10 things to shout out about as a small charity by Katie Higginson, Chief Executive of Community Impact Bucks

This week marks Small Charity Week (15th to 20th June 2020), a national campaign to raise awareness of the essential work done by small charities across the country.

Buckinghamshire’s small charities make a huge difference to the lives of individuals, communities and causes throughout the county; their ongoing work during the pandemic has shown more than ever how important they are in the fabric of our neighbourhoods, our essential services and our everyday lives. You can read about some of our amazing Bucks’ small charities in our case studies section and how they have responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

But did you know we are a small charity too? Our team of 166 staff and volunteers support people and groups to get involved and make a difference in local Buckinghamshire communities.

By helping voluntary groups in the county be the best they can be – perhaps by helping them find funding, run their organisation or find volunteers – we support hundreds of communities and causes across Buckinghamshire. By helping local residents to find volunteering roles, we support people who want to give back to their communities while at the same time help local charities to find the volunteers they may need to support vital services. And through our community services, we help to build strong, resilient communities and directly help people – the elderly, vulnerable and socially isolated – where we see an unmet need.

As with many small charities, we have had to adapt our services to not only meet lockdown restrictions but also to provide the support that is needed right now in Buckinghamshire.

Here is our Small Charity Week ‘shout out’ with ten things about what we do – five general facts and five facts about our work during the pandemic – to highlight how we help voluntary action in the county.

Five general facts about us:

1. We support Bucks voluntary groups by providing training and advice: in the three months before lockdown, we trained nearly 50 Bucks groups about safeguarding, how to secure funding and how to recruit and manage volunteers (January-March 2020).

2. We help Bucks residents and businesses to volunteer: we help people find their perfect volunteering role and publicise Bucks volunteering opportunities at local events and through social media. In 2019 we matched 11 teams of volunteers from local businesses with 13 voluntary organisations in need of help through our Team Volunteering Service.

3. We connect the voluntary sector and help cross-sector partnerships to come together: to help facilitate and improve how voluntary organisations and public bodies work together on common causes, we are part of a number of policy groups in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties. In March 2020, we and our counterparts in neighbouring counties formally entered a partnership with Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care System (BOB ICS) – the collaborative of NHS organisations, local authorities and others – to ensure that local voluntary and community organisations are involved as a key part of an integrated health and social care system.

4. We help people without access to transport get to essential medical appointments: in the six months up to lockdown (October 2019 – April 2020), we took 229 calls on our Community Transport Hub hotline and connected people with volunteer-run transport schemes in their area. 73% of the callers needed help to attend medical appointments.

5. We help people stay connected and living independently in our communities: our Handy Helpers team completed over 600 tasks in the homes of our vulnerable, elderly or disabled Buckinghamshire residents in the first three months of the year (January-March 2020). These included internal and external maintenance, preventive measures and practical tasks. This is just one of our community schemes – find out more about our lunch clubs and gardening and befriending service here.

Five facts about us since the pandemic:

6. We have spoken to 1417 people wanting to volunteer and directly placed 340 volunteers since the start of the pandemic: the Volunteer Matching Service is run by Community Impact Bucks in partnership with Buckinghamshire Council and The Clare Foundation. Our team is contacting each individual who signed up on the Council’s website to support Buckinghamshire communities to during the coronavirus pandemic to create a pool of over 900 volunteers ready to give their time where, when and how they are needed.

7. We are providing online and one-to-one advice to hundreds of Bucks voluntary groups: by the end of March, we had created a new online resource for groups with all the latest information and guidance on COVID-19 including emergency and recovery planning, funding opportunities and advice on how to keep volunteers safe. Our regular COVID-19 briefings keep the sector up-to-date within the fast-changing landscape and a team is available to provide one-to-one advice for any Bucks group in need of help.

8. We are running a telephone befriending service: when our gardening and Handy Helper services were suspended in March, we launched a new ‘Chat for good’ service – a check, chat and connect service to provide social contact and ensure all clients’ basic needs are being met. Since March we have provided befriending support to 75 residents, with clients receiving a friendly telephone call from one of our team members up to three times a week.

9. We are providing emergency support to vulnerable residents: our Handy Helper team leader has been providing emergency support to vulnerable residents. This has included support with hospital discharge (such as moving bedrooms to the ground floors and putting together beds), path and garden clearances for vulnerable people who have fallen in their garden or are unable to use their garden for exercise, and providing emergency safety repairs and fittings such as replacing smoke detectors.

10. We are providing more one-to-one advice to Bucks’ community buildings: the lockdown restrictions have had a huge impact on our community buildings, such as village halls, community centres and sports pavilions and church halls. We have seen a significant rise in the number of enquiries we have received since lockdown – an increase of 487% on the same period in 2019 – and are providing tailored advice.

This is just a snapshot of what we do. To find out more about our work supporting the voluntary sector and communities in Buckinghamshire, visit our website to read about the help available during the crisis and beyond including information for COVID-19 local community response groups  where local people have come together to support vulnerable and isolated residents.

Next steps

  • Are you part of a group or would like to volunteer and would like our help? Find out more here.
  • Many charities in Buckinghamshire are struggling financially due to the cancellation of fundraising activities during the pandemic. If you would like to support a charity in your area or a cause close to your heart, have a look on our Fundraising Appeals webpage.
  • Like all charities, we too need to fund our services. By donating to us, you will help us support the thousands of charities and community groups which operate Buckinghamshire. Help us to help many!