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Feedback from the Connecting Communities Conference 2022

In June 2022, the Connecting Communities Conference took place, an annual volunteering event which aims to upskill and broaden the conversation around volunteering and volunteer management. This year it took place over three days, with one day hosting two face-to-face workshops in Huntingdon and March. The other two event formats were similar, with speakers being brought in to discuss their topic, followed by questions. Tuesday’s event focused on the Vision for Volunteering, a national concept developed by a collective of national bodies. Then on Thursday, we welcomed a speaker from Bates and Wells. They talked about Volunteering and the Law.

All events were well received, with polls at the end of Tuesday’s event showing that out of the twenty-seven who completed the poll, 81% were either satisfied or very satisfied. With the poll launched on Thursday, 100% stated they had enjoyed the event and learnt something new in that session.

Following the events, a general feedback form was sent out to all who attended one or more events. Thank you to all those who attended and completed the feedback form. Below you can see an infographic of some of the feedback received.

Moving to 2023, it is clear that a format which includes face-to-face and online presentations is required. Some highlighted more time to network, and one person wanted us to include success stories of organisations. Others stated they wanted more of the same or to ensure we continued to bring in speakers with specialities. All feedback will be taken into consideration for the next event.

If you have any topics, you would like us to cover next , please do get in contact with us via info@supportcambridgeshire.org.uk

 

The State of the Sector 2022 Survey – We need your help!

As we move into 2022, the past two years have hugely impacted our voluntary and community sectors.

 

In the past, our annual State of the Sector survey has been a vital source of information for funders, stakeholders along with us as infrastructure organisations.

It gives us the information on the issues and barriers you are facing and therefore allows us to plan to make sure our services are fit for purpose.

 

Therefore, we are asking as many charities, not-for-profit organisations and community groups as possible, to fill out the survey, so we can see what is happening across the county post-COVID.

 

Fill in the survey here

Closing date 21st March 2022 – for more information please contact mark@cambridgecvs.org.uk

Councillors tell us their communities needs

Back in early July, Support Fenland met with some of the Fenland District Councillors to update them on the project and hear their views on what their communities need.

By Victoria Hopkins

In this meeting we shared with them the themes that had emerged from our engagement sessions earlier in the year, which you can read about in more detail on our previous blog posts, and then we talked to them about their hopes for the voluntary sector in their areas.

We discussed what make a good community, and how it was driven by having a variety of social activities. However, it was about more than just the social aspect of the group, it was about how they become hubs within the community, where individuals can find out about other groups within their community who might be able to help with other issues. It was also important that there was physical infrastructure to allow people to have the space to come together, whether that is parish halls or a play area.

It was also important to have local groups where members of the community can support each other. This has become particularly relevant with the Covid-19 pandemic and the transport difficulties in Fenland.

The challenges the groups were facing were focused on the lack of volunteers and funding. Many groups are relying on the same volunteers to deliver activities. There can be a lot of bureaucracy involved, especially around groups which work with children, which can put other volunteers off joining activities, and there can be a large time burden. When it comes to funding, the traditional fundraising opportunities have all been cancelled due to Covid-19, whilst at the same time groups are seeing increased costs, especially relating to speakers.

We wrapped up the session with a discussion on the ways that the councillors thought that we could help.

Help groups to find new volunteers, including rethinking their volunteering offer to include more flexible, shorter terms and local activities.

Explore ways to reduce bureaucracy to make it easier for groups in Fenland to operate.

Finding a way to coordinate volunteers across different organisations, and to deliver the services needed for the communities.

Explore other barriers to volunteering and support groups to overcome those issues.

Helping businesses to understand the benefits of employee volunteering.

Encouraging groups to apply for local funding opportunities to help reduce the shortfall from traditional community fundraising activities.

A huge thank you to all of the councillors who gave up their evening to talk to us about their communities. The input that they gave has helped to further shape our proposed work in Fenland over the next 6 months.

Firstly, there will be a big focus on volunteering. We are meeting with our infrastructure colleagues in Norfolk to understand the work that they are doing on volunteering passports, and whether they help to remove bureaucracy for small groups. We will report back on this, along with the national work that is being looked at in this area. Our September Fenland Networking event is all about volunteers, and the great work that is already happening which can be built upon. In November there will a workshop for groups in Fenland on how to gain recognition within their communities, to build relationships and secure volunteers and funding in the future.  We are also discussing potential volunteer fairs for Fenland, whether they are face to face, online or hybrid events, early in the new year to tap into those who are looking to start the new year by supporting their community.

At each of our Fenland networking events we have an update on funding where we discuss upcoming funding opportunities with different grant bodies. We know that groups in Fenland aren’t making as many applications as groups in other districts, so in November we’ll be working to understand what these barriers are, and then working with both the funders and the groups to start to overcome these barriers. CCVS & Hunts Forum also regularly run workshops on different aspects of funding, including making good funding applications and crowdfunding which Fenland groups are encouraged to attend.

When it comes to businesses, Hunts Forum & Support Cambridgeshire are running events in October & November which are focusing on how groups can engage with businesses more effectively. Whether that is by securing funding or volunteers, these workshops will focus on creating a business engagement strategy and practical steps to take. Details of both events can be found on the Support Cambridgeshire website

Vic will continue to be available to any group who would like support on any aspect of running their group. Appointments can be made using an online booking system on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Vic is also available every other Thursday evening for those who need support outside of our usual working hours.

We’ll be back again with another blog post in October, where we’ll update you on our networking events so far, and our training plans for the remainder of the year. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters to keep up to date with everything that’s happening with Support Fenland, as well as the rest of our work across Cambridgeshire.

Councillors tells us their views

Back in early July, Support Fenland met with some of the Fenland District Councillors to update them on the project and hear their views on what their communities need.

By Victoria Hopkins

In this meeting we shared with them the themes that had emerged from our engagement sessions earlier in the year, which you can read about in more detail on our previous blog posts, and then we talked to them about their hopes for the voluntary sector in their areas.

We discussed what make a good community, and how it was driven by having a variety of social activities. However, it was about more than just the social aspect of the group, it was about how they become hubs within the community, where individuals can find out about other groups within their community who might be able to help with other issues. It was also important that there was physical infrastructure to allow people to have the space to come together, whether that is parish halls or a play area.

It was also important to have local groups where members of the community can support each other. This has become particularly relevant with the Covid-19 pandemic and the transport difficulties in Fenland.

The challenges the groups were facing were focused on the lack of volunteers and funding. Many groups are relying on the same volunteers to deliver activities. There can be a lot of bureaucracy involved, especially around groups which work with children, which can put other volunteers off joining activities, and there can be a large time burden. When it comes to funding, the traditional fundraising opportunities have all been cancelled due to Covid-19, whilst at the same time groups are seeing increased costs, especially relating to speakers.

We wrapped up the session with a discussion on the ways that the councillors thought that we could help.

Help groups to find new volunteers, including rethinking their volunteering offer to include more flexible, shorter terms and local activities.

Explore ways to reduce bureaucracy to make it easier for groups in Fenland to operate.

Finding a way to coordinate volunteers across different organisations, and to deliver the services needed for the communities.

Explore other barriers to volunteering and support groups to overcome those issues.

Helping businesses to understand the benefits of employee volunteering.

Encouraging groups to apply for local funding opportunities to help reduce the shortfall from traditional community fundraising activities.

A huge thank you to all of the councillors who gave up their evening to talk to us about their communities. The input that they gave has helped to further shape our proposed work in Fenland over the next 6 months.

Firstly, there will be a big focus on volunteering. We are meeting with our infrastructure colleagues in Norfolk to understand the work that they are doing on volunteering passports, and whether they help to remove bureaucracy for small groups. We will report back on this, along with the national work that is being looked at in this area. Our September Fenland Networking event is all about volunteers, and the great work that is already happening which can be built upon. In November there will a workshop for groups in Fenland on how to gain recognition within their communities, to build relationships and secure volunteers and funding in the future.  We are also discussing potential volunteer fairs for Fenland, whether they are face to face, online or hybrid events, early in the new year to tap into those who are looking to start the new year by supporting their community.

At each of our Fenland networking events we have an update on funding where we discuss upcoming funding opportunities with different grant bodies. We know that groups in Fenland aren’t making as many applications as groups in other districts, so in November we’ll be working to understand what these barriers are, and then working with both the funders and the groups to start to overcome these barriers. CCVS & Hunts Forum also regularly run workshops on different aspects of funding, including making good funding applications and crowdfunding which Fenland groups are encouraged to attend.

When it comes to businesses, Hunts Forum & Support Cambridgeshire are running events in October & November which are focusing on how groups can engage with businesses more effectively. Whether that is by securing funding or volunteers, these workshops will focus on creating a business engagement strategy and practical steps to take. Details of both events can be found on the Support Cambridgeshire website

Vic will continue to be available to any group who would like support on any aspect of running their group. Appointments can be made using an online booking system on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Vic is also available every other Thursday evening for those who need support outside of our usual working hours.

We’ll be back again with another blog post in October, where we’ll update you on our networking events so far, and our training plans for the remainder of the year. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters to keep up to date with everything that’s happening with Support Fenland, as well as the rest of our work across Cambridgeshire.

 

Connecting Communities 2021: Your Feedback

We report back on our volunteering conference, and what our attendees thought of it.

The Connecting Communities conference is in its fourth year, providing an opportunity for community organisations across Cambridgeshire to come together to share ideas about volunteering. It’s a huge topic, and this year – perhaps more than ever – there was plenty to talk about, as voluntary organisations figure out how best to attract, retain and support their volunteers are we slowly emerge from over a year of lockdown restrictions.

We were delighted to welcome some fantastic speakers over our three-day event from 8 to 10 June. Find out more about them and the topics they covered here. You can also watch most of the presentations and discussions back here.

We are also delighted by the feedback that attendees gave us. In one word, they described the events as “insightful”, “thought-provoking” and “purposeful”. Our speakers seem to have gone down well with attendees, and we received some useful feedback about people’s appetite for online, in-person and hybrid events.

 

Connecting Communities 2021 was hosted by Hunts Forum and CCVS on behalf of Support Cambridgeshire, and funded by Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council.

Our learning and moving onto the next phase

We’ve been bit quiet on the Support Fenland blog over the past few weeks. That’s because we’ve been reading everything you shared at our listening sessions. And there was a lot to read!

We’ve also been planning our final event with Councillors, but there will be more on that at a later date.

 

As a quick reminder, during April & May we held three events for communities in Fenland to let us know what they need. We heard from over 30 organisations. They shared with us the great things about Fenland. They also shared the challenges that they’re facing that they need our help with.

 

We’ve pulled together all the feedback into one place and can now see the common themes from all the events. You can see the images below.

 

Most groups we spoke to have concerns about

  • Connecting with their communities.
  • Finding and retaining volunteers.
  • Making the most of partnership working.
  • Communicating with support organisations and other groups.
  • Finding and applying for funding.
  • Building confidence to return to face-to-face meetings.
  • Making sure they’re relevant to younger audiences.
  • Structuring their group to make sure it’s sustainable.
  • Building awareness of Fenland outside of the district.

There were a few other concerns depending on the type of group and where they’re based.

  • Transportation links within Fenland.
  • Access to physical spaces for their meetings / services.
  • Digital take up rates.
  • Falling referrals due to the pandemic.

 

The organisations also had a lot of ideas about how the Support Fenland project can help. And we’re pleased to be starting to put together a series of events based on that feedback.

 

The themes that we’ll be working on over the next few months are:

  • Help us to recruit and keep volunteers.
  • Help us to come together to do more – including help us to build and maintain our networks.
  • Help us to think about our future – including help us to find and apply for funding.
  • Help us to raise our voice both within and outside of Fenland.
  • Help us stay up to date with guidance that we need to know about.
  • Help us for the long term, not for 12 months.

 

The good news is that we already have some activities planned to help with these.

 

The CCVS and Hunts Forum newsletters are a great way to keep up to date with guidance, so why not sign up using the following links:

https://cambridgecvs.us7.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=1ea8ed1edd82a4fef7bcae7b8&id=04ebd494e8

https://www.huntsforum.org.uk/more-from-us/subscribe/

 

There’s still time to sign up to Support Cambridgeshire’s “Connecting Communities Volunteer Conference”. This year’s theme is Volunteer Management and how the voluntary and community sector can move forwards from the past year. Running from the 8th to 10th June, there are sessions on Redesigning Recruitment, Reviewing Retention and Re-examining Volunteering. Find out more and sign up using the following link: https://www.supportcambridgeshire.org.uk/cc2021/

 

In July and August, we’ll be running a series of events under the “Working Together to Do More” umbrella. There will be networking events, training courses and workshops. We’ll be in touch soon to confirm all the dates and times.

 

In September and October, we’ll shift our focus to “Thinking About the Future”.  We have some great events lined up on business planning and understanding impact. But, when it comes to funding, we would love your help. We’d like to form a small working group to design an event which will be useful to groups within Fenland. We have some ideas, but we’d love to hear yours. We have some funders signed up to help with this, as they would be happy to fund more groups in Fenland. If you’re interested in being part of this working group, then please email Vic on vic@cambridgecvs.org.uk.

 

We’ll be back with another update soon on the event that we’re running for local Councillors. So, remember to follow the blog and like us on social media to stay up to date.

 

Support and Advice for Village Halls

We all know that Village halls in our local communities do not run themselves: Village halls need dedicated volunteers and by default those volunteers need support and advice to ensure that their Village hall grows and thrives. Support Cambridgeshire is lucky to have Cambridgeshire ACRE as part of its Partnership.

The support, advice, guidance and information provided by Cambridgeshire ACRE ensures that Cambridgeshire village halls are getting the best service possible, all within the constraints of the current Support Cambridgeshire contract.

And to prove the point here’s a list of testimonials:

The Arkenstall Centre in Haddenham has been a centre of village activities for over 40 years: Converted from school buildings into a (then) modern village hall comprising a main auditorium with a permanent stage, two meeting rooms, a kitchen and other ancillary facilities, the Centre has evolved so it still provides essential entertainment and meeting spaces for the local community. The Centre has always had a good relationship with Cambridgeshire ACRE, seeking advice and support on occasions.  However, as time has progressed, the statutory requirements relating to the management of village halls have become more complex, and the needs of the community have changed, so the demands on the expertise of Trustees have become greater and more varied.  This has meant that the guidance and resources which ACRE professionals have been able to offer directly, as well as through the networking and training events which they organise, have become not just ‘nice to have’, but essential to the Centre’s management.

John Shippey (Trustee).

The work of Cambridgeshire ACRE is very important in many aspects, not least by provision of informative and updating communications, which serve as a stimulating reminder to community members and charitable trustees alike of the importance of their community efforts. Cambridgeshire ACRE’s role as co-ordinators results in networking and interaction between different community groups at meetings where a wide variety of ideas and experiences are discussed, shared and developed. Invariably such meetings incorporate specialist advice, case studies and sometimes commercially based expertise on insurances, legal statuses, financing, management expertise to name a few. These opportunities I view as extremely valuable based on the fact that it is easy as a trustee to lose touch with the realities of trustees’ responsibilities because so many of us lead busy working lives, meet quite infrequently and easily become out of touch. The services, information and meetings play a very important role in serving existing trustees, stimulating and updating new trustees as well as providing an opportunity for charitable employees to meet with groups of trustees and other managers to exchange experiences, develop skills and improve their expertise, all of which contribute to better understanding of their roles, enhance their often very low paid employment, but most importantly contribute to the efficiency of the community services that many small groups provide, ultimately to the benefit of the communities they serve.

Roy Swain (Chair for the Board of Trustees).

Little Downham Village Hall has been a member of ACRE for many years now and the Trustees have always found information and support from ACRE invaluable. We have achieved Hallmark 2 now and will be working towards Hallmark 3 early in 2020. ACRE appreciates the diversity of village halls, their usage, management and need to raise funds.  Our hall was originally built as the workhouse in 1779 so is a Grade 11 listed building.  We do not have the luxury of an all singing, dancing hall but we have managed to raise £160.00 towards the refurbishment of parts of the hall, such as a new roof, new kitchen, refurbished the toilets, flooring and new stage extensions, lighting and sound which has greatly enhanced theatre style productions. We seek ACRE’s advice on many matters (employment law, planning, insurances, fire safety and sourcing relevant funding). The networking sessions and visits to other halls have been most helpful for us plus training that is often offered at these sessions has made us take a closer look at all our policies and procedures.

Avril Hayter-Smith (Treasurer and Fundraising Officer).

If you are a Village hall in Cambridgeshire and require help and support (no matter how small or large) then please contact the Support Cambridgeshire Partnership by contacting Lisa Chambers at lisa.chambers@cambsacre.org.uk.