pleased to share the work that our Dudley CVS team have been doing over the past year in our most recent annual review. The 2016-17 review is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2016 and March 2017 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

Take a look at our annual review website and read about how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work.

Visit www.dudleycvsreview.org

Or, if you would like to read a short snapshot of our story, you can download our pdf version by clicking on the image below:

I hope you enjoy learning about the work we’ve been doing over the past year. If you’ve any feedback please feel free to leave a comment!

Be part of our collective story and share how you’ve been involved in our work or how you would like to get more involved! #dcvstory

Being part of our story and sharing the love

Crowdsource image

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d start an experiment. I’d been working on collating all the data, stats, facts, figures and stories for our annual report – yes, it’s that time of year again! We always like to include some of the feedback we’ve received over the year, because we recognise that it brings our work to life.

This year’s annual report will be a story of the exciting stuff we’ve been involved in over the past year; it’ll show how we’ve helped people make connections, how we’ve tried to inspire others and how we’ve championed great things going on across Dudley borough. But it’s not only our staff who’ve been characters in this story; our story simply wouldn’t be as rich without others – the people, groups, communities, partners and places that are crucial ingredients for nurturing caring, vibrant and strong communities in Dudley borough.

So, I took a chance and posted an invitation on Twitter, asking people to let us know how we’ve 1) helped them to connect; 2) inspired them; 3) championed great work. This is essentially crowdsourcing an element of our annual report to get some authentic voices to demonstrate what we’ve done together.

I’ve been staggered by the responses we’ve received so far. Here are a few of them:

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The people who responded were:

Thank you so much to all of you for so readily responding!

If you’d like to share how you’ve been part of our story you still can! Simply comment below or use the #dcvsstory hashtag on Twitter or Facebook and join in!

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

How communities can breathe life into their green spaces: Friends of Huntingtree Park

I’m really pleased that one of the first groups I worked with since joining Dudley CVS, has now become a charity and it was lovely to pay them a visit earlier this week to see how they were getting on.

Friends of Huntingtree Park started in 2006 to address issues of antisocial behaviour in and around the park, which was causing the park to be underused and therefore unloved. Supported initially by my Dudley CVS colleague Kate, the Friends set up a simple constitution to formalise themselves as a voluntary group. They were also supported by a network of ‘Friends of…’ groups across Dudley borough and the local authority’s Parks Development team.

Friends groups are all sorts of shapes and types of not-for-profit organisation. Some are simple voluntary groups that don’t have much paperwork (in fact, many start this way), such as Friends of Grange Park, which I’ve helped to get set up in the last few months; others are registered charities and incorporated in some way because they have taken on more responsibilities. Some Friends of Parks groups work alongside the local authority to help keep their park looking attractive; some manage buildings on the park; others put on all sorts of events; some try to raise funds to improve facilities on the park; others do a combination of all of these things! Some groups focus on things like nature and biodiversity; others focus on health and social activities. It really depends on what kind of park and facilities are there and of course, on the kinds of things local people want to do on that particular park. I’ve met people from lots of different Friends groups and it’s clear that they have something in common. They all love their local green spaces and understand how important it is to protect them!

When I started working with Friends of Huntingtree Park in 2008, they were a simple voluntary group with a constitution and a determination to make their park an attractive environment that everyone could enjoy. Group members were passionate about involving children in the park, believing that if children had a sense of ownership in the park, the park would be loved for years to come.

FOHP Mosaic

Friends of Huntingtree Park planned a lovely project with Huntingtree and Lutley primary schools; bringing in borough artist, Steve Field, to design and make two mosaics which would be installed at the park’s entrances. I helped the group to access £10,000 in grant-funding from Awards for All and the now-defunct Grassroots Grants programme. The mosaics were installed and they still look beautiful!

Nowadays Friends of Huntingtree Park continue their association with the local schools and regularly plant flowers and trees with their pupils. On top of that, the group has good links with Halas Homes, whose community also gets involved in projects on the park.

Huntingtree Park was chosen as one of the five ‘Healthy hubs’ in Dudley borough’s Healthy Towns initiative; the Friends think that having a really active Friends group was crucial to Huntingtree Park being chosen. Being a ‘Healthy hub’ meant that the park benefited investment of staff and money that allowed the MUGA (multi-use games area), outdoor gym and other facilities to be developed and many healthy activities to run in and from the park’s activity centre.

The park also has a bowling green where people of different ages and abilities get together for a game. The green was previously managed and maintained by Dudley Council, with bowlers paying the Council for access. The Friends of Huntingtree Park has built relationships with the bowlers over the years, helping to purchase equipment and promoting the sport as something anyone can get involved in.

Late last year, the bowling green at Huntingtree Park came under threat due to public sector budget constraints. The Friends group entered into discussions with the local authority and the bowlers to explore how the green could be saved and maintained in the future. Everyone agreed that the Friends of Huntingtree Park could manage the green on lease from the local authority. At this point, the Friends recognised that it might be the right time to alter how the group was set up to get them on the right footing for taking on this extra responsibility. That’s when the group asked me for some support to think about how they could develop.

I met Alan, Lynda and Jane from the group and we talked about how it might work, what could go wrong and how the group could reduce that risk. We looked at budgets and the pros and cons of charity registration. We also discussed appropriate legal structures that might offer group members more protection when their liabilities increased. With some consideration, group members decided to set Friends of Huntingtree Park up as a CIO (charitable incorporated organisation), which would give them the benefits of charitable status and a corporate structure that would give them some protection.

The process involved developing a new constitution for the group; we did a fair amount of working getting the group’s charitable purposes (its reasons for existing) just right so that the Charity Commission would accept them. Once the constitution was ready, it was time to work on the application. I worked with Alan and Lynda on this and the application was submitted after a couple of meetings. We were really pleased when the Charity Commission confirmed a few weeks later that Friends of Huntingtree Park was now a CIO!

In the meantime, the Friends group and the bowlers were working together and with the Council to help a smooth transition. When the heads of terms for the lease came from the Council, the group was able to plan with real figures and it looked very positive! The group was able to pay a modest sum per year for the lease, engage a groundskeeper who would do routine maintenance. The bowlers agreed to transfer their subs from the Council to the Friends group to ensure that the green can be used for years to come.

FOHPAnd as Lynda walked us around the park earlier this week, it seems clear why this is working beautifully; it’s the relationships that the members of the Friends group have built with bowlers, residents, schools, park rangers, people from other groups. Everyone seemed to know each other and to have time for each other! It was lovely to meet Colin, a bowler who simply started teaching others to bowl a few years ago and hasn’t stopped since, building a social group that gets together for a game. I met Stuart, the Physical Activity Activator, who told us about his involvement in ShareFest! It was equally a treat to meet members of the social group who meet each Tuesday afternoon for an amble around the park, knitting (the results of which often go to babies born prematurely), coffee, cake and a chat. I was so happy to see the networks and friendships that had developed between everyone and this is something that only needs a few ingredients: open, caring people who want to share their skills and a place where they can do it!

 

Hints and tips on creating a charity

You might have seen that at the tail end of last year, I shared some lovely news about three organisations I’ve been supporting that successfully became registered charities. I thought it might be good to give some insight into the processes these organisations went through and share some hints and tips for making a successful application. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

 

 

Continue reading

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.

 

Celebrate Small Charity Week with us!

Small Charity Week 2016We’re really pleased to be joining Small Charity Week (13th-18th June) again this year and want to invite Dudley borough’s small charities to help us celebrate and put your organisation and Dudley on the map!

“Small Charity Week celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector who make an invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world.

Small Charity Week is brought to you by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), who with the support of partner organisations ensure the work of small charities is recognised and celebrated.”

Small Charity Week website

The FSI defines small charities as charities and CICs that have an annual turnover of under £1.5million and we know that that will cover a lot of community organisations in Dudley borough, because the overwhelming majority of charities are small.

Like last year, the week is divided into themed days, and here’s how you can get involved:

  • Monday 13th June – join the #ILoveSmallCharities celebrations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by by posting a photo of yourself holding a poster showing why you love your small charity? You could get your members and supporters to join in too! And doing so could win your charity up to £450 in the process. Visit the #ILoveSmallCharities page for more information. I’ll be joining in by posting some stories here about some of the small charities I’ve recently supported.
  • Tuesday 14th June is Big Advice Day – Eileen and I will be on hand at DY1, Dudley for a special, mid-month DY1 stop shop. Pop into DY1 between 10am and 4pm to get guidance on any topic to do with running a voluntary and community organisation. We can cover topics such as:

– setting up
– legal structures and compliance
– policies
– asset transfer and development
– fundraising and finance
– involving and supporting volunteers
– planning
– promotion and marketing

And if you can’t make it, we’ll be monitoring our Twitter, Facebook and this here blog so that you can ask questions virtually.

  • On Policy Day, Wednesday 15th June, our friend and colleague Donna Roberts will be sharing how Working Together for Change, Dudley borough’s parent-carer forum, has successfully worked with and influenced decision-makers in the design and delivery of local services. Look out for her hints and tips on this blog.
  • Thursday 16th June is Fundraising Day – you’re invited to Synergy, the peer support network for Dudley borough’s charities and social enterprises, organised by our friend Andy Mullaney. Martin Jones, our Funding Officer, will be joining the event to share his insight and experiences when it comes to raising money for your cause. The event will be held at DY1, Dudley, 10am-12noon.
  • And finally! Friday 17th June is Volunteering Day – Eileen is planning a networking and support event for local small charities, including social enterprises, who involve volunteers. There’ll be an opportunity to meet new people, build connections and find out who’s out there to support, with hints and tips on the best way to involve volunteers. The event will run from 10am-12 noon. If you’d like to join this event, please book your place on Eventbrite.

We hope you’ll be able to join some of these activities and join us in celebrating the wonderful work our small charities do day in, day out.