Local voluntary and community groups are looking at new ways of enlisting the help of residents and businesses in the face of increased demand for services.
They came together this week to discuss ways of ‘Engaging Communities’ in fundraising and volunteering at St Albans & District Strategic Partnership’s annual Community Conference, held at Rothamsted Research.
Opening the conference on Tuesday 6 February, the Chair of the Strategic Partnership and Leader of St Albans City and District Council, Cllr Alec Campbell, said: “We start from a positive base in St Albans District as we have a wealth of impressive organisations, groups and individuals supporting others in our District. However, the Council’s Community Survey has shown a decrease in residents participating in voluntary activity from 32 per cent in 2010 to 22 per cent in 2015.”
He said the voluntary and community sector is looking for new ways to attract volunteers of all ages.
Cllr Campbell added: “There are considerable benefits to volunteering in terms of promoting health and wellbeing, encouraging a sense of belonging to a community and helping people back into work.”
Speaker Will Hobhouse, the High Sherriff of Hertfordshire, explained to delegates how he has been working with Hertfordshire Community Foundation on a support programme for ten charities. Learning points included the need for multi-year funding streams to reduce time spent applying for small grants, as well as dynamic trustees to drive leadership and fundraising efforts. He added that creating an online presence was also vital and could be a way of involving younger volunteers.
The Co-Event Director of St Albans parkrun at Verulamium Park, Richard Sved, from 3rd Sector Mission Control
, also spoke at the conference. He talked about the importance of volunteers, social media and identifying suitable business partners. Richard tries to create a spirit of social comradeship at parkrun by acknowledging volunteers’ help online and posting photographs of them having fun. As people lead busy lives, parkrun offers an online booking system so volunteers sign up to help when they are free.
Richard Sved says: “It is important to show people that volunteering can be a fun, sociable and rewarding way of contributing to community life.”
Richard also talked about funding opportunities available through The Funding Network Hertfordshire
which could connect groups with local businesses and individual donors.
The next event
will take place on 5 July at the new museum in St Albans.
Delegates were then invited to suggest ways of addressing the challenges faced by voluntary and community groups in break-out sessions. Ideas put forward include:
- networking events so voluntary and community groups can talk to businesses about the skills and support they really need
- highlighting to business the benefits of volunteering and fundraising, particularly promoting staff welfare
- raising their profile by using volunteers or clients to promote the good work of the organisation
- using social media and websites more effectively to promote the work of volunteers
- tailoring volunteering to suit the needs of people at different stages in their life, such as those looking for work or who are seeking to expand their social life
- creating a fun and sociable environment for volunteers and acknowledging the work that volunteers do
These suggestions and other feedback from the conference will be considered by the Strategic Partnership and form part of their future work plan.