Your chance to get a closer look at a historic building right on our doorstep and meet the people that 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 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.

Riverside House successful funding application to the Severn Trent Water Community Fund

In February I met Clare Evans from Riverside House to discuss a funding application to the Severn Trent Water Community Fund. Following our meeting, Clare completed the application and sent it to me for review prior to submission.

By way of background, Riverside House is a grade 2 listed building situated on four acres of land between the River Stour and the Stourbridge Canal and is a former Iron Masters estate that had fallen into dereliction. The aim is to develop a place that inspires wellbeing and improves biodiversity by transforming the estate into a haven for people to explore the natural environment and engage with wildlife and ecology. They want to open the land up to the community so that people can share time and experiences together enjoying nature in surroundings that are unique with safe access (using accessible paths and fencing) to view the River Stour and the beauty of the Riverside House site for all members of the community. The wellbeing activities are delivered through the arts, traditional craft, ecology, heritage, food & nutrition and land-based work.

Riverside Stourbridge CIC was awarded £51,934 from the Community Fund in April towards the ongoing development of the project creating a unique wetland ecosystem treatment area to purify greywater improving biodiversity on the site. The greywater purification system will absorb and convert plant nutrients contained in wastewater from their off-grid container café into a biodiverse wetland ecosystem so that rainwater will create a varied biomass yield and wildlife habitat.

Initially they are focusing on supporting people with learning disabilities and autism, mental health issues and those looking for volunteering opportunities so that they can learn and develop practical skills. However, the goal over the next few years is to turn the site into a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, craft shop, woodland and workshops making it a place where people feel included and bespoke opportunities are provided.

They are working in partnership and collaboratively with many organisations so that their service users can benefit from a variety of positive experiences that enhance the health and wellbeing of the local community. To date, these partners include the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, Dudley Council, Dudley Job Centre and the Dudley CVS/NHS social prescribing service Integrated Plus.

The Severn Trent Community Fund is a £10M fund made available over a five year period (from 2020) to support new local projects, charities and community groups in the Severn Trent region helping to make a real and tangible difference with three levels of funding £2,000-£10,000, £10,001-£75,000 and £75,001-£200,000. Applications are invited from registered charities that work to improve community wellbeing for:

  • people providing them with activities so they lead a healthier lifestyle and gain new skills;
  • places by creating better places to live;
  • the environment giving people greater access to the environment or help look after water.

Applications can be made at any time.

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.

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.

Time to pause and reflect for Volunteers’ Week: A special thank you to volunteers from Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote

It’s been quite a while since any of our team here at Dudley CVS blogged about our work. The reasons might be obvious; our work has changed beyond recognition since February as we’ve flexed to respond to and help our sector and our communities respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it might be fitting that our first post, now we’ve been able to pause for breath, comes in Volunteers’ Week, which we are celebrating virtually this year. I wanted to celebrate and thank an incredible group of volunteers that has been working tirelessly to support people who may have needed some extra help during lockdown.

The background

In early March, our team started exploring how we might support the sector and help people who might start to come forward to lend a hand safely. We felt that many groups would want to help, that new mutual aid groups would spring up and that people would want to roll up their sleeves. We weren’t disappointed on that score!

We established six virtual Covid-19 support networks which covered the whole borough in six areas along the same geographical lines as our Integrated Plus project. These networks consisted of CVS staff and partners such as the local authority, police, NHS services and other voluntary organisations such as Black Country Foodbank. At the same time, we put a call out for individual volunteers and voluntary groups to sign up with us so that we could ensure that support was co-ordinated.

DCVS Covid 19

Dudley borough didn’t disappoint! We had 600 individual volunteers sign up and we’ve been bowled over that people have stepped up in their numbers to do whatever they can.

Eileen is spending this week sharing stories from our star volunteers who have been giving so much to their communities at the most testing times. I want to share how an army of volunteers have helped people in Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote in all sorts of ways.

The amazing volunteers!

Through the six virtual networks, we’ve been supporting people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as those with long-term conditions, as well as helping those who might be self-isolating or shielding. Networks have been receiving referrals from all sorts of places: GPs surgeries, local authority services, self-referrals to our helpline or the Black Country Radio helpline, Facebook, even from concerned friends and family members in different parts of the country.

While our Integrated Plus colleagues have helped to ensure that services are wrapped around the people that need them, us CVS leads in each area have been matching those volunteers to people that need some extra support with things like picking up medication, essential shopping or telephone befriending. The ideal has been to help foster relationships and promote neighbourly behaviours so that the support is less transactional and in the hope that this relationship continues, though we recognise that people’s circumstances can change.

We’ve been so grateful for any help our borough’s volunteers have been able to offer, whether it’s been a one-off medication delivery or more sustained support. I know that the willingness of so many to help has given us confidence that people are getting support and we hear constantly from the people referred to us that volunteers have been lifesavers!

community_action_response_facebook

In Stourbridge, Lye and Wollescote, the areas I’ve been covering, I’ve been particularly lucky to have the magnificent support of Cat, Emma, Lee and the whole team involved in the Stourbridge Covid-19 Community Support Group, a brand new mutual aid group that got in touch with us as soon as we put the call out for volunteers and groups to work with us.

The group has more than 200 volunteers and is remarkably well-organised, quickly adopting systems and processes to make sure their volunteers and the individuals they support are kept safe. They’ve given me incredible confidence that the people I’m referring will get swift and appropriate help.

As well as responding to the hundreds of referrals I’ve made to them, allocating volunteers to make shopping trips, collect medications or offer companionship over the phone, the Stourbridge Community Support Group has been taking referrals themselves, through their Facebook page or their phone line. They also offer food parcels to people who have found their income unexpectedly cut off. Their support is pretty much around the clock and as lockdown starts to ease, they are still offering help.

I’ve spoken to more than 200 people that have been referred to us for support, some of whom I’ve spoken to more than once or twice and I’ve been really blown away by the connection I’m feeling to people I’ve only ‘met’. I’m sure this is magnified for the Stourbridge Community Support Group, since when I’ve made a referral, I’ve learned that the group keeps in touch with that person to offer ongoing support, which is astounding commitment. Another thing I’ve been struck by is the number of people who have been shielding or self-isolating saying that they would ordinarily be volunteering if their circumstances were different.

In our last network meeting, which has representatives from the Stourbridge Community Support Group, Dudley CVS, Integrated Plus, the local authority, NHS mental health services and other partners, Emma from the Stourbridge Community Support Group asked for some feedback from us so that they could better understand whether there was a continuing need for what they were offering. The responses overwhelmingly showed how services and partners perceived the volunteers’ fantastic contribution as of equal if not greater value! I shared my own gratefulness for the group by sharing an example of how responsive they have been in urgent situations which are not so straightforward. A couple of weeks ago we had a lady referred to us who should have received a government food parcel, which hadn’t arrived, leaving the lady with very little food. I contacted the local authority to try to get to the bottom of what had happened and to set up a food parcel. Given that we were near the end of the day and local authority staff are juggling all sorts of priorities in very challenging circumstances, I also got in touch with the group, since I knew they are constantly checking their referrals email. Within ten minutes, the ever-ready Lee responded to let me know that they would get a food parcel to the lady within the hour. (Our local authority colleagues also responded very quickly and they’re doing a wonderful job within our partnership in really challenging circumstances – it really is a great team effort!)

At the moment referrals have tailed off. This might be a reflection that people have become more accustomed to the situation and got support in place. It could be because there is now a centralised helpline and food distribution hub in place, led by the local authority. But I think it’s in no small part to the incredible volunteers across the whole borough who’ve now built relationships with the hundreds if not thousands of people that were referred to us throughout March and April and are continuing to support them now. We’re so grateful for their willingness to help people in their communities and hope we can harness this positivity as we tentatively find new ways of working.

My usual job is to support people to set up, run and organise their voluntary group, charity or social enterprise. It’s quite a change that I’ve come to rely on a voluntary group over the last few months. I hope that I can return the favour and help the Stourbridge Community Support Group and its volunteers to think about how they can build on the goodwill of the army of volunteers, the connections they’ve made, the people they’ve supported and develop community resilience that outlives the emergency situation. At the very least, I hope to be able to thank them face-to-face someday.

thank you heart text

Photo by Řaj Vaishnaw on Pexels.com

Thank you; you’re all stars.

If you would like to donate to the Stourbridge Community Support Group, to help it continue its work, you can do so here: https://bit.ly/3dtknAl.

Listen to our Podcast and learn more about ESF Black Country Community Grants

New for 2020, Dudley CVS podcasts!

For our first ever Dudley CVS podcast, we got together with colleagues from Dudley Council and Black Country Community Grants (run through Walsall Council) to talk about the next rounds of ESF Black Country Community Grants.

Listen and learn more about the programme and how to produce a good-quality application with Becky, Martin, Ruth and Jacki.

We’ll provide a transcript of this podcast as soon as we possibly can.

Support on offer to help Dudley nonprofits access Black Country Community Grants 2019-2021

Community Grants

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.

Top Church Training

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.

The workshop will take place on Wednesday 26 February, 10am-12noon in Dudley. Book your free place here!

Airtime: A friendly space to meet other people living with COPD and related conditions

At the Dudley CVS Annual Awards and AGM this year we spotlighted some of the amazing groups and individuals we supported during 2018/19. One of those groups was Airtime, a weekly group for members of the community with COPD and related conditions, developed by Integrated Plus and Healthwatch Dudley. Our work with the group over the last year has helped them to become independent and sustainable.

Dudley now has a sustained peer support group for individuals with chronic lung conditions which helps to improve confidence and quality of life. The group have now taken on leadership responsibilities and contribute to the health and wellbeing of its members. They are now looking to expand and find others with similar conditions who may like to join their group.

Members of Airtime understand how important it is to have the opportunity to meet with others experiencing similar challenges in a safe and caring environment. One of the groups main aims is to combat the feeling of isolation by giving people a chance to meet like-minded people with similar lung conditions in social surroundings. It’s a space to relieve stress, to laugh and feel the camaraderie. You can get involved in many activities including arts and crafts, bingo and quizzes, gentle exercises such as seated yoga, tai-chi and meditation. There are informative and educational talks, films, and musical performances.

We caught up with Angela, Dave and Jean at DY1 Community Building on Stafford Street, where the group is held each Thursday from 1pm, to find out how more about their conditions, the impact that Airtime has had on their lives and their exciting plans to develop the group for the benefit of members.

 

Angela has been coming to Airtime since 2016, she has emphysema, a condition that causes shortness of breath,

“Suddenly I had somewhere to go where there were people with the same problems as me. Everybody understands how you feel and we help each other, so you’re not trying to deal with it on your own.

Airtime has given me another interest. With my husband at work all day, I was at home on my own a lot. If you’re sitting at home looking at four walls you can get quite depressed. It doesn’t start until 1, but you’ll find most people turn up in the café at 12 just to have a chat. Suddenly you are not so isolated, you’ve got a friend at the end of the phone. Your mental and physical health improves. It’s like a family.

We talk to each other in a language we can all understand. We can learn things from each other that a consultant might not talk to you about.

There is a core of 20 people that come frequently and others occasionally. It’s just good to come out, talk to somebody and have a laugh. We like the group to bring ideas forward so everyone is involved in planning what we do.

Since joining Airtime, I’ve actually gone on to join many other groups. I’m a Healthwatch Community Reporter, I’m also a part of a research group. It gives you the feeling that you count again as a person, suddenly you are not just a patient.”

The group also have a Christmas party meal with entertainment where they have a raffle to help them to raise money for the group’s activities.

 Jean has long term bronchiectasis which she developed when she was 10. “My condition is progressive, but very slowly. You can live with it, but if you get an infection it’s a struggle. You get through it, but it limits your life.

I love coming to Airtime, I’ve met some really nice people. You build some really good friendships. I met Dave at Airtime, and he’s now one of my best friends. The main thing is to get up off your settee and get out! Every Thursday, I think, it’s Airtime today, and I love it.

The respiratory nurses that come have been massively helpful, although it’s stuff we’ve all been through before, sometimes it goes out of your mind and for them to come in and refresh your memory is massively helpful.”

Dave has had Bronchiectasis for 25 years, he holds the position of Treasurer and also likes to organise quizzes for the group, “I lost my wife about 7 years ago, and when she went, I was completely lost. After 2 years of lying on the settee, I thought, I can’t carry on like this, I’ve got to do something. That’s when I found out about Airtime. For the first time I went dancing, and I met Kathy, who I’ve been with ever since. It’s given me the confidence to go out and meet new people and it’s also something to look forward to.”

The group have been running independently for 6 months now, they are planning activities and making their own decisions. Dudley CVS supported them to look at the frameworks within which they could operate, and the implications of running the group independently. Together they developed a simple constitution and elected the first committee to run the group democratically. Airtime was one amongst 200 hundred not-for-profits we supported last year.

Dave said, “Looking after Airtime now and being part of the committee has given me an extra lease in life. Now I do extra things for the group which I really enjoy. It’s brought me out of myself. Being treasurer also gives me something to do at home.

We ask new people to take a survey when they join Airtime, after 6 months we ask them to take the survey again to see if coming to the group has made a difference to their lives. Nearly everybody has commented about being able to get out of the house, most people were isolated. For some people, Airtime is the only thing they do. You can see people improving, it helps them to manage their condition.”

After our chat, we went to meet the rest of the group who were busy getting creative carving pumpkins and making Halloween crafts. The group also had a special visit from Chief Superintendent, Sally Bourner, who presented them with their Dudley CVS Spotlight certificate, a surprise for the benefit of those who weren’t present at the awards evening.

So, what can you expect if you dropped by Airtime? A warm welcome that’s for sure! A place to meet new people, take part in fun activities and listen to talks from respiratory experts and other guests. The chance to mix with other people living with respiratory conditions and to make friends. A lovely afternoon out for free with a superb supply of tea and biscuits of course!

If you are interested in joining Airtime Dudley, it’s free and runs each Thursday from 1pm – 3pm at DY1 Community Building, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT and is open to anyone suffering from chronic lung conditions such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.

New members are very welcome.

For further information please feel free to contact Angela Rea angela2ree@gmail.com or Dave Taylor on axnfel@talktalk.net

Over £11million over 11 years! 261 nonprofits, 113 grants programmes, 614 successful applications supported

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
  • Profile-raising
  • Asset development and asset transfer
  • Fundraising and income-generation

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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:

261 organisations

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
  • Grassroots Grants
  • Rant About the Grant
  • Improving Physical Activity Fund
  • Reaching Communities (National Lottery Community Fund, formerly Big Lottery Fund)
  • Dudley Council’s Small Grants Fund
  • Ibstock Enovert Environmental Trust (formerly Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust)
  • BeActive Coaching Bursary

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).

Martin says,

“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 john.goodman@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk.

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).

Grants of up to £5,000 are available to support this work and there are no deadlines. For more information, visit: https://interests.me/org/dudleycvs/story/177364