Quest for Funding – Volunteers taking the lead

We all know that volunteers can bring idea sand vitality to projects and services:  The Quest for funding is a topical case in point.

The context:

Quest for funding is an example of partnership working between the County council, Support Cambridgeshire and residents of Huntingdon North. With budgets reducing, residents who have used and relied on projects and services in the past wanted to help sustain and support them into the future.  Finding various sources of funding was viewed as key in providing a range of local services and activities, and whilst there was a willingness and motivation to help, the volunteers did not have the requisite skills or confidence to see this plan through to its conclusion without help, support and advice. The creative solution was Quest for Funding, and the model was born.

10 bespoke sessions were provided for volunteers. Subject content included:

What is a unique selling proposition?

What do funders fund?

What do funders want to see?

How can you demonstrate ideas and impacts?

What language should be used and what should be avoided?

How do you research evidence to support an application?

What tools or platforms can help you find funds?

How can Support Cambridgeshire 4 communities assist in funding searches?

The Journey:

The volunteers involved live complex lives, and inevitably keeping the group together was a test of patience and commitment. The group needed refreshing on several occasions until a core group was established. This group now meets weekly and continues to apply for funding collaboratively agreed by HCAP (The Huntingdon Community Action Project).

The Results:

The group have been working on 9 applications to various statutory providers and local trusts. The group have already raised £15,000 and still have applications pending. Each volunteer has contributed to the success, using their abilities as confidence has grown. Support Cambridgeshire now holds a watching brief, ready to support and provide advice when required or needed.

 The added value:

A pipeline of volunteers is now being established to ensure momentum continues. The first ever family life- long learning course has been established around volunteering, what’s involved and why it works.

The Challenge:

Quest for funding has seen many iterations and false starts.  Trust and transparency existed between the volunteers and the advice and service providers before the group began, and this is seen as a crucial element in success. Without this close relationship (that has existed over many years) the Quest for Funding model may not have succeeded.

Patience and perseverance is also a key component. The ability to reboot, re configure and work with the skills and strengths that people possess is paramount so too is building confidence over time and confronting each obstacle that arises for the good of the collective.

The Future:

It is difficult to predict. Early signs are extremely promising. A pipeline of volunteers with different skills and perspectives will clearly help, as will a continued trusting relationship between statutory, voluntary and community partners.

Here’s a quote from one of the volunteers working on the project:

It’s been really fulfilling to learn how to apply for grants to help people in the community. To then see that grant money being put to use for people I know makes me feel that I have made a real difference to their lives.

 

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