Tag Archive for: 2024

Navigating Frustrations: A Young Volunteer’s Perspective

I am 27 years old and recently moved from the private sector to the charity sector. Here are a few things I have learned and some personal frustrations I’ve encountered.  

Firstly, there is a significant lack of volunteering opportunities for young people. It often feels like we are not given a fair chance, and this leaves an impression of mistrust and undervaluation of our skills. This sentiment is shared by many others in the same situation. 

My concerns began while researching opportunities to become a young trustee, as well as looking for simple volunteering opportunities within my community. It is frustrating to see that some volunteer processes are not favourable to young people. Surprisingly, there are few opportunities available, especially for those under 18. These are the very individuals the sector aims to engage, as they will be the new generation shaping future volunteer efforts and community support. 

However, I want to do more for the sector and lend a helping hand through volunteering. Unfortunately, this is challenging because many charities promote volunteer roles in a long-winded manner, often unclear about what they want. Some opportunities do not seem friendly and treat young people as if they lack experience. This is even though many of us have volunteered before, though not always long-term due to various reasons or simply because the fit wasn’t right. 

This is not an attack on organisations or the sector, but it is a daily frustration for me and many other young people who care about their communities and want to volunteer without feeling undervalued. It is particularly disheartening when reading articles where long-established individuals or organisations describe the younger generation as ‘lazy,’ ‘addicted to their phones,’ or ‘disinterested in volunteering.’ This stereotype is simply not true. 

To the sector: reach out to the community, youth groups, and schools. Pitch your volunteering opportunities and engage with young people. Ask them about their concerns and fears. Inquire why they might not volunteer and how you can help. Actively seek feedback and listen intently to young voices, as we can all learn from them. As time moves on, so should your approaches. Otherwise, many organisations may find themselves struggling. 

My message:

  1. We are here, and keen to volunteer 
  2. We are a generation that use short and snappy content across all platforms – make it clear with what message you want our generation to deliver 
  3. Time is of the essence – unfortunately, we can’t volunteer out of school or work hours, however, we want to support but how can we get your help? 

Over time, it’s natural for some organisations to struggle with adapting to change. Embracing modern technologies and understanding the evolving attitudes of new generations can be challenging. However, this is an opportunity to grow and connect with the next wave of volunteers, who bring fresh perspectives, skills, and new talents. By adapting our volunteering opportunities to meet their needs, we can attract eager individuals and create enriching experiences for everyone involved. This will create a feeling of fulfilment and increase the chance to volunteer again.  

We’ve observed a rise in young people taking initiative and leading their projects, often utilising social media to share engaging and inclusive content. This trend highlights the importance of adapting our approaches to meet their expectations and inspire them to join our efforts. By understanding and embracing these changes, we can encourage a vibrant and dynamic volunteering community. 

Leading CEO in Huntingdonshire’s voluntary sector announces future retirement

Hunts Forum of Voluntary Organisations has today announced CEO Julie Farrow has informed the Board of her intention to retire from the charity in April 2025, after over 17 years as Chief Officer. The Board has confirmed it will formally begin succession planning in light of Julie’s intended departure.

Speaking of her announcement, Julie Farrow said:   

“As I reflect on my professional career and after more than 17 years leading Hunts Forum, I believe now is the right time for the Board to begin formal succession planning. I am hugely passionate about the voluntary sector and the role of Hunts Forum and am grateful to have had such a fulfilling role.

My relationships with partners across the sector have always been really important to me as I champion and challenge the system.  Over the next year, I remain fully focused on executing our strategy and the wider impact it delivers alongside my exceptional team.”

Julie first joined the organisation in April 2008, having worked as a Partnership Manager at the NHS for 5 years previously. At the time of Julie’s arrival, Hunts Forum delivered a District contract and a very small County contract, with no funding from external projects; and the well-known Maple Centre, now a popular bustling hub for the sector, was not a key focus.

Hunts Forum has truly blossomed under Julie’s stewardship. The organisation has grown in size and stature and built an exceptional reputation in supporting the voluntary sector in Huntingdonshire and across Cambridgeshire. The team is now over 40% bigger than when Julie first joined the organisation; with the growth in projects enabling Hunts Forum to grow its impact not just in the sector but as a key local employer too.

A significant achievement in Julie’s tenure also includes leading and securing the Support Cambridgeshire contract which Hunts Forum deliver with Cambridge Council for Voluntary Services (CCVS); offering digital sector support services across the whole county. The deeply regarded programme is now in its second contract and has several other funded projects now running under the partnership banner including Volunteer Cambs.

Julie’s consistent hard work and dedication have put the organisation in an incredibly strong position for the future. Chair of Trustees Noel Kearns commented:

“Julie’s retirement next year will mark the end of a remarkable career with Hunts Forum. The organisation is well known as a leading force in the local voluntary sector. It is stronger than ever thanks to Julie’s exceptional leadership skills, tenacity and a deep drive and determination to represent the sector.

From the very beginning, Julie has been committed to collaboration, and to ensuring the sector has a voice and access to wider support and guidance. The Board and I wish Julie all the best as she prepares for her retirement, and we look forward to working with her over the next year to deliver and set our key strategic goals.”

National body NAVCA has also acknowledged Julie’s recognition as a key charity leader; awarding Julie the Infrastructure Leadership award in March 2019.

The Hunts Forum has a busy year ahead, which Julie will lead with support from her dedicated team – including the rollout of the recently announced five-year funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to deliver a dedicated Support Fenland project (under the Support Cambridgeshire banner).

The organisation will also be in the spotlight again in mid-July when it announces winners of its annual Volunteer of the Year Awards at a flagship ceremony at Hinchingbrooke Country Park. In this its 30th Anniversary Year, Hunts Forum also has a wider range of events celebrating and supporting the amazing work the charitable sector does, including a Volunteer Fayre in September.

State of the Sector – Have your say! DEADLINE EXTENDED 18 MARCH 2024

THE DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 18 MARCH 2024.

Some may say the past twelve months, compared to others, has been a quiet year for our society, with no significant health crisis or political upheaval and that perhaps a glimpse of positivity can be seen for our communities with things calming down.

Last year, the State of the Sector report showed a decrease in volunteer numbers against an increase in those individuals that groups support having more complex needs and, therefore, longer waiting lists. The 2023 report and its findings have been essential in helping Support Cambridgeshire make a case for the crucial role of voluntary and community groups in our communities with tightening budgets and cuts to services.

It’s that time again when we ask for five minutes of your precious time to let us know how you’re coping in this environment. Are you still struggling to find volunteers? Has funding increased? Are you more optimistic today about the future of your group? We want to know!

We need as many individuals from charities, not-for-profit organisations, and community groups to complete the 2024 Survey of Cambridgeshire Community Groups and Charities. This way, we can see what is happening across the county and whether the challenges you are currently facing are the same as last year or if there is something we all need to be aware of coming down the road.

All organisations that fill out the survey will be entered into a prize draw for £100 for that organisation. The closing date for the survey is 4th March , and the prize draw will follow this.

Fill in the survey here

The road ahead is bumpy, but we are here to help

Kathryn Shepherdson header

For those unaware, on the 29th of February, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) launched its Road Ahead paper. A research piece which looks at the up-and-coming potential challenges facing the voluntary and community sectors in the coming year.

Depending on your organisation’s shape, size, and makeup, the challenges will be different. Here are a few I found interesting along with how Support Cambridgeshire can support your organisation this year:

Funding Uncertainty: Voluntary organisations often rely on public funding, grants, and donations. Economic fluctuations or changes in government priorities could lead to funding uncertainties, affecting the sustainability of organisations. We are already seeing that public donations are decreasing, and with more local authorities declaring bankruptcy, this is a worrying time. Groups need to look at income generation from a mixture of sources. With that, Support Cambridgeshire continues to offer the Support Cambridgeshire funding database, a free directory of funders. We also have a Funding alert email highlighting local and national funding pots the team thinks your group could be interested in, plus our countywide Funding Month in March, which allows you to listen to over 25 local and national funders talk about how to access their funding pots.

 

Increased Demand for Services: Economic and demographic changes are leading to an increase in demand for some services; we expect this to increase further. The uncertainty around political changes is not helping matters when thinking about the future and what groups can do now to support their clients and stay relevant. This has not helped with the national decrease in volunteers that the sector has seen over the past few years. While Support Cambridgeshire is unable to support you with the uncertainty, we are here to support you to be ready for whatever comes around the corner. This includes running regular training on strategy, finance, and much more. Don’t forget our on-demand training portal, where we keep adding training, which is open to anyone, at any time of the day. In addition, our Governance Month we are launching in November, is worth checking out, where we have a range of events looking at the governance of our sector. Regarding the volunteers, we have our Connecting Communities month in June, which looks at all things volunteer recruitment and retainment and don’t forget the Volunteer Cambs website.

 

Policy and Regulatory Changes: Changes in government policies, regulations, or compliance requirements could also impact local community groups in Cambridgeshire. This year, several laws are coming into place around HR, Procurement, Environment, and Campaigning. This is going to require groups to keep up to date with legislation and how they comply. Support Cambridgeshire knows it is important to inform the sector of the changes, making sure we highlight these changes in our news blogs and updates, which you’ll find on the front page of the Support Cambridgeshire website. You can also sign up to have these drop into your inbox. The other place to keep updated on these changes is through our network sessions, which run regularly throughout the year. We have several opportunities to hear what’s happening both locally and nationally.

2024 is going to be one of those years which has lots of change; however, repeatedly voluntary and community organisations have proven that they are up to the challenge. Support Cambridgeshire, however, wants to hear how you are doing, so don’t forget to get engaged in our annual State of the Sector survey, which allows us to see locally if these national trends are the same in Cambridgeshire.

 

This blog was aided by ChatGPT but all views are of the author.