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.

 

‘Which legal structure?’ A question asked to us during Small Charity Week

small charity week

As a small charity without limitations to the personal liability, and which is hoping to rent premises for the first time. Do we become a company limited by guarantee or a charitable incorporated organisation and why?

This was the question posed to us over Facebook by Dudley CIL (Centre for Inclusive Living) on Tuesday evening (on Small Charity Week’s Big Advice Day). I thought it might be worth providing some information here in case it’s useful for others in a similar position.

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5 things I learned from being part of a successful crowdfunding campaign

It’s Day 5 of Small Charity Week 2015, and today is all about fundraising. I’ve offered to write about crowdfunding. There are no shortage of articles, blogs and even whole books about crowdfunding out there. Becky has shared some useful links on the last slide in this presentation. I’m not going to repeat what is already out there. I thought it might be useful to share what I learned from actually being involved in a crowdfunding campaign. A bit of background follows, feel free to skip to the learning points if you wish, and let me know what you think.

How it began

Back in autumn 2013 I went along to some informal pizza suppers and conversations in coffee shops in Birmingham which were open to anyone and shared widely on social media. The sessions were convened with a view to finding people who would contribute ideas and work together to build a community of innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs and create a home for them in Birmingham.

A group of around 15 people emerged as being committed to taking things forward, and we met over a period of months to develop our thinking. 12 months later we were ready to start planning a crowdfunding campaign to help our vision turn in to reality. By this time a few more people had joined the team, crucially some amazing film makers, a designer and one of Birmingham’s best photographers. We aimed to raise £50,000 from our networks, by far the highest target to date for a Kickstarter project in Birmingham.

Kickstarter

#EpicBrum Kickstarter rewards image

Some of our Kickstarter Rewards

We got together for a 48 hour crowdfunding design lab to look at other crowdfunding campaigns, figure out what we wanted ours to feel like, make key decisions, create video storyboards, generate design content and shape our rewards structure to get us to our target. We launched on 4 December 2014. The first two weeks were amazing, then we plateaued at the £25,000 mark (50% of our target) for over a week, way past Christmas, with only 8 days left to our deadline. Something important to consider in crowdfunding is that platforms like Kickstarter are all or nothing. If you don’t hit your target no money is taken from the people who pledged support from you.

We re-grouped just after New Year’s Day and put in a final, monumental effort, reaching out as far as we could in our networks, following up any likely leads, and still remembering to have fun together. (Fun included some guerrilla gardening style placing of plants around Digbeth, where we wanted to make our home.) Thanks to the relentless positivity and effort of the whole team we hit our £50,000 target a matter of days later, leaving us 2 days to try and hit a stretch target of £65,000. Which we did, with minutes to spare! We had successfully engaged a community of 586 backers, all of whom have an interest in everything we’ve been doing since, many of whom are now signed up members of our Impact Hub community and amazing space.

What I learned 

I learned a huge amount being part of this Kickstarter campaign, and below I’ve attempted to draw out 5 of the most important things I learned.

1. You need to invest in your networks if you are going to ask them to invest in you

It took years of investment in relationships, countless conversations and coffees and 3 mind-blowing TEDx events in Birmingham to create a network and team strong enough to do something this audacious. If I was looking to raising just £5,000 through crowdfunding I would spend at least a year building genuine face to face and online relationships. That means saying ‘yes’ to all sorts of conversations and invitations, and thinking hard about how well your existing relationships are being maintained.

Wellington boot with a plant in it and “#EpicBrum" painted on it

Kickstarter campaign plant propaganda!

2. Being ridiculously optimistic definitely helps!

A strong, well networked and ridiculously optimistic team was crucial. Our team used a WhatsApp group to constantly encourage, celebrate, scream with excitement, be silly and talk tactics. Without that willingness to communicate at all hours of day and night and be hugely supportive of each other I don’t think we’d have achieved what we did.

3. Our secret sauce: diversity

A really diverse range of skills and experience was our secret sauce. A huge amount of credit is due to Immy Kaur, who convened this diverse team, spotted gaps and knew who to lure in at the right times!

4. Know your talents and step up

You have to step up. When things are this big and bonkers you can’t wait for someone to ask, or give you instruction. You have to know your strengths and talents and use them. For example Verity developed a wonderful photography project which got picked up by the Birmingham Post.

5. Amanda Palmer’s book helped me to really understand what we were doing

I think it is really worth reading Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking. You can get a flavour of what she has achieved in her TED Talk, however the book will give you much more of a sense of what it means to fall in to your crowd and ask them to catch you. In order to ‘crowd fund’ you need to make sure you have a crowd, and they are ready to catch you. Which takes me back to learning point 1 above.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, let me know if anything surprised you, resonated for you or just doesn’t feel relevant to you.

If you are embarking on crowd building and crowd funding I wish you the very best of luck!

And if you’re interested in Impact Hub Birmingham, the community and collaborative workshop I’m part of, please do let me know, I’d love to introduce you. You can get me on twitter: @dosticen, call, text or WhatsApp on 07501 722255 or good old email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

Voice and influence – a post for #smallcharityweek Policy Day

Ten years ago my work in Dudley was focused on ways that community groups, faith groups and voluntary organisations could influence decision making about local services in the borough. There were all sorts of partnerships of leaders, policy makers and managers creating strategies and plans in relation to regeneration, learning, health, community safety, housing, the environment, heritage and more. It was very difficult to know if our sector was exercising any influence on decisions and plans being made, and what impact we were having.

So we embarked on what was to become a seven year journey with community development specialists changes, contributing to the development and local use of an influence framework for groups and networks. It is called Voice, and it can help small charities to think through ways to increase their influence. (The Voice framework led to three other influence frameworks being developed – see changes website for more about these.)

Ways we influence: whispering, shouting, negotiating, taking action, being part of a bigger network, flirting, shamingWe had lots and lots of conversations with people involved in networks in Dudley borough comprising community groups, small charities and faith groups, as well as larger charities.

We discovered a number of ways that they influence.

  • Which of these have you tried?
  • Can you see advantages and disadvantages depending on your overall goal?
  • What works for your group or organisation?

By working with people from a range local groups and organisations in Dudley borough, we also figured out a useful way for people to what their capacity to influence is, and what steps they can take to increase it. These steps form a crucial part of the Voice framework.

Voice: steps to influenceDo these steps reflect things you have thought about?

Do any of them give you ideas about new things you could try?

Have a go!

There is much more to the Voice framework, and there are a number of people who work and volunteer in Dudley borough who have been trained to work with groups using Voice. I use thinking and activities from Voice in my work all the time because it is so useful. If you would like Dudley CVS to run sessions on influence using Voice please do get in touch.

Further reading

You can read more about Voice in this Handy Guide.
There was a lovely short article about influence and Voice published in NCVO’s magazine.
For anyone with a taste for something more academic, there was an essay on Voice published in the Community Development Journal in 2008.

 

 

Influencing decision-makers

small charity weekAs you have no doubt spotted by now, we are celebrating Small Charity Week in Dudley borough and we have plans for all sorts of support and discussion opportunities both face to face and online. I’ve offered to collect and share ideas, stories and top tips for Policy and Influence day (Wednesday 17 June).

In our most recent survey of our sector the third most important area of support organisations and groups said they want Dudley CVS to provide is creating the conditions for the sector to influence local policy and planning, be engaged, represented and involved in local decision making bodies. Also making it on to the top 10 priorities was support to the sector to campaign for social change.

icon of a loudspeakerAs the Small Charity Week website points out: small charities are the centre of civil society. In the UK 97% of charities have an annual turnover of less than £1.5 million but in terms of impact on local communities here and across the globe their contribution is phenomenal. It is important therefore that the voices of small charities are heard.

Some of the ways Dudley CVS helps small charities to be heard is by:

  • supporting networks which bring together and amplify the voices of small charities
  • working with small charities to get press coverage
  • giving staff time to support small groups at social media surgeries so that they can communicate and connect online using free tools
  • representing small charities and the wider sector on a range of strategic boards

We’d love to hear from local small charities about your…

  • success stories  – what or who have you influenced and how?
  • learning – what worked and what didn’t in your efforts to influence?
  • top tips for other small charities who want to influence policy and have their voice heard

Just leave us a comment below or reply on Facebook or Twitter.

And in the meantime, here is a brief but very useful piece of advice about influencing decision-makers on the Campaign Central site. Let us know what you think of it.