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Northumberland CVA

Providing 30 years of support to the voluntary and community sector


July: Being part of the conversation


Social media is not just a fad! It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, so it’s important for voluntary and community sector organisations to be part of the conversation.

Millions of people use social media platforms in their personal lives, but when applied to organisational rather than individual use, the term ‘Social Media’ can conjure up a vast daunting landscape for many of the smaller voluntary and community sector organisations. And yet it offers a great, cost-effective way for organisations to connect with new supporters and tell them about how their work is making a difference.

So, whether you’re a complete novice or you’re already active on social media at home and simply want some ideas on how to use it to promote your work, this collection of 30 tips aims to help you get the most from social media for your organisation. Of course, if you’re already a whizz on social media, perhaps you have some of your own tips you could share (contact me, please!).

What can social media do for my organisation?

1: Help you keep in touch with existing supporters and engage with new audiences

Shared values and causes can hold communities together. Social media offer opportunities to bring together and engage with individuals who share your values, and will hopefully support your cause. Sharing good content on your platforms will allow you to scale up your communications to reach far more people than more traditional forms of marketing can, and help you to build relationships with new as well as existing audiences in real time far quicker than you could otherwise do.


2: Help build your brand

Think about your online brand presence as a spider’s web, with your own website at the centre as your base for managing your social media activity. If you link great social media content to your website activity then, like a spider, you can draw in to your website those people who have been engaged by your interesting and timely social media content. With good content, you never know how far your brand will reach. If it goes viral you will have tens of thousands of people looking and sharing. And of course ‘brand presence’ is no longer just about pushing your logo out everywhere. With social media, it is just as much about people, voice and relationships.


3: Help raise awareness

Social media is a great way to raise awareness of your cause, to make the case for change and to make it easy for your supporters to take action. The most successful campaigns have a clear message aimed at a specific audience. Think Movember – a campaign about men’s health that went viral, Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, or the No Makeup Selfie campaign that raised £8m for Cancer Research, even though the charity itself didn’t actually start the campaign themselves. Good ideas like these can spread like wildfire.


4: Help you to fundraise

It isn’t social networking sites themselves which raise money; it’s the people who use them. Social media simply offers opportunities for organisations to nurture strong relationships that will allow them to encourage supporters to donate. If you’re going to be doing a sponsored fun run or organising a tea party to raise funds for instance, you could talk about getting fit on social media, or about the chance to meet other people from your area and make the ask as part of your content. Or you could talk about a particularly emotive case study and link your content to a JustGiving account or a page on your own website where you make it easy for people to donate.


5: Save you money

Traditional media is generally a one-way street with limited reach. You read leaflets, posters and press ads, listen to radio and watch TV but there are only very limited ways for people to give their thoughts. Social media is a two –way conversation online that available on 24/7, offers unlimited reach, and is free (nearly - you can boost your content to a carefully targeted audience for relatively small amounts)! Creating a profile on the vast majority of social media sites costs absolutely nothing, although developing and maintaining the site can be costly in terms of time – particularly in the early days (However, managing traditional marketing campaigns take time too). Also, social media is all about ‘word of mouth’. If your content is good, your supporters will share it and so, in effect, it’s about referrals, which every marketer knows is the best form of advertising.


6: Help you to manage a crisis

Crises come in many forms: from fire, flood or other natural disasters to the sudden death of a Chair or CEO, from cyber-attacks or data breaches to complaints on social media that suddenly get wildly out of hand. Whatever the crisis, there needs to be as short a delay as possible in telling your stakeholders, even if your information at the early stage of the crisis is incomplete. Using social media is an ideal way of responding rapidly with open and honest communications. Organisations that try to cover up or delay informing stakeholders about the crisis are generally criticized more afterwards for their delay than for the incident itself. And if the crisis is one that affects your physical place of work, like flooding or fire, then social media is something you can access from anywhere.


How can we get started?

7: Start with a social media strategy

Writing a social media strategy before you begin that defines your audience, what you want to achieve, and how you will do it is absolutely essential. Ask yourself a range of questions, such as: Who do you want to reach? What so they already know about you? What social media platforms are they using? What do you want to accomplish? What is your unique selling point (USP)? What key points do you want to get across? What resources do you have (including time)? How will your new social media strategy support and add value to your main organisational strategy? Who will be responsible for creating and posting your content? How can it help your team in their roles?


8: Decide how you can showcase your organisation at its best

You have the power to decide how you want people to see your organisation. Should your image be quirky, formal or professional? Think about your key messages, your tone of voice and any particular images you could use. What do you want them to convey? How do they fit with your brand? How can they help you to achieve your campaign goals? People are much more likely to follow and engage with your organization if they feel they’re actually engaging with a real person, so use real people on your social media profiles rather than simply your logo.


9: Choose your platforms

Although it's tempting to sign up to as many free accounts as you can, you need to keep in mind that keeping them all up to date can be very time consuming and so it makes sense to limit the accounts you set up to those that will do you the most good. For example, Twitter is a good platform for campaigning and engaging with key influencers, Facebook is great for creating communities and encouraging conversations, and LinkedIn is the place to be to make connections in the private sector. Instagram is best for sharing high quality images with engaged audiences, YouTube for posting short, snappy and funny videos, and Pinterest is great for creating and collecting visual pieces of multimedia. If you work with young people, then take heed of the message from one 15 year old who spent a week doing work experience with nfpSynergy and was asked to write a report and a blog on his experience of social media and how charities can use it to engaging with young people.


10: Listen

What’s a conversation without listening?   Remember, it’s not all about you. If you want to join in a conversation you need to listen to what’s already being said. And if you want to spark a new conversation, you still need to listen first to find out what people are interested in talking about. So take some time to learn the etiquette of your chosen platform, find out what other VCS organisations in the same sector are saying first, and find some relevant conversations to join in with.


11: Jump in!

To get a feel for it, start by replying to those sharing information about topics your organisation is interested in, strike up conversations with key stakeholders. Take it to the next step by posting about your upcoming events to get people there, or posting great photos during or after the event and thank people for getting involved. Post links to stories you think your followers might find interesting. Celebrate your achievements by announcing any awards you receive etc. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time – everyone on social media had to start somewhere.

12: Continue to participate

Aim to post something new weekly. Continue adding events, sharing links to blog posts and press releases. Ask for and give recommendations. Ask and answer questions. Take part in group discussions. The more you participate, the more you’ll build credibility and trust within your area of work/speciality. But be careful not to overshare. Your message is far-reaching and generally speaking, once it’s out there, there is very little you can do to retrieve it.


What can we use for content?

13: Keep it relevant, valuable and interesting

Ultimately, you want readers to see your content, read it, like it, comment on it and then share it with their own followers, so it’s worth taking the time and effort to create and deliver content. Get it right and the return on investment can be amazing. However, making your content interesting enough so that people want to view it and engage with it can be difficult and time-consuming.


14: Questions, questions, questions

Proactively engaging with existing supporters by asking questions is a great way of opening up the lines of communication for new audiences and those who want to make direct contact with you. Why not reach out to your supporters with Q&As or polls based on the work you do and then build your content around the responses you get. That way, people will feel an investment in your content. They are then more likely to be happy to help share the content on numerous social networks so they can continue to be part of the wider process.


15: Say it with images

Use pictures to make your content stand out. It’s been said that one picture is worth ten thousand words and it’s true that on social media it’s images, videos and human reactions that really bring your work to life. Case studies told through eye-catching, inspiring or emotive images can help forge deeper, more emotional connections with your supporters. Donations will be more forthcoming too if people can see that their contribution could help somebody just like themselves or people they know. Potential volunteers are more likely to get involved if they can picture the people they will help.


16: Become a trusted source

If you are a specialist organisation or have expert knowledge, then tell the world. If you regularly create and share compelling content that will help your followers, your credibility and reputation will grow and you will become a trusted resource that your followers know they can look to when they need help or have a question.


17: Employ the rule of thirds

Hootsuite advises using the ‘rule of thirds’ – all you need to remember is that one third of your content should be about your own organisation’s work, one third should be content relevant to your organisation and your audience and the final third should involve talking to your audience.


18: Be generous

The best way to make friends on social media is to help others promote their own events, share their news and celebrate their achievements. In return, they’re then far more likely to like what you say, comment on it and then share your content with their own followers.


How can we manage it all?

19: Create an editorial calendar

Knowing what you’ll say and when you’ll say it saves time so you can get other important things done, and having a clear plan can solve the problem of getting stuck when inspiration fails. Using a calendar also allows you to schedule your messages for optimal times – increasing the odds they’ll get seen – and helps to make sure you’re on track with deadlines. Having an editorial calendar means you can plan ahead around key events such as Christmas, Easter and whatever awareness days /weeks are relevant for your work. It can ensure you create variety in your content rather than getting stuck focusing on one channel. There are lots of examples of editorial calendar templates that are available to download from the internet.


20: Integrate your social media with your other communications

This can be as easy as timing communications to go out over different channels at the same time. For instance, you could launch a press release, an online video, a Twitter hashtag and a Facebook campaign all at the same time to maximise your impact. You could set up a Hootsuite or Buffer account to schedule social media content in advance across multiple platforms, although you mustn’t forget to still check regularly to see if you have any feedback from your followers.


21: Always include a call to action

Calls to action encourage followers to dig deeper into your organisation. Of course, each social media platform has its own calls to action– think Facebook’s ‘Share’ or the Twitter ‘re-tweet’ buttons – that can help to spread your word and do your campaign the world of good. But consider the spider’s web analogy again: to attract people into the centre of the web – your own website – in order to build your brand, you need to include links in your content itself that will take them to a specific destination. It’s all very well engaging people with great text and pulling their heart strings with wonderful images, but if there is no call to action your efforts will be wasted. So think about what you want followers to do when they view your content – donate, register for an event, sign a petition etc. – and make it easy for them by taking them to a place where they can do just that.


22: Give staff and volunteers clear guidelines on what they can and can’t say and do

You need to decide yourself whether it’s better for your particular organisation if its people have individual social media accounts, which can become difficult to control and measure, or if there will simply be a common organisational account. There are very definite plusses to having individual accounts though, in that people are more likely to engage with real people, with real personalities, but there are negatives too. For instance, you do need to be sure that they are behaving appropriately in a way that fits with your brand. Having guidelines that cover these issues makes good sense so that keeping up organisational social media does not bleed too much into the personal and dilute your brand messages.


23: Be realistic about your resources

Social media does not stick to normal business hours; it’s 24/7. Some organisations are prepared to monitor their accounts at any time of day or night, whilst others fit it in when they can. If you fit into the latter group, then you need to set expectations so your supporters know to expect a delayed response – try pinning community guidelines to the top of your page. Also, be realistic about the time commitment you really need to make to do social media properly and allocate the resource for it. Once you’ve built up a following, there’s nothing worse than having only outdated information on there and no new content for months.


24: Keep your profile updated

As more people look to social media to find out information about organisations, it’s vital that your social media profile is current and professional so you don’t waste the opportunity to promote your organisation and gain new supporters. Keep it up to date with contact details, projects, awards etc. to give viewers as much information about your organisation as they need to prompt them to engage with you.


How can we measure our success?

25: Think about your overall aims

Think about what you need to be able to report on. This could be the number of signatures on a petition, the amount of money raised, or the number of volunteer recruited. Whatever it is, use this language to create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals, be specific about how social media can help you and how you will measure it.


26: Take a snapshot of your starting point

Benchmark where you stand right at the start of any campaign, so you will know what to measure activity against later. Don’t just think about the obvious, such as existing Facebook friends and Twitter followers, referrals you’ve had already from social media, and website traffic etc. Also consider things like SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings and referrals and customer satisfaction scores, as well as the return on investment you’ve had before using traditional marketing methods.


27: Use a URL shortener

A URL shortener is an online application that converts a regular URL (the web address that starts with http://) into its condensed format. and are good examples. There are several advantages to using a shortener: not only will they save on characters in sites like Twitter (which limits posts to only 140 characters) and can usually be customised to link with your campaign, you can also access metrics via the shortened link to keep track on activity through the link.


28: Take advantage of the other metrics available

There are a whole host of other tools available to help you measure the impact of your social media efforts. Many of the main social media networks have their own analytics, including Facebook Insights and Twitter analytics. Then there are other tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetreach, Buffer and many more. Google Analytics offers the option of setting up a personalised dashboard that will keep track of the goals critical to your business via URLs, time, pages per visit, or events. It will measure not only how much traffic is coming to your website via social media but also what people are doing as a result, and you can you can print the results to show in pounds and pence the real impact your social media efforts are having.


29: Get your board on board

Think about how your reporting could encourage your board or management team to support social media. Don’t only present them with the raw data. Instead, use the data to tell the story – as with traditional forms of marketing, it’s always more effective to illustrate the real impact of a campaign through case studies of the people you’ve helped, so tell stories about individual supporters’ journeys that have involved social media.


30: Don’t forget, not everything that can be measured matters

Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”. Just because you can report a number, doesn’t mean you always should. In social media it can be easy to get carried away with statistics like follower growth, but they may not be the best way to demonstrate achievement towards your organisational or project aims – particularly if this activity is not then being converted into measures of real success such as funds raised or volunteer recruitment. If you’re not careful, you may miss the signs that something is not working, which is why it is always best to measure both on and offline metrics and to only report the numbers you can take action on.


In putting together these 30 tips to help you get the most from social media, we have relied on some invaluable resources, the main ones being from CharityComms, NCVO’s KnowhowNonprofit, Inspiria Media and Kiss Metrics. Thank you to all of these organisations for providing such a wealth of information.

If you have any thoughts on social media or on this blog you'd like to share, please get in touch: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jigsaw Heart


Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


Whilst at our recent Volunteering Fair during Volunteers’ Week in June a colleague met with David, who was there to represent MacMillan - Cancer Support. David said he would be interested in talking to me about his role, in the hope that sharing his experience may encourage others to volunteer.

David explained he came from a business background and had looked forward to retirement, but within 6 weeks of his newly found freedom he found himself very bored indeed. He thought about some kind of volunteering and contacting Northumberland CVA. However a period of ill health caused him to back away from this idea for a while. Eventually though, and after a period of recovery, he came back to the idea and approached Northumberland CVA again and, from a list of charities looking for volunteer help he decided he might like to volunteer as a fund raiser for MacMillan.

He began by telephoning the regional manager and was asked to go in to discuss the role, face to face. David laughs when asked about his first impression of the role, saying that at the very first meeting he was literally thrown in at the deep end when he was invited to talk about fund raising at a public event.  

Although David’s previous career involved public speaking, his volunteering has taught him to adapt what he is saying to a particular but varied audience. “You see everyone is touched by cancer, but most know only about the name (MacMillan) and the nurses, yet it’s much more than that…It’s about the identifying the need not only of the person who has been diagnosed with cancer but the broader family. A cancer diagnosis can turn any family upside down and Macmillan is there to help”.

David described an example of a lady with terminal cancer, who lost 9 and a half stone – so much weight in fact that none of her clothes fitted her. MacMillan stepped in to provide her with a whole new wardrobe so she could continue as normal with her life. “You see MacMillan is always looking at ways to get help, to where it’s needed the most. We employ many other medical professionals such as dieticians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, as well as benefits rights specialists who are not necessarily accessible or available when they’re needed most.”

Although David said he had no initial expectations of the volunteer role, he now realises just how little he did know and smiles saying, “I’ve learnt I’m allowed to say no!”

David’s role currently includes representing Macmillan at fund raising events, giving talks to local groups and societies, assisting with street collections, collecting Macmillan Charity Boxes from pubs and businesses and banking the donations. He says he and his fellow volunteers have a lot of fun. “We have a laugh and meet some fascinating people! Just recently we were at Hexham races and had some ‘good crack’ with the people there.”  He describes his colleagues as “very friendly; like family!”

When asked whether he felt he’d developed through volunteering, either in relation to his skills or as a person, David explained he had sharpened his communication skills, although he says “I continue to be as outgoing and as manic as ever!!”

He also feels he has developed some new skills and now has a deeper level of empathy – an example of which is: “when I visited a couple in their 80’s, who had recently lost their only son to cancer, to collect their donation to MacMillan. Their grief and loss really touched me”.

David receives regular support and feedback. He is in regular touch with his 3 separate area managers. He has some autonomy in his role and loves travelling, which is just as well, as he travels a lot between Northumberland, Newcastle, North Shields, the Tyne area, and has even gone as far down as Sunderland! (Mileage paid, of course!) David explained that for some strange reason he also appears much busier in the winter, but overall he enjoys the flexibility of the hours and could work anywhere from 0-3 times per week.

Finally, when asked what THE most positive thing had been about volunteering David appeared stuck for words but, after a moment of reflection said, “That’s a hard question, but I think it has given my life some purpose… It’s about being part of something worthwhile!”

What a lovely emotive description of one individual’s freely given time and help for others! I would think this statement also sums up the whole volunteering experience for many people!!

If you or anyone you know has experience as a volunteer and would like to share your story with me – it can be anonymous if you wish – please contact me, the Anonymous Blogger, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Northumberland CVA

Providing 30 years of support to the voluntary and community sector


June: Funding your activities


Summer tends to be a time for fundraisers in many voluntary and community organisations to take advantage of a lull in activities while schools are closed down and service users go off on annual holiday to polish off some applications for funding. Of course, for some other organisations this will be their busiest time and they may not have time to even read the criteria, let alone fill in complicated funding application forms.

Whichever group you fall into, a list of the top funding sources for community groups in Northumberland is sure to come in handy at some point, and my colleague Marc Johnson, our Development Officer for Funding (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), has kindly put together a collection of 30 of them.


1: 1989 Willan Charitable Trust

This Trust funds charitable activities benefitting residents of Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, County Durham and Teesside. Priority is given to applicants which: Ease social deprivation and/or enrich the fabric of the local community and the quality of life of individuals within that community.

The 1989 Willan Charitable Trust’s grant making in the North East region is supported by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which receives and vetts applications for the trustees. Full details of the application process, which is different to the Community Foundation’s usual process, can be found on the website.


2: Arts Council England

‘Grants for the Arts’ is the open access funding programme for individuals and organisations that use the arts in their work. Grants range from £1,000 to £100,000. There are no specific deadlines for applications; applications below £15,000 receive a decision within 6-weeks and those over £15,000 within 12 weeks.

Full details are available online:


3: Ballinger Charitable Trust

The Ballinger Charitable Trust was founded in 1994 and supports charities, voluntary and community organisations in North East England through the provision of grants. The focus of the trust is to: support the health, development and wellbeing of young people; support the elderly; promote cultural/arts projects based in the North East of England. There are no specific deadlines for applications and decisions are made on a regular basis. Although there are no set limits on the amount that can be applied for, the range of grants varies from a few hundred pounds to £500,000.

Full details and initial application form is available online:


4: The Barbour Foundation

The Barbour Foundation was founded in 1988 and focuses on making grants to institutions who deal with community welfare, housing and social deprivation issues, mainly in the North East of England. Grant amounts range from a few hundred pounds to around £50,000, although there are no set limits.

The foundation does not have its own website and further details can be found on the Charity Commission website: . Application is by letter to:

Mrs A Harvey, PO Box 21, Guisborough, Cleveland, TS14 6YH


5: Banks, Building Societies and Financial Services

Most banks, building societies and other financial services, such as insurance companies, have grant giving foundations linked to them. Their approach to grant giving varies and it is worth a web search to see if the provider you use or your local branch has funding available. Some of the main funds include:


6: BBC Children in Need

Grants are given to projects that work with children and young people 18 years and under that experience disadvantage through: illness, distress, abuse or neglect; any kind of disability; behavioural or psychological difficulties; living in poverty or situations of deprivation

There are two grant programmes. The Small Grant fund provides grants of up to £10,000 per year for a maximum of 3 years. The Main Grant fund provides grants of over £10,000 per year for a maximum of 3 years. There is no upper limit but very few grants are made above £40,000 per year.

Full details are available online .


7: BIG Lottery Fund

The two main programmes to be aware of at the Big Lottery Fund are both responsive to meeting the needs identified by the community. Awards for All is the small grants scheme that funds local community-based projects in the UK. Grants of between £300 and £10,000 are available to help make a real difference in your community, for projects that last no more than 12-months. Reaching Communities is a large grant scheme, providing grants from £10,000 to £500,000 for projects that can last for up to 5 years.

To find out more about the BIG Lottery and all its funding programmes, please visit their website at


8: Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust

The Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust receives royalties from the sale of books and other materials written by the prolific author, these royalties enable the trust to donate around £1m each year. The Trust supports a wide range of activities including education and training, environment and conservation, arts and culture as well as general charitable purposes. The Trust’s principal aim is to identify and meet the local needs of the area in which Dame Catherine was brought up and resided. In particular the Trust supports work with young or disadvantaged people. Grants awarded are between £250 and £100,000.

Full details are available on the Trust’s website –


9: Comic Relief

Comic Relief’s vision is ‘A Just World Free from Poverty, where everyone is safe, healthy, educated and empowered’. They have four programme areas:

  • Investing in children and young people to be ready for the future
  • Empowering women and girls so they’re safe and free to lead the lives they choose
  • Improving health and wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged people
  • Building stronger communities in areas of disadvantage, deprivation and poverty

They do not have an open funding programme and instead issues calls for specific projects. Details of call for applications can be found on their website


10: Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland manages a variety of different funds that are intended to support local groups who 'deliver valuable opportunities, support and help to the people in their communities' in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. Funding is available for general running costs, specific projects or activities, or for the costs of capital developments or equipment.

You can make a general application at any time, which could be considered by a range of funds managed by the foundation, or make an application in response to a specific call for applications. The average grant size is around £4,500 but many grants are much lower than this. Full details are available on the Community Foundation’s website -


11: E C Graham Belford Charitable Settlement

The E C Graham Belford Charitable Settlement makes grants to smaller charities throughout Northumberland. The charity awards around £100,000 per year to charities in Northumberland with the maximum grant size of £10,000.

Application is by letter and contact details are available on the Charity Commission page:


12: Garfield Weston Foundation

One-off grants are available to charitable organisations in the UK for a wide range of projects in the Arts, Community, Education, Welfare, Medical, Youth, Religion, and Environment. The Foundation funds a wide range of charitable projects, including contributions to running costs. On average, approximately 1,500 charities across the UK benefit each year from grants made by the Foundation ranging from the smallest community and volunteer projects through to large national organisations.

There are no limits to the size of grant and each application is considered on its own merit. Typically the Trustees prefer to see that a significant proportion of a project’s costs have been secured before considering an application and that a robust fundraising strategy and business plan are in place. More information is available on the Garfield Weston Foundation‘s website


13: Greggs Foundation

The Foundation’s major grants programme is called the ‘North East Core Fund’. This fund makes grants to organisations to support core running costs. Grants of up to £15,000 per year for up to three years are available and the programme tends to support organisations that work in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the North East of England, or organisations that support otherwise disadvantaged people, particularly those that support the following priority groups: People with Disabilities; Homeless people; Voluntary Carers; Older and isolated people.

The ‘Local Community Project Fund’ is offered to organisations supporting people in need. Any not-for-profit organisations can apply, although larger organisations with a turnover in excess of £300,000 are unlikely to be successful.  The maximum grant is £2000 and all projects must support a community of interest, i.e. people who are: Disabled or suffering chronic illness; Living in poverty; Voluntary carers; Homeless; Isolated older people; Other demonstrable significant need.

The ‘Environmental Grants’ programme aims to improve peoples’ lives by improving the environment. Grants are for a maximum of £2000. More details on all funds can be found at


14: Hadrian Trust

Grants are to help social welfare and charitable organisations working to improve the lives of people in the North East of England. Applications are considered under the following headings: Social Welfare; The Disabled; Youth; Ethnic minorities; Women; The Elderly; Arts; Environment; Education.

Grants usually range from £500 to £2,000 and may be for a specific project or part of a project, purchase of equipment or as a contribution to running costs. The Trustees meet on a quarterly basis and letters of application need to be with them three weeks before the meeting date. Details are available on the Hadrian Trust’s website:


15: Heritage Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund offers a range of different grant programmes, with grants from £3,000 to over £5million. In assessing applications, the outcomes for heritage as well as the people and communities that a project will achieve will be taken into account. The most community-based programmes are:

  • Sharing Heritage - Explore your community’s heritage with a grant of £3,000–£10,000. Applying through this programme is straightforward, with a short application form and a quick decision.
  • Young Roots - Apply for a grant of £10,000-£50,000 to help young people aged 11 to 25 to explore their heritage, from green spaces, museums, and historic sites to language, local memories and youth culture.
  • First World War: Then and Now - Explore the heritage of the First World War with grants of £3,000–£10,000. This programme has a short application form, and is suitable for everyone, including first-time applicants.

Find detail on all grant programmes at:


16: The Joicey Trust

This trust provides support to registered charities to carry out charitable projects within Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Grants range up to £10,000. Most grants awarded are under £2,000.

Trustees meet twice a year and applications need to be submitted by 30th November and 31st May in order to be considered by the trustees at their meeting, which can be two months later than the deadline. More information on the application procedure can be found on their website -


17: Landfill Communities Fund

The Landfill Communities Fund is a tax credit scheme that offsets some of the negative impacts of living near a landfill site. The following three funds are available in specific parts of Northumberland and each have their own criteria.


18: LEADER Programme

LEADER is an area-based approach that ensures development is appropriate for that area. LEADER views local people as the main asset of rural areas and empowers them to decide what is best suited to their own environment, culture, working traditions and skills. The overall goal for LEADER is to improve the quality of life in rural areas.

There are 3 LEADER areas in Northumberland – Coast & Lowland; Uplands and North Pennine Dales. Each LEADER project must support one of the following: Increasing farm productivity; Micro and small enterprises and diversification; Rural Tourism; Provision of rural services; Cultural and heritage activity; Increasing forestry productivity. For more information visit


19: Lottery Distributors

The National Lottery provides funds to Arts Council England, Big Lottery, Heritage Lottery and Sport England, and there are other Lotteries which provide funding for good causes:

People’s Health Trust is funded by the 51 society lotteries that are managed by the health lottery. They provide funding to address health inequalities and create fairer places in which to grow, live, work and age. They provide funding for specific local areas within Northumberland. The maximum grant is £50,000 over two years. Find more information at

People’s Postcode Lottery awards funds through a number of different trusts:


20: Northumberland County Council

Northumberland County Council provides or manages a range of potential funding sources:

  • Community Chest – We are awaiting guidance and dates for the Community Chest which we expect to launch soon. The previous scheme supported one-off initiatives that are seen as valuable to the area and are not able to secure mainstream funding from the council or other sources. The maximum grant was £10,000
  • Members’ local improvement schemes – Each County Councillor has an annual budget of £15,000 for local projects in their area. This is predominantly for capital projects.
  • Housing Developer Fund - Section 106 agreements are sometimes entered into with housing developers to fund sport and play in some areas of Northumberland.

Visit the County Council’s website for full details:


21: Protected Landscapes (National Park & AONB)

Northumberland National Park and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty both have funding available to help people care for, enjoy and understand the special characteristics of the areas.


22: R W Mann Trust

The Trust’s objectives are wide ranging but it exists mainly to help improve the lives of people and communities in the North Tyneside, South Northumberland and East Newcastle area of the North East. The Trustees may award grants outside these areas if they believe that a project or group offers exceptional value and is within the Tyne and Wear and South Tyneside areas.

Grants made have varied between regular annual contributions, small one-off donations and grants for capital projects. The Trust has made grants of between £100 and £10,000 but the average size of grant awarded is £1000.

Visit the trust’s website for more details:


23: The Rothley Trust

The Rothley Trust gives small grants to assist groups with charitable work in the north east. The Trust focuses on the needs of children and young people in areas of disadvantage. It also supports community development and the groups which help people with disabilities. The trust meets on a quarterly basis to consider applications.

Application is by letter. Please see the website for details on what to include when making an application:


24: Sir James Knott Trust

The aim of the Sir James Knott Trust is to help improve the conditions of people living and working in the North East of England. Grants are awarded in the following areas: Arts and Culture; Service Charities; Public Services; Housing; Heritage; Health and Sport; Education and Training; Environment; Community Issues and Events; and Maritime.

Applications for funding under £1,000 may be made all year round and will be presented to a Trustee usually within four to six weeks. For funding over £1,000, applications must be submitted for consideration at Trustee meetings, usually held in spring, summer and autumn. For the ‘Under £1,000’ scheme the average grant is £500 and for the ‘Meeting’ grants the average is £4,500. Full details are available on the Sir James Knott Trust’s website


25: Sport England

Sport England distributes money from the National Lottery. As you would imagine, they fund both elite and amateur sport in England but have recently started to fund projects that help people to get active even if it isn’t directly through sport.

You can keep up to date with the open programmes by visiting their website (some funds are ongoing and some have deadlines):


26: The Stuart Halbert Foundation

The Stuart Halbert Foundation was set up in 2010 to commemorate the important role that Stuart Halbert played in the evolution of Kilfrost into a global business. The criteria of the fund are to provide support for: People; Animal welfare; Armed forces; Local community.

Grant giving has reduced in recent years. Full details can be found on their website:


27: Supermarket Charity Funds

Most supermarkets have funds that they give to charities. Some of this giving is through causes and charities that the supermarket choses but the majority have an application procedure:


28: Town & Parish Councils

Some Town and Parish Councils have their own community grant scheme with set deadlines, criteria and application forms, whilst a larger number respond to requests from the community or further afield. It is always worth keeping in contact with your local council and finding out how they provide community grants and when they make decisions. The Northumberland Association of Local Councils has a directory of Town & Parish Councils


29: Trusthouse Charitable Foundation

Grants are available to charitable and not-for-profit organisations in the UK for projects that address issues of health and disability; community support; and arts education and heritage. Grants are available at a range of different levels depending on the type of project and the size of organisation. The maximum grant is £50,000. More details are available on the Trusthouse’s website -


30: Wind Farm Community Benefit Schemes

There are three organisations that manage grant programmes on behalf of windfarm operators:


The resources page of our website holds a collection of factsheets that can help you to create a fundraising strategy for your organisation and make sure you are ready for funding. Check them out at

Northumberland CVA hosts regular Funding Fairs across of the county, which give community groups the opportunity to have discussions with a range of national, regional and local funders in an informal and relaxed environment about their project. We advertise these events on our website and in our regular fortnightly VCS Support Services e-bulletin. You can join our mailing list via our home page.

If you’re a voluntary and community organisation based in Northumberland and you’d like some advice on finding funding for your activities, why not contact Marc at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01670 858688.

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Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous blogger

My adventures in volunteering have come thick and fast just recently. Not only have I had the opportunity to write a blog and visit some of the organisations who take on volunteers, but the past couple of weeks have been particularly exciting and challenging!

Firstly, on 23rd May, myself and Michelle Cadby – the volunteering Development Officer at Northumberland NCVA – were guests on Koast Radio to publicise our Volunteer Fair in Ashington during Volunteers’ Week. Then, on the day of the fair itself, I helped Michelle and the team set up and host the event at Wansbeck Square in Ashington.

Our visit to Koast Radio was something completely new to me. We talked to Martin, who volunteers as a DJ at the station, to discuss the role of the NCVA. Michelle began by explaining that our organisation not only gives support and advice on good practice and management to other organisations who offer volunteering opportunities, but we also support the volunteer to finding a position via our database of vacancies. Michelle talked about the forthcoming Volunteers’ Fair in Ashington – our main purpose for being there – and encouraged listeners to come along for three reasons: to meet with representatives from organisations looking for volunteers, to gain valuable volunteering information, and last but certainly not least to pick up a free cupcake!

I then explained the idea behind my Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland blog series and how I hoped my posts would show people the variety of opportunities and experiences that are out there and encourage others to start volunteering. I also expressed my surprise (only four months on from beginning to volunteer) at being a guest on an (actual!) radio station.

While we were at the radio station Ian Conway, Koast’s Business Development Manager, generously offered his help at our forthcoming Fair. In fact, when the day came round Ian and his colleagues provided some great entertainment with music (and dancing!!) to help us celebrate National Volunteers’ Week.

Thanks to Michelle and the team from NCVA, the set up for the event went very smoothly and apart from the rain, a problem with defiant shutters that would not open, and blue tack that refused to stick (due to the high humidity levels), all went well. The Fair was very well attended by organisations who wanted to recruit volunteers and there were a lot of interested people wandering in to find out more.

In fact, I was lucky enough to speak to two prospective volunteers who had apparently heard about the Fair through an Occupational Therapist at the Recovery College at Ashmore House. One lady wanted a voluntary role that would specifically help her to gain a social care college placement. But both were eager to gain experience that would set them on the road to a new career, to do something that would help others and use the skills they already had.

I also met Vicky, who works at Newcastle Building Society in Ashington and had been given time by her employer to volunteer her services at the Fair. She readily jumped in to help set up the room and decorate the place and get things ready. Vicky explained that the building society actually offers all of its staff 2 days per year paid leave to volunteer for good causes. I was amazed at this level of generosity, both from the perspective of the employee and the employer. Indeed, it is heart-warming in these times of ‘cut backs’ and scarce resources to know that there are corporate bodies out there who, rather altruistically, take on board such social responsibility.

I’m having a wonderful time on this roller-coaster of new experiences and, as usual, I’d love to talk to other volunteers about their own roles. Has volunteering allowed you to try things you’d never dreamt you’d be able to do? Do get in touch to let me know about your own experiences. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous blogger


As the month of May is Local and Community History Month, I thought it would be interesting to interview a volunteer whose work involves caretaking the past.

I therefore contacted Bailiffgate Museum (in Alnwick) and they put me in touch with Mick who is one of their volunteers.  Mick is a retired Head of Department who had previously lectured at a college in the midlands.  He taught Sociology and the Humanities at A Level and admits to a long term interest in history.

I had an interesting chat over the phone with Mick, who described his role as “the go-to person” regarding objects in store and putting an exhibition together.  Mick defined his role as rather like a collections manager, in as much as he supervises 7-8 other volunteers and organises and prioritises jobs and tasks for his group of helpers.  Mick said he enjoys collating archives and cataloguing items for the exhibits, but also said he particularly enjoys the digital restoration of photos, which he scans and Photo-shops, to bring more clarity to old images. 

To find out more about Mick’s motivations and how he began volunteering, I asked him a series of questions:

ME: Hi Mick can you tell me why you decided to volunteer?

MICK: Yes, when I retired I moved to the North East (almost five years ago now!) where I have family and grandchildren, and I thought the experience would give me a focus, an interest.  It was also a way to meet new people as I was new to the area.  I also help out at the amateur theatre groups in Alnwick and this way I did get to know the town and the people.

ME: Did you have any pre-conceptions about what your role would be?

MICK: No, not really!  I did know that there wouldn’t be too much pressure or expectation regarding the number of hours worked, like there is when you’re employed full time.  It is totally up to me how many hours I do and how often I work.  For instance, I normally volunteer Tuesdays and Fridays and do approximately 20 hours a week, but sometimes I can do up to 4 days per week.  I don’t mind because I enjoy the work and I also take some digital work home with me.

ME: What have been your most positive or negative experiences?

MICK: Oh, when I first started I was given a role ‘front of house’ working in the Reception, which could sometimes be less satisfying when the museum was not busy. While I do like meeting and greeting people, working behind the scenes gives me more flexibility of commitment and I like the work I’m doing now, where I can express preferences through choice of collections etc.

ME: What support are you given in your role?

MICK: I was given good support I suppose, but I have to admit it has improved over the years. I had an induction when I started and now I also have regular reviews and appraisals, which I find helpful.

ME: Do you get any help with expenses?

MICK: I only live 20 minutes away so it’s not an issue as I walk to work, but I do get travel expenses if I go to meetings out of area.

From my conversation with Mick it is obvious that he has a lot of autonomy within his role, and finds volunteering very rewarding and enjoyable.   

If you or anybody you know would like to participate in a future Blog about your volunteering experience, please feel free to contact me at this address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


May: Preparing for Volunteers' Week - just the time for our second monthly collection of 30 top tips, this time with a volunteering theme, in celebration of our thirty years of delivering support to the voluntary and community sector


In order to find great volunteers, we need to first understand why people choose to give their time for free.  

A lot has been written over the years about wanting to ‘make a difference’, ‘give back to society’ or ‘learn new skills’ – all very laudable concepts, but also very broad and woolly.  For voluntary and community organisations to even start to target their meagre resources, we need something far more specific.

But before looking further into the ‘whys’, let’s first look at what volunteering actually is! 

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) defines volunteering as:  “Any activity that involves spending unpaid time doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives.  Central to this definition is the fact that volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual.”

So, what would motivate a person to make such a choice?   Well, according to Volunteer Power, most people generally respond to three levels of motivation:

  • The Basic Level is the Self-serving drive.  This requires that the potential volunteer personally gets something out of it.
  • The Secondary Level is the Relational drive.  Many people join an organization as volunteers because they were recruited by a friend.
  • The Highest Level is the Belief drive,whereby true believers are already passionate about the cause.



So, if we assume that the latter two levels require some recruitment but not a lot, it makes a lot of common sense for organisations in need of volunteers to focus their recruitment efforts towards the Basic Level of Motivation.  

But how can we do that? How can we motivate volunteers to take that first step towards applying for our own opportunities if their passion level for our cause is nowhere near fever pitch and they’re not being chivvied to our doors by friends or family members?  As Volunteer Power put it, “what are the external stimuli we can use to arouse that inner motivation?”

Easy! We need to let them know what’s in it for them, and that process needs to start long before we even get to meet any prospective volunteers:

1: Be specific when writing your role descriptions

Rather than just making a generic ‘volunteers needed’ appeal, offer a variety of roles – some more or less challenging than others.  Prospective volunteers are far less likely to apply for a role if the description is so vague they don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for.

2: Don’t fudge the requirements 

If the role requires specific skills, or strengths, or even simply a certain level of fortitude and this is not made clear in the role description, the confidence of any new volunteer is sure to be shattered if they turn up on their first day only to discover that their given tasks demand a degree level knowledge of IT they don’t have, that they’ll be expected to clean up unsavoury messes, or that they’ll need to be able to perform tasks that are far more physically demanding than they anticipated.  Be honest right from the start.  If you find just one perfect volunteer who revels in taking on such challenges, that would be far better than losing several disgruntled volunteers.

3: Keep the time that’s required as flexible as possible

These days, everyone seems to feel as if there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and that applies to volunteers too; it’s not many who’d be sitting idly at home twiddling their thumbs if not for the time they give to your cause.  So if you can build time flexibility into your volunteering opportunities, your volunteers will feel comfortable with their commitment and are more likely to enjoy, and continue, their volunteering experience.  Obviously, this isn’t for organisations for which certain duties can only be done at certain times of the day or those with activities needing to be manned to a given level at specific times.  But if you can offer at least some flexibility you could attract a host of would-be volunteers from often under-tapped target groups like full-time workers, students or disabled people.

4: Make clear the physical, emotional or psychological benefits to be had from the work

Volunteering is good for your health – it’s a proven fact.  Studies have shown that volunteering not only helps people feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression, but can also improve physical health by lowering blood pressure and increasing lifespan.  What’s not to love about that?  So make sure you capitalise on this in your role descriptions by referring to the feel-good aspect of volunteering.

5: Emphasise the skills a volunteer can develop

Volunteering is also a well-recognised route to employment, so when writing your role descriptions, remember, it’s not only the hard, industry- or sector-related skills that volunteers have the opportunity to learn.  There are many soft skills to be developed through volunteering that are also highly desirable to employers: the ability to work as part of a team, leadership, problem solving and adaptability, communicating with clients and stakeholders, the ability to plan and prioritise work, time management, report writing and improved interpersonal skills to name just a few.  So do expand on how the experience will equip a volunteer in future employment.  Be sure to list all the skills that apply so you don’t miss out on any ultra-keen would-be volunteers who create an inventory of their existing skills, look at what’s missing and then seek out a volunteering role that will help plug the gaps.

6: Highlight how important a volunteer’s key transferable skills are to your organisation

For some people, volunteering is more about being able to exercise their existing skills to help an organisation rather than learning new skills, so they search for opportunities on the basis of the skills they already possess.  Let them know just how vital those skills are to you and how you can use them in the work of your organisation.

7: Show how their volunteering will help the local community or society as a whole

It’s important that a volunteer is able to see the big picture – to know exactly how their contribution makes a difference – so explain how the role you’re advertising will link to your organisation’s strategic aims and contribute towards achieving the overall mission, thereby making the local community, wider society, or even the whole world a much better place. 

8: Emphasise the social aspect of the volunteering experience

Volunteering is a great way to combat loneliness while also making a difference in the world, and the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends is a common motivating factor for many potential volunteers.  Make sure your role descriptions let interested people know they’ll become a valued part of a team of individuals who care about the same social issues that have doubtless caught their own eye.  Just like your volunteers-to-be, they want to make the world a better place – and that’s a great place to start a friendship

9: Offer to cover costs (i.e. travel expenses)

The reimbursement of out of pocket expenses is a vital motivating factor.  No volunteer should be out of pocket for volunteering and by ensuring – and stating in your role description – that reimbursement of expenses is available, an organisation will encourage more people to consider volunteering with them.  This will help to recruit a volunteer team that is diverse and reflective of the community in which an organisation or group operates.  Non-payment of expenses can be a significant barrier both to people on low incomes and to individuals who are happy to give their time for free but don’t believe it should impact on them financially.

10: Emphasise opportunities to escape

While many people want to make a difference in their own local community or simply don’t want to have to travel far to volunteer, others yearn for something more exotic, far removed from their usual humdrum life, and if you can offer opportunities that appeal to these itchy-footed, intrepid adventurers you can tap into a rich seam of volunteering willingness.  The danger of course is that they’ll soon spot an adventure even more alluring and be off again.



Okay, so you’ve created and advertised some juicy volunteer opportunities and you now have some keen new recruits.  From their very first day you need to make them feel welcome and valued.  It may well have taken some courage to get to your front door, so how well day’s one, two and three go will have a lasting impact on a volunteer's long-term commitment.

11: Always think of the volunteers’ perspective

Think about how a volunteer must feel as they walk into a strange new situation full of people they don’t yet know, with no idea what to do, where to hang their coat or even where the toilet is.  Welcome them with a smile as you would hope to be welcomed yourself in that position.  Give them a tour and show them where everything is so they can get their bearings.

12: Provide a thorough induction process

Inductions are not just for paid workers.  Explain the history, ethos and structure of the organisation, set some ‘ground rules’ and discuss the big picture so volunteers can get a feel of how their role will contribute to the overall work.  Other issues such as policies and procedures, health and safety, data protection and safeguarding should also be part of this process.

13: Introduce the team

Take the volunteer round to meet each member of the team individually to help them feel part of things.  It’s important to allow a little bit of time for a chat with each one so the volunteer isn’t just presented with a sea of faces they’re never going to be able to connect with a name as soon as their first shift has ended.  If they can get to know a little about each person’s role they can start to make a mental map of how every aspect of your organisation fits together, and it will help if you can include in the induction a document that explains the team structure with photos of each member.

14: Appoint a mentor/point of contact

Ensure each volunteer knows who they can go to with any concerns in an informal way so that little molehill issues don’t have the opportunity to turn into huge unconquerable mountains.  Volunteers also need to have regular catch-ups with the volunteer manager/co-ordinator for mutual feedback.

15: Make clear your expectations

From the very first day, make sure that your volunteers are clear about the standards expected and what you’re looking to achieve. That way everyone will benefit from the experience.  Failing to do so is simply setting volunteers up to fail and is sure to knock their confidence.

16: Provide opportunities for new volunteers to shadow old hands

During their first couple of shifts, new volunteers may find it easier to learn about their new role and the culture of the organisation by shadowing a current volunteer, and it can also help to ease new recruits in as part of the team. 

17: Offer training opportunities

Not only will ongoing training help a volunteer in their current role, it’s a good idea to also include volunteers in any training opportunities that will allow them to gain additional skills that they can add to their CV – even better if the training allows them to gain an accredited qualification as a reward for their contribution to your cause.  And it’s not just those with employment as their goal who will appreciate the opportunity to learn; anyone who has taken that step into volunteering is likely to have a healthy curiosity and willingness to try new things.

18: Ensure they have access to the resources they need

If you don’t have a computer available for a new office volunteer, or your volunteer gardeners don’t have enough tools to go around, then you’re not going to maintain their enthusiasm for long.  Even with limited funds, there are ways for organisations to find the equipment needed for the roles you have created, but this needs to happen before recruitment.  So why not make an appeal for community donations of equipment or submit a funding application.

19: Let your volunteers know exactly how they are making a difference.

Share success stories.  Keep volunteers up-to-date on progress toward your organisation's goals.  Let them see your work in action through tours, presentations about project achievements, and by inviting them to provide suggestions about how your work can be done even better.

20: Thank your volunteers

Be around when the volunteer's shift is over to thank them for their work.  Have a chat about how they’ve found it and give some feedback.   If there have been issues, remind the volunteer that she or he is still in training and that improvement will come with practice.  Confirm the next time they’ll be coming in and tell them how lovely it is to have a new member on the team.  Such courtesies are not just for show; they are part of the process of making the volunteer want to return again and again.



This last point may seem like a no-brainer but sometimes, however much the intention is there to express your thanks when the volunteer is actually present, workloads can have a habit of getting in the way.  This means the volunteer may have reached the end of their shift and gone home feeling very unappreciated and underwhelmed by their experience, simply because no-one found the time to tell them just how much their help has been appreciated.  So if you really can’t be around at the end of their shift, particularly for the first few, then you really do need to find a multitude of other ways of expressing your gratitude.  Here are a few suggestions:

21: Remember Christmas and birthdays

Post a hand written card or drop your volunteer a little note at Christmastime or when it’s their birthday.  We’re all so wrapped up in the electronic age of e-mails and texting and social media that nowadays a hand written letter, note or card on special occasions is far more personal.  And don’t forget to put a real stamp on it – nothing will spoil the effect of your handwritten note more than franked postage on the envelope.

22: Send handwritten notes of appreciation

Don’t just wait for birthdays and Christmas.  Handwritten notes sent through the mail at any time have become rare, so when they do arrive they’re noticed and appreciated.  You might want to send one after a volunteer has done something especially nice or completed a specific piece of work, but anytime is good.  Keep a pack of really nice notelets or thank you cards handy or have some postcards printed with your logo and your most iconic photos on them.  Have several versions of the postcard made up so that you won't be sending the same ones over and over to the same people, and make them large enough that you can write a reasonable message, and so they’ll stand out when arriving in the mail.   

23: Send a letter of thanks and recognition to the volunteer’s employer

If you have people who are being supported by their employer to volunteer with you, this is an excellent way to say thank you, especially when some of the donated time has been during regular business hours. It also speaks volumes to the employer about the volunteer’s integrity and work ethic.

24: Recognize milestones

Celebrate the longevity of a volunteers’ support.  Having long-serving volunteers gives an organisation a reliable base of people they can rely on, so let them know how essential their work is by highlighting organisational achievements during your time together and applaud your volunteers’ milestones with a personalized email, social media post, postcard or phone call.

24: Capture the moment

Take photos of volunteers 'on the job', imprint them with a 'thank you' message and frame them – then give them to each volunteer.  If you have a notice board inside your reception, consider turning it into a volunteer appreciation board and add photographs of your volunteers in action.

25: Create a scrapbook

Have staff and clients write comments and quotes about the difference volunteers make and organise them in a scrapbook, have them printed in a booklet and mailed out, or share them at a recognition event.  Include photos and brief descriptions of the projects they relate to and the volunteers involved.

26: Host a "Volunteer Appreciation Event"

This could be a coffee morning, a lunch, dinner, barbecue or even a picnic that features testimonials to the volunteers from recipients of services.  Make it an awards ceremony within your organisation and provide certificates of appreciation to your volunteers, or present them with coins that add up to the amount of hours contributed placed in a container and tied with a ribbon.  Volunteers’ Week is a wonderful opportunity to host this kind of event.   

27: Nominate your volunteers for national recognition awards

The Beacon Awards or National Citizen Awards are examples of national recognition awards for the work of volunteers.  Keep informed of what is going on and how to make nominations so you don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate your volunteers.

28: Give your volunteers appropriate role titles

Don’t just use the label "Volunteer".  Each volunteer should have a defined role within your organisation.  Acknowledging this in a specific role title which reflects the work they do helps to make your volunteers feel a valued part of the team.

29: Allow volunteers to take on more challenging responsibilities

Enable volunteers to 'grow' on the job.  Let them put their names to, and take credit for, something they have helped to produce or to make happen and provide progression routes to more advanced work.  Ask for volunteer participation in planning that affects their work and encourage them to sit on committees and attend meetings

30: All of the above, and more

Don’t rest on your laurels.  Continue to create opportunities to thank your volunteers in as many different ways as you can.  After all, where on earth would you be without them?


Whether you are an organisation already working with volunteers or are just setting up your volunteer programme, Northumberland CVA can offer support and advice on recruiting and supporting your volunteers. 

Our website contains a collection of useful factsheets and other resources that cover every aspect of involving volunteers:

Our Volunteer Connect web-based database provides vastly improved search options for prospective volunteers and allows volunteer involving organisations to manage their own online profile, to add, update or remove their own opportunity details directly on-line and be alerted to suitable volunteer matches.  For more information about Volunteer Connect or to register and advertise your opportunities, please visit, call us on 01670 858688 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you’d like to discuss the support Northumberland CVA can offer to your organisations, contact Michelle Cadby, our Development Officer for Volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


As a follow up to my first blog about my own experience as a volunteer I thought it would be interesting to take a look at other peoples’ experiences.  

To break myself in gently, I asked a colleague at Northumberland CVA, whom I knew had started as a volunteer and who had received the offer of permanent employment as a result, to give his story.  If you’ve visited the Northumberland CVA offices in Ashington in the past few years, you’ll no doubt have met Simon, who covers reception.  He was happy to be identified and talk about the difference volunteering made to finding paid work after years of unemployment (although he really didn’t want me to take his photo for this post). 


ME:Why did you volunteer?

SIMON: It’s a long story, but initially I was sent here by the Job Centre because I had expressed some interest in Administrative work so I didn’t really have a choice!  I had been unemployed for years and all my previous work experiences had been totally different.  I had worked as a drilling technician on rigs and land fill sites, I’d delivered carpets, done some care work and also worked at music festivals, but I’d never done any office work.  I decided I would like a total change.  

At that time, 5 years ago, the organisation was running a return to work sub-contract for INGEUS and I took part in their work placement programme, but when it ended I decided to stay on as a volunteer because I was enjoying the work so much.  When my placement finished I carried on volunteering for 4 days a week for another 2 years.

ME: What did you do?

SIMON: Just a bit of everything really, answering the phone, filling in forms, sorting groups out with the rooms and generally just helping people.

ME: What was your first impression?

SIMON: My first impression was that the staff were very friendly and I felt at ease and comfortable straight away!  In fact, on my first day they hadn’t known I was coming so were surprised at my arrival but I was quickly being shown what to do and within minutes I was answering the phone!

ME: Any positives?

SIMON: I learnt many new skills during my volunteering.  In fact I got to complete a level 3 NVQ in Business Administration.  The other thing was that once I started to volunteer directly instead of through INGEUS, although I still had to apply for other jobs every week, I didn’t have to attend basic training sessions or interview skills training which I felt were a waste of my time!

ME: Did you have any negative experiences?

SIMON: I cannot think of any negatives at all about my experience as a volunteer to be honest, that’s why I stayed.

ME: What happened after your volunteer post finished?

SIMON: Well, after 2-year experience as a volunteer a post became available here for an Admin Assistant.  I went for it and got the job!  I was amazed.  

I’ve worked here now as a permanent employee for 3 years and I really can’t believe it; the time has just flown!  Because we rely upon funding I know it might not last but I tend to get my contract renewed every 6 months and I’m still here so that’s okay!

ME: If you hadn’t been sent on a return to work programme or experienced volunteering from the inside what would have motivated, you to volunteer?

SIMON: I wouldn’t have thought of volunteering to be honest.  To me at that time, volunteering didn’t strike me as a useful way to get a job.  It was a going nowhere type of thing.  It just wasn’t for me.  Like people working in charity shops for instance, I didn’t see them as getting proper jobs from the charity when they finished their voluntary work, but as it turned out I did get a job and it was my volunteering experience that made all the difference.


Simon’s experiences clearly demonstrate that volunteering is a great way to get back into employment after a long absence from the work place.  But that isn’t the only reason people volunteer.  I’d love to talk to others about their own motivations and experiences of volunteering.

Get in touch with me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to talk about your own Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland

By our Anonymous Blogger


During the course of my blogging adventures I thought I would like to look at several different aspects of volunteering.  I wanted to find out: Who are the people who volunteer, why do they volunteer, what are the common issues they encounter and what types of voluntary opportunities are available?

When I began my volunteering experience all of my colleagues explained what their roles were and where they fitted in within the organisation.  However, a lot of this did not sink in at the time, so it was really interesting to go out with a couple of them individually and get a flavour of their roles and responsibilities.

I recently had the opportunity to attend what I thought would be simply two community group meetings with Carolyn, our Development Officer for Projects at NCVA.  What I found was that many people feel more inclined to help their own community directly and provide a service that isn’t available when they band together to provide it. This creative group work is where volunteering and community action merge.  

On the day we attended the first group they were participating in their first AGM, and this was within weeks of becoming constituted.  The group consisted of local people who were formally creating a new Community Arts Group.  Their meeting was very well planned, and they appeared organised in their approach to the formalities of good governance (meaning the legal requirements and formal establishment of the group).  As a matter of fact, during this meeting a new member arrived, who had relocated to the area, and whose prior knowledge of another community arts group appeared invaluable to the group.  Carolyn reminded the group of some of the processes that they still had to complete but complimented them on what they had accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

The second group were ‘old hands’ and had been operating for a number of years.  They rented a room within a rural Community Centre from where they ran a Crafts Class for the elderly and disabled.  Carolyn had helped this group get started many years before but still kept in touch and continued to support them whenever the group needed it.

Whilst there however, we also had an unscheduled and informative meeting with the new Management Committee of the community centre itself.  The new committee consisted of local residents, who had taken over the running of the centre to save it from closure and were working hard to improve this facility for all the residents of their small village.  The committee were still in the initial stages of building a community group and still getting to grips with learning their new roles, duties and responsibilities.  Members had lots of questions for Carolyn and it was interesting to see how keen they were to achieve their goals.  Carolyn also had a discussion with a couple of outreach workers who were strangers to the area and were planning to e-mail local residents in connection with a workshop they planned to deliver.  However, Carolyn, quite rightly, pointed out that the local community had a high percentage of elderly residents who were not familiar with modern technology and advised therefore that they change their approach to door knocking and flyer distribution.

In this age of cut backs it is important to remember those who give freely but are generally invisible to the rest of society.  In fact, this experience really opened my eyes to the hard work and determination of many volunteers who work hard for their community and care passionately about putting facilities in place, or indeed keeping them.

Why not tell me about your own experiences of volunteering - good or bad?   Get in touch with me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to talk about your own Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland


Chris Hook, associate solicitor at Hempsons, asks whether it is time for volunteers to play a greater role in public services.

At the turn of the year Sir Stuart Etherington, the longstanding CEO of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), sent an open letter to NCVO’s members and the wider sector calling for volunteers to play a greater role in public services.

Sir Stuart cited health and social care as two areas facing enormous pressure. “Social care is consuming an ever greater proportion of local government spending. The trajectory appears unsustainable.” Similarly, the Red Cross recently went so far as to say the NHS was facing a “humanitarian crisis”.

Whoever becomes the next Government, given the economic climate, what is to be done in the area of social care and other public services?

Greater involvement of volunteers

While Sir Stuart acknowledged that volunteers alone cannot plug the gaps which are emerging, he argued that greater use of volunteers had to be part of the solution: “We need volunteers at the front door to reduce demand and help keep people out of hospital, and volunteers at the back door to help those who needed hospital treatment to settle back in at home. On both ends this is not about delivering more but using the capacity of communities to help meet and even reduce demand.” Enabling communities to be better neighbours and look out for each other is surely a good thing, after all.

But, seeking to open up a debate, Sir Stuart did not stop there: “I don’t believe in putting limits on what volunteers can do, especially not based on ideological arguments about the role of the state.” On the one hand, it is useful to move on from the old paradigm of “public sector equals good, private sector equals bad”. But can we dispense with politics altogether? After all, some might argue that government decisions to cut public spending and spin out public services may reflect an ideological desire to reduce the size of the state.

Local variations in service quality

There is also a wider question about whether it is socially equitable that the extent and quality of our public services may depend on the willingness of local communities to band together?

For instance, the New Local Government Network report Realising Community Wealth suggested that there is a correlation between volunteering rates and deprivation. This means that more affluent areas are likely to be better placed to sustain volunteering and better volunteer-led services because they already have higher levels of social interaction and engagement. On this basis deprived areas, which may already face more acute difficulties, would be even less well equipped to deal with them.

Asset transfers

The growth of volunteer-run libraries (often known as “community libraries”) is perhaps an interesting example of what Sir Stuart was talking about. Transferring control from local authorities has no doubt saved these important civic institutions from closure for the benefit of hundreds of local communities across the country. However, in many cases the professional expertise of trained librarians and archivists has been lost; local authorities have further cut their book funds limiting the replenishment of stock; opening hours have reduced; the joined-up area-wide library service has fragmented; and, of course, jobs have been lost.   

Meanwhile the Communities and Local Government Committee recently published a wide-ranging report into the future of England’s parks, including a discussion on setting up park trusts or formal partnerships with friends groups to take over the management of parks. Newcastle City Council is one such local authority exploring how to set up a charitable trust to take over the management of its parks, including those gifted to the city by philanthropists.

The Committee's report noted that a key issue is the establishment of transparent governance and accountability structures, particularly because changes to the traditional park management model can weaken a community's ability to hold local authorities to account through the ballot box. It is therefore important that careful thought is given to establishing governance arrangements which provide appropriate oversight and involvement in decision-making for local people.

That said, the Committee also heard evidence that setting up a park trust could in fact enhance local democracy and accountability. Alan Carter of the Land Trust said: "it is really crucially important to get the local community involved in making the decisions and having what I call the soft ownership: 'It feels like it is mine; legally and technically it might not be, but it feels like it may be mine'. [The local community] make the decisions about what that green space is used for and what benefits really come from that green space."

Likewise, David Foster, Chief Executive of the Milton Keynes Parks Trust, said: "The real benefit of having a trust is not so much about the funding; it is about setting the parks free and [setting] the people who run the parks ... free to be innovative and creative. [ … ] an independent trust that has nothing else to do but promote the parks, get them well managed and bring the money in to manage them, with a single purpose, is much more likely to succeed in making them work."

But the report also notes the liabilities and legal complexities which community groups may face on an asset transfer. The voluntary sector therefore needs to be wary of Greeks bearing gifts and, furthermore, be sure that its enthusiasm for taking on or saving community assets is not misused by public authorities as a Trojan horse for spending cuts and job losses. Otherwise this may serve to undermine public confidence in volunteerism and the sector more widely.

Benefits of volunteering

Nonetheless, Sir Stuart was right to be positive and stress the benefits of volunteering i.e. it provides social and health benefits and development opportunities for individuals as well as strengthening community bonds and building collective capacity.

But such benefits do not come only from delivering public services. Individuals and community groups can derive these same benefits through different forms of volunteering e.g. community activism or local campaigning against proposals to close a service. It is important that charities continue to defend their right to engage in legitimate political activity and campaigning as well as looking to harness their expertise in mission-focused delivery. This is particularly relevant as we approach the local elections and the general election.

Fostering effective volunteering

Despite the differences of opinion about the role of volunteers in public sector delivery, there are also a number of points where all sides can hopefully agree. For example, volunteering comes with a cost. It takes time, effort and resources to make a good volunteer. Voluntary does not mean free. Government needs to understand this.

It is also only fair that community groups have access to legal advice from the start to understand what they are taking on and ongoing support in relation to funding, training, business planning, compliance and so on.

In addition, it is important that charities properly induct and support volunteers so that they are effective and get the most out of the experience. For this reason it is good practice for organisations to develop non-binding volunteer agreements which set out the parties’ shared expectations.

The recent DCMS report Enabling Social Action is also a useful guide on how to foster different types of volunteering in different contexts.

Fundamentally, this debate is more complex than a simple question of state funding versus volunteer-involvement, as if it had to be one or the other. Rather, the real question has to be about where and how the state and volunteers can best work together to sustain and enhance our public services.

Sir Stuart said he wanted to start a debate. As the elections approach, the debate continues…

Chris Hook is an associate solicitor at Hempsons in Newcastle. He provides specialist legal advice to charities and social enterprises on a wide range of charity and commercial law matters.


Chris Hook

Associate solicitor specialising in charity and social enterprise

Hempsons | Newcastle

d: 0191 230 6052 e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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