The NEW Cultivate Cambs Fund

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Innovate & Cultivate Fund has been updated and has a new name – Cultivate Cambs! We’re pleased to announce that the first deadline for Cultivate Cambs grant applications is 16 September 2022. Pre-application advice appointments will be offered in July.

Cultivate Cambs awards grants of £2,000 to £15,000 for new initiatives that support adults & older people with care and support needs, and children, young people & families, to live independently, safe and well in thriving and inclusive communities.

The fund is open to voluntary and social enterprise sector organisations based in and outside of Cambridgeshire, and public sector organisations in Cambridgeshire, for projects that benefit Cambridgeshire residents. Please note that projects serving Peterborough residents are not eligible.

Pre-application advice

We encourage you to seek pre-application advice on your project ideas before submitting your application.  Appointments to discuss projects supporting vulnerable adults are offered 5 – 7 July and appointments for projects supporting children, young people and families are on 14 – 15 July. Please pre-book your 15-minute telephone or virtual advice appointment here.

Cultivate Ideas

Do you want to do something for your community but need the inspiration to start a project? Cultivate Ideas offer guidance and support for setting up the following community-led initiatives – Enhanced Community Food Projects, Care Micro-enterprises, Community Warden Schemes, Community Youth Worker, Timebanks, Good Neighbour Schemes, Dementia Friendly Communities and Men’s Sheds.

Cultivate Cambs grant applications and information may be found on the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation website.

Your Station Your Community Improvement Fund

GTR is launching a new fund, called the ‘Your Station, Your Community, Improvement Fund ’, to support local charities, our customers, and the communities on our line of route, focusing on the causes that are of key importance to us.  

 The fund supports the following key themes: mental health, education, and employability skills amongst marginalised groups, as well as diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability.   Over the next three years, GTR will be allocating up to £500,000 a year to fund projects based up to 15 miles from stations on our network.   They welcome applications from registered charities, community groups and other not-for-profit organisations such as rail user groups, community rail partnerships, business partnerships, town councils, parish councils and schools.  


What they are looking for:  

 They are welcoming applications for initiatives taking place within 15 miles of stations on our network, that make a positive impact in one or more of the focus areas listed below. For a route map click here

Enhancing our stations to be a welcoming environment 

  • Regenerating redundant station spaces for community hubs, providing space for activities that enrich the local community and bringing station estate back into use. Creating a welcoming ambience to our stations enhancing our customers’ experience.  

Positive Mental Health 

  • Mental health activities that encourage working with local partners to signpost people to support services or initiatives that have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. Connecting people together to take positive action to prevent suicide an issue that has a devasting and far-reaching impact on our people, customers and communities.  

Diversity and Inclusion 

  • Supporting diverse and inclusive community projects, creating opportunities for learning and the social mobility of more marginalised groups. Our ambition is to create an inclusive culture where customers and colleagues feel able to be themselves and feel they belong to their local communities. 

Employability and confidence building 

  • Promoting employability and education amongst marginalised groups by investing in skills development for now and the future, creating a talent pipeline to support the local economy.   

Environmental Sustainability 

  • Supporting environmental projects and encouraging sustainable mobility shift encourages customers to make greener choices to travel by rail and get to our stations sustainably – by bike, bus, foot or electric car. 


How to apply  

 There is an online application form which will go live on 28th June 2022 and will close at 23:59 on 30th July 2022. More information will be released with more details, including links to the website, online portal and application toolkit. This information will be updated on the Support Cambridgeshire website, or contact your local CVS.

To make the application process accessible to all GTR also have an editable word formatted version available that can be downloaded, completed and returned to:

If other alternatives are still required to complete the application form then please make contact via the email address provided, leaving your contact details, organisation details, and any special requirements you need to complete the form.


Read the Guide to Applying here.

You can also read the FAQs for answers to your questions about the application process 



  • Applications open: 28 June 2022  
  • Applications close: 30 July 2022  
  • Review: July – September 2022  
  • Submitted to DfT: December 2022  
  • Notification: Q1 2023  
  • Funding received: April 2023  
  • Funding spent and fully committed: 31 March 2024  


Contact details


Reflections on ‘Coming up for air’ report, Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson Senior Development Worker at Hunts Forum

When Covid silenced our streets and threatened to overwhelm our health services, charities and community groups were amongst the first to step forward and offer support to our communities. Many funding bodies worked with organisations to allow funds to be used to help with the pandemic response rather than simply for the intended purpose and new funds came into being to support and extend those offers.

The local State of the Sector survey highlights how Cambridgeshire charities, community groups and social enterprises have weathered the pandemic better than was expected in the early days. Many, particularly larger organisations have even seen their reserves grow.

However, it has not been good for all, with many being negatively affected by the pandemic and some charities closing their doors or facing a financially uncertain future.

In much the same way as business, the third sector has been busy adapting, changing and responding, not simply to the needs presented by the pandemic, but also through the other ways of working we all confronted and the opportunities and challenges these presented. Were we entering a period of calm after the storm, the sector would have a great chance of coming out of Covid stronger, more digitally aware and more effective. But we aren’t.

Instead of calm, we are moving headlong into a cost-of-living crisis. The quake of the pandemic may have sent a tidal wave our way, but the quakes of Brexit, untamed energy price rises, food price rises, rampant inflation, rising rents and mortgage interest rates, the value of wages being ripped apart and more have turned this into a tsunami facing society and threatening the lives and livelihoods of vast swathes of society.

It has long been the role of charity to mitigate the worst impact and excesses of political and economic choices, but can a sector that is still trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic do much more than offer solace to a few, rather than protect many?

The survey highlights the concern of many in the sector locally about the levels of funding before the current cost of living crisis slapped us all in the face like a wet mackerel. These rising costs not only affect us as individuals but also impact on the ability of charities, community groups and social enterprises to operate. As much as it is a frustration within the sector that most funding bodies operate this way, typically, funding is received to deliver a project, this could be for a few months or a few years, but within this there is little room for rising costs as these agreements came about after years of low inflationary pressures. Already, in this developing economic crisis, many organisations are beginning to see budget forecasts falling apart and no recourse to improve on the income for the agreed project from the funder.

‘Get additional funding from another funder, may be thought from those outside the sector, but just try finding a funding body willing to provide funding to continue a previous project, let alone add funding to an existing project funded by someone else.

Many charities and community groups, as the survey shows, have also seen volunteers leave and not return. Staff are stretched with many burnt out. Recruiting for vacant posts- paid and unpaid- is becoming increasingly difficult.

The inevitable increase in calls upon the services of the Voluntary and Community that the latest crisis brings with it risks colliding with the dearth of staff- paid and unpaid- to meet that demand. Funding always helps, but when the people are not there to do what needs to be done, the money means little. It is unlikely that funding will be available to improve the salaries, terms and conditions of paid staff to encourage people into the sector and a contracting economy will further reduce the potential pool of volunteers. With more people having to work longer hours they personally will have less time to give, the retired, once the bedrock of charity volunteering, will be called upon to give their time to their struggling families and to their own needs.

Yet, without funding for the sector that not only provides services to those in need but also reverses the decade-long cut in salaries and terms and conditions for the majority of charity workers, it is likely that in an attempt to step up and help people where government and enterprise have failed, many charities, community groups and social enterprises will become dangerously overstretched. This is likely to lead to potentially dangerous levels of service delivery, greater staffing collapse and an increased reliance on an ever dwindling pool of potential volunteers (who may themselves suffer burnout) and pushed to breaking point charity finances.

Political and economic choices will be made as to who is and isn’t protected from the worst of this crisis and how that protection is provided. Much of this will be based upon how the decision makers view what is important to the economy and society.

As always, charity will do what it can and amaze us all with its innovation and passion, but what emerges from the current crisis may herald a bleak future for charity, many individuals and society at large depending upon those choices made.

Joining the dots

A case study into how we are developing support for groups working with children and young people across Cambridgeshire

The issue

We have long recognised that there is a gap in Cambridgeshire around specialist support for organisations working with Children and Young people. Many other areas have a specialist county support group or a funded project in a bigger support organisation, but Cambridgeshire has lacked this since the closure of Young Lives nearly 10 years ago. Our work with the sector had identified the need to support these groups as well as how we can encourage more to form.

We know that there have been drastic cuts to youth work and to activities for young people both in the statutory and the voluntary sectors. At the same time, we recognise the growing need for services of all types and across all geographies that support young people. We know that many existing groups suffer from a lack of funds and a lack of volunteers, and that some local voluntary groups have not reopened after the pandemic.

Support Cambs are clear that we are not in a position to help with support in delivering youth related services as we are not funded for this and do not have the expertise. We can help groups to find funds, look at new ways of working, and we can help new groups to form. We needed to talk to groups and to those working with them to look at what and how we can help and how we can support others providing support in this area.

Joining the dots

We did not have to start from scratch with our work in this field. The County Council has a statutory duty to young people. They no longer have a big youth work team but they do still do some targeted work in this area. Importantly for us they have a team of Youth and Community workers who coordinate district level meetings with local groups.

Support Cambs staff were able to attend these meetings as well as attend a team meeting with the county team. This allowed us to understand where we can work with the team and what some of the specific issues are for groups are. Importantly it also allowed us to refresh what our offer to groups is with both the groups we spoke to but also with the county team.

As well as these meetings we have also set up a number of meetings with some of the larger groups working in this field to look at what else we need to do. We are lucky in that we can call on the services of other partners to fill in the gaps that local groups need, and that is where we have started to join the dots.

What we know

We are hearing that the two main areas of concern for groups mirror those of the wider sector. There is a lack of volunteers and especially those that might have some youth work experience or qualifications. This is also shown in issues where groups are looking to employ qualified sessional workers.

There is also an issue with funding, especially with finding ongoing and core funding to keep clubs open.

We are also seeing very patchy coverage of opportunities across the county. This is resulting in a real postcode lottery for young people looking to access services or activities. When talking to communities the lack of activities is an issue often related to people’s perception of young people causing problems and engaging in low level ASB. We also know that communities are brilliant at addressing their needs when given the resources and motivation they need.
These issues are compounded as national reports show increased levels of need for young people to access all sorts of different services especially those related to mental health and wellbeing.

Moving forwards

Working with the county team we have agreed to the following.
• Attendance at county level meetings.
• Attendance at district level meetings on an ‘as needed’ basis.

We will look at how we can promote the youth work training that the county provide/fund to encourage more people to access this. Support Cambs partners will look at how we can promote our offer to help develop new groups supporting young people to parish and district councillors. We will look at developing a resource section for groups on the Support Cambridgeshire website.

We need to look at if the county is falling behind in supporting groups and young people working in, or wanting to work in, this area. This might be especially true from a VCS perspective and we may need to look at how we fund a new specific service using some of the learning from neighbouring counties.

Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund (HSF) has been created to help people experiencing immediate financial hardship to pay for food and household energy bills.

The fund is now open to pensioners who are struggling financially, and:

  • Were born on or before 30 September 1956
  • Live in Cambridgeshire
  • Are experiencing financial hardship
  • No one under the age of 19 (born after the 30 September 2003), lives with them

How to apply:  The quickest and easiest way is by phoning or emailing Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.  Apply by phone on 01223 221929 or by email at

If you prefer, you can access support from the fund through one of our trusted partners whose details can be found here, along with more information about the Household Support Fund:

If you represent a local community group and would like to be considered to issue Household Support Fund direct awards, please email


Successful fundraising for voluntary groups

In March 2022 Support Cambridgeshire ran an online conference on fundraising over three days open to any community group in Cambridgeshire.  In addition to providing access to a range of talks and guidance from national funders and surgeries on how to make best use of our online, freely available funding portal we also offered an online training workshop on Successful fundraising for voluntary groups.  The workshop looked at encouraging groups to diversify and plan their fundraising strategy to help enhance their long-term sustainability.

A wide range of groups attended the session including environmental, family and disability charities.  The following feedback was given:

It simplified the process of creating a fundraising strategy. I learnt about how to communicate with current and potential supporters, the importance of having an elevator pitch and of storytelling and the different ways I can fundraise.

The workshop covered leading trends[1] in income generation for voluntary groups in 2022 include a continued reliance on digital even with the reintroduction of face to face and the hybrid approaches that accommodate both options.  Alongside this is the growth of peer-to-peer fundraising and the need to continue to accommodate cashless donations even for face-to-face fundraisers.

The session went on to consider how groups can develop a fundraising strategy, building a case for support which they can communicate and share with all their stakeholders and engage and retaining a strong supporter base.   We discussed how a fundraising strategy pulls together information about objectives and identifies what is needed and how to achieve it.

A fundraising plan helps manage resources often using a calendar to map out key dates and deadlines both internal and external to an organisation.  In developing a plan, a group needs to consider the fundraising channels and tools that will work for them.

  • individual giving might involve an old-fashioned collection but with a cashless option. There are a wide range of options using smart phones that don’t require a card reader  Pledjar donation app, QR codes eg Bopp, Give Star
  • Utilising donation functions on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram
  • Selecting the right gift giving platform to encourage your supporters to fundraise for you
  • Ensuring face to face events deliver a good return on resources and cost see Cabinet office guide to organising an event
  • Hybrid events can combine the best of in-person and digital by increasing participation, limiting environmental impact and being cost effective. People might pay a premium for the in person experience but others can also take part and donate if you live stream the event for example on Facebook

Successful fundraisers seek to build an ongoing dialogue with supporters, encouraging them to give by clearly communicating the difference the group makes to people in an engaging and motivating way.  They look to build the supporter relationship making connections and thanking them properly.

Key factors in fundraising success:

  • Know your audience and what matters to them?
  • Engage and inspire through stories
  • Create a sense of buy in before you make an ask
  • Make donation frictionless
  • Create a time limited campaign
  • Link to external events
  • Thank supporters and share success
  • Make everyone in your organisation a fundraiser


If you would like to discuss fundraising with us please get in touch at


[1] Top Fundraising trends for 2022 Charity Digital
CIOF research trends

Reflections on ‘Coming up for air’ report, Mark Freeman


What the 2022 State of the Sector Survey tells us about the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Cambridgeshire

A great deal has been written about the impact of the pandemic on the VCS over the last years. We carried out research in both 2020 and 2021 that showed that groups were adapting and growing but they had concerns about funding and burnout. Many of our findings have been backed up by national surveys[1].

This survey was carried out over February and March 2022 and shows that locally groups have weathered the storm relatively well. The impact of the pandemic has been more negative than positive, with groups on average scoring the impact as 4 out of 10.

Green survey with the title overall how has the pandemic impacted your organisations.

It is however debatable as to whether the storm has come to an end. Even as we learn to live with Covid and we return to a more ‘normal’ life, the sector and those that they support are caught up in the next wave of circumstances that impact on them. There will be a fallout from the last two years that we will need to understand and navigate, this will be complicated by the environment we all work in. We are all now grappling with the impact of the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine. At the same time many experts are predicting significant health impacts over next winter due to flu and possible new Covid variants.

What we have learnt is that although there are issues of concern that need to be addressed, overall the sector remains resilient and forward-thinking.

Trust in charities is rising according to government figures[2] and the last two years have demonstrated the ability of small charities and community groups to deliver essential services and support at a local level. Couple this with the optimism that the survey showed, 59% of respondents believed 2022 was going to be better for their organisation than 2021, and we believe that we are at a point where the role of small organisations and the communities they work in is recognised as the best way of reducing inequalities and providing opportunities.

More people are seeing this, and the Commission on Civil Society[3] write:

“With their unique combination of trust, agility, community, purpose and prevention, the charity sector is a powerful part of the public services ecosystem, with the potential to do even more than it does today. From mental health to social care, children’s and youth services to housing, a large proportion of the UK’s 160,000 charities and the 910,000 people who work for them play a fundamental role in providing or supplementing public services”

Locally we are seeing statutory services looking at how they work with the sector and communities. Local councils are looking at full system thinking and co-producing services with the sector. The new Integrated Care Systems in health have working with communities and the sector embedded in their core principles. We know that these changes will not happen overnight and that they will be hard to implement, we also know that the sector has its issues and is not fully ready to help, but it is there and there is a willingness to learn, engage and adapt. The whole system from a national to a local level has to work hard to find ways to support charities and especially those local small charities that are embedded in and engaged with communities.

The two big issues from the survey

Two big issues arose from the survey, these were funding and volunteering.



Volunteers are essential to the work of the sector and by our calculations could be worth over £117million to Cambridgeshire in a year. Over the pandemic many people signed up to volunteer but these were often short term opportunities and numbers were increased by the emergency nature of what was needed and by the number of people on furlough or working from home. The survey showed that over 70% of those responding were experiencing some issue with recruiting volunteers, and 56% were having issues retaining existing volunteers.

“All our members are elderly, frail. Since covid we have lost some, some are reluctant to come out. Present volunteers are not getting any younger either and commitment and time are difficult. We are considering bringing our group to a close.”

As a sector and a society we need to address these issues. Locally Cambridgeshire needs a county portal that allows groups to reach potential new volunteers, and that allows interested people to find volunteering opportunities that excite and interest them. We need to ensure that groups are offering people the support and flexibility they need to give volunteering a go. Volunteering opportunities need to be flexible and safe; they need to fit with the way people live and work.

We don’t need a national system, we need local investment into a system and the structures that make local volunteering easier and more accessible. We need to work with the business sector to look at how they can support their staff to volunteer. We must create the opportunity to volunteer in schools so that people get the bug early. We need to create volunteering opportunities that appeal to people at all stages of their lives.


The survey shows there has been a mixed impact on local groups due to the pandemic but 80% of groups see a lack of funds as an issue. The survey has also shown that there have been different impacts on finances for organisations, whilst most reported a neutral impact a higher number reported a negative impact than reported a positive one.

We know that many foundations ‘opened their coffers’ over the pandemic to fund additional support to enable groups to adapt, grow and deliver more. We know that government both locally and nationally also found money to support the sector and the work it did. The upshot of this will be the tightening of funders’ belts in the next few years. This will have a dramatic impact on organisations who will (along with everyone else) be faced with rising costs to deliver their work.

The nature of a national emergency meant that many funders relaxed their funding criteria and their need for monitoring. This was welcomed as it gave groups the space to adapt delivery to suit a changing environment. It also meant groups concentrated more on delivery and less on applying or monitoring. We also know that a lot of funding was short-term and needed to be spent quickly. This is difficult for smaller organisations to manage who need time to ramp up delivery, it has also resulted in a lot of organisations growing quickly with little hope of maintaining that growth.

We need a new type of funding. It has to be flexible and it has to fund outcomes and not projects. Funders must be less prescriptive about monitoring. Most charities monitor their work as they want to know what is and isn’t working and trustees need to be able to govern. We need to work together to ensure that one monitoring report can meet all stakeholder’s needs.

We need to look at core cost funding that will allow charity to deliver on its mission. Projects can’t run without the core of an organisation, so we need to move away from funding projects. Lloyds Foundation[4] state they

“Trust charities to spend the funding we give them as they judge best to achieve the greatest impact.”

We need to see more of this. Charities are best placed to know what is going to work and have an impact. A move to more collaborative funding will increase the impact and enable charities to spend more time and money delivering their services.

Charities need to plan, real impact takes time to happen, and sustainability is not about constantly replacing short-term funding. We need funding to be longer-term. Three years as a minimum but 5 or 10 years if funders are looking at addressing complex issues that rely on building trust and relationships.

The importance of infrastructure

The work of infrastructure (those organisations who work to support the sector) at local and national levels has to be recognised and supported. If there is a need for charities, and those that work with and fund them, to do things differently, they will need support to accomplish that.

“A lot of what we have done locally won’t make the papers, but we have laughed and cried with staff and volunteers over the pandemic. We have informed, advised and supported them. We have helped them gain new skills, build new relationships, and find new resources. We have worked with partners to ensure that the sector was recognised and supported.”

Infrastructure has shown its value over the pandemic and investment has flowed into it. However, locally and nationally, this has not been uniform which has led to different levels of support to groups across different areas. This has inevitably resulted in people being offered very different service levels as the number of local charities and their ability to deliver services, t, is better where the charities have had more support. One respondent wrote:

“They offer the best possible support to the sector – they are pro-active, professional, experienced, thoughtful, kind and considerate.”

To conclude

We have a vibrant and diverse voluntary and community sector in Cambridgeshire. On the whole there is optimism for the future. 59% of respondents think that 2022 will be a better year than 2021 for their organisation.

We have seen the sector working with other partners to make the pandemic as bearable as possible.

We have seen incredible efforts put in by staff, volunteers and trustees.

We have seen groups adapting and learning to ensure services were continued and improved.

We know that there are challenges ahead but we have seen positive changes starting to happen. We need to build on what we have, learn from our mistakes and celebrate our successes.







Do you know an organisation to put forward for the Queens Award For Voluntary Service?

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Queen’s Coronation. As part of this, we would like Cambridgeshire and Peterborough groups to celebrate the fantastic work they contribute to our communities. 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough tend to receive less nominations than other parts of the country, so we would like to build awareness of this prestigious award among our volunteer-led groups. Over the past few years, we have seen a great surge in communities coming forward to support each other and stand together to create opportunities, support and impact within their communities. 

Who can be nominated

Key eligibility requirements are:

  1. The group must have 3 or more members. 
  2. It must be based in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. 
  3. It must have been operating for a minimum of 3 years. 
  4. It must provide a specific local benefit (QAVS are not intended for national organisations, although a branch can be nominated). 
  5. QAVS are looking for evidence that volunteers are initiating and driving the group’s work. It may have some paid staff, but we expect at least half of the people who work in the group to be volunteers.
  6. Groups operating solely for the benefit of animals are not eligible.

To read the full criteria, CLICK HERE 


How are you nominated

The group can only be nominated by three individuals with no direct link to the group. This means they can’t be working or volunteering for the group, including those who sit on the committee or trustee board. 

There needs to be one primary nominator who fills the form out and then two individuals who are happy to supply a short supporting letter.


The Process 

The process is pretty easy once the three individuals have submitted their nominations. The organisation will be contacted. There will be a visit by someone from the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire who will ensure your organisation has essential health and safety, safeguarding and finance procedures and policies in place.  

All awards are announced as part of Volunteers Week which is between 1st and 7th June, through The Gazette.  Read about the winner for 2022 here


Want to know more? 

The online guidance notes and application form can be found HERE 

Hunts Forum will be holding some one-hour workshops that will cover the basics of the award a little more.  Introduction to the Queen’s Award of Voluntary Action Workshop: Tuesday 21st June and Thursday 21st July both at 4:30 pm to book Click HERE


State of the Sector 2022 Report

Support Cambridgeshire, the partnership between Cambridge CVS and Hunts Forum of Voluntary Services, is launching its latest annual State of the Sector report. This yearly survey informed infrastructure organisations such as Support Cambridgeshire, local authorities, funders and others of the challenges, trends and patterns taking place across the voluntary sector in Cambridgeshire.

Due to the pandemic, the survey had been put on hold for a year while the sector adjusted and reacted to its environment. However, two years later, the Support Cambridgeshire team felt it was vital to take a snapshot of how the organisations responded and reacted to the pandemic and if initial fears around the impact were valid, and therefore ‘Coming up for air’ was compiled.

The reports look at the impacts of the pandemic on the sector, focusing on the issues, barriers and support that those groups will need to move forward and continue to support the communities they serve.

Some of the highlights include;

  • Generally, groups weather the storm pretty well
  • There are concerns around social isolation, increased services, and the division and inequality in society.
  • Funding continues to be a concern and issue for all groups
  • The way groups want support is changing, and digital is here to stay

If you would like to read the report, click the link below.


Blue background with bubbles with writing on it state of the sector 2022 click here to read it

Living Sport looking to enhance activity in Fenland plus offering everyone free training

Living Sport are supporting people from all backgrounds and communities to support others in their communities to be active, we are offering some FREE places on the Sport Level 1 Award in Assistant Coaching (Sport and Physical Activity)

They are also interested to hear from anyone in the Fenland area who is keen to help others in their community to be more active, or if they have ideas that could help people to get outside, be active and meet new friends.

You can find out more about the course generally  See here

To discuss the course and/or to express interest (including discussion of any special learning requirements) please contact


Sport Level 1 Award in Assistant Coaching (Sport and Physical Activity) Flyer

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