looking ahead1

Volunteer for Looking Ahead and help visually impaired residents learn new skills

Looking Ahead is a friendly and inclusive local charity supporting visually impaired adults of all ages to learn new skills such as touch typing and making the best use of tablets/laptops and smartphones.

They need volunteers to help people learn new skills, which can be a huge benefit to someone who has either lost their sight or has developed sight problems. Being partially sighted can lead to social isolation and loneliness and the class has helped some of it’s members to prepare for employment or take on voluntary roles in the wider community.

Looking Ahead volunteers are happy to learn new skills too – Heather has been a volunteer with the group for 9 years:

“It is such a friendly, relaxed group and both students and volunteers all enjoy having a chat at coffee time, as well as getting down to some work on our computers or Braille books. My role is to help students learn about the software available for visually impaired students so they can continue to make use of this technology. I can’t say I am particularly good on the computer, but amazingly I’ve found that I have been able to help students in this area and in the process I have learnt a lot myself!”

The group has both sighted and visually impaired volunteers supporting learners in developing new skills.  Everyone in the group is trained in working with the visually impaired.  

Have a look at the role description and get involved!

Hunter and me

Why do I volunteer for Brooklands Museum?

I have been a volunteer at Brooklands Museum for nearly a decade. Initially I just did one Saturday afternoon per fortnight, I now do much more. My first role was as a Steward. Stewards are the people you see in the exhibit areas, talking and listening to visitors and answering their questions. Now I do a much broader range of activities.

At first, all I brought to the role was an enthusiasm for, and fascination about, motoring and aviation. I had little in the way of knowledge and skills. That did not matter because I very soon learned a great deal. Some learning was through structured training by Brooklands, much was informal, through talking with other volunteers. I have always found other volunteers to be very generous in sharing their knowledge and skills. I have also learned a surprising amount from visitors.

On retiring, I had more time available and got involved in other activities, This included some basic work on historic aircraft. I learned how to safely strip and prepare an aircraft for re-painting, including how to avoid causing damage to the fabric and to myself. I have now started an Aviation Heritage Skills course, run and funded for volunteers by Brooklands, opening up a whole new area of knowledge and skills, in my ‘Third Age’!

My other roles have varied from car park marshalling on event days to providing Guided Tours for people ranging from aviation specialists, to a history society to a Women’s Institute group.

So why do I do it? I have found many benefits, including:

  • Meeting new people with a massive range of interesting backgrounds.
  • Retaining and interest and involvement with cars, motorcycles and aircraft.
  • Getting huge amounts of appreciation and feedback from visitors of all ages.
  • On retiring, keeping my brain alive through learning and developing new skills.
  • Making some contribution to the education, information and entertainment that it is the mission of Brooklands Museum to provide to all types and ages of people.
  • Helping to give people with special needs a fun day out.
  • Being involved in a highly successful and award winning organisation.

This is just my view. Other volunteers do it for many different reasons and carry out many different roles, from library archiving to gardening. There is a role just for you.

If you think this could be the volunteering role for you – why not call Sue Lewin on 01932 857381, ext. 242  or email her on suelewin@brooklandsmuseum.com


Is Twitter a Good Tool for Nonprofits?

Twitter has around 330 million monthly active users – that’s a huge audience for your charity so how can you make it work for you?

We are always looking for new ways to use social media to extend our reach and tell our stories. Twitter is a great platform for attracting an audience quickly, allowing you to publicise volunteer roles and direct donors and supporters to your website. It’s also great for starting conversations and establishing your expertise.

To be successful on Twitter your charity needs to be doing several things in the right way.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Content – Don’t just tweet for the sake of it. To stand out from the Twitter crowd make your posts unique to your organisation and what your audience is interested in. Ask questions to promote engagement and use images/videos that are relevant and will appeal. Make your tweets human by telling your story and the stories of your beneficiaries and volunteers.
  • Who to follow – Follow influencers in your own area such as local government, councillors and other charities (local and national) Note who they follow and the hashtags they use in their tweets.
  • Use Hashtags # to reach a targeted audience. The biggest benefit of using twitter is the ability to put hashtags # in your posts allowing you to broadcast to people interested in specific topics. If you’re not sure which hashtags to include, look at the tags in tweets of other charities or use a tool like ingramer which gives a list of relevant hashtags for keywords/images. Twitter also shows trending hashtags for particular events or awareness days. Be careful to search a hashtag in the twitter search box before using it to avoid embarrassment.
  • Get attention with Mentions @ – When you mention another Twitter account in one of your tweets they’ll get a notification and if your tweet is interesting or beneficial to them they may retweet your post or mention you back.
  • Focus on getting retweeted – 78% of engagement with your tweets will be through retweets so make your tweets ‘retweetable’ by inserting links to posts and articles on your website and to interesting content from other sources. Retweet content from partnership organisations that you respect and value to encourage them to retweet yours.
  • Use Visuals – Images are more impactful than words and also not included in the Twitter word count! Make your Twitter image the correct size 506×253 pixels and use a tool like canva to create a single image with your message. Canva allows you to export your created image in the right size to each of your social media platforms.
  • Use tools to simplify media management – We use Hootsuite to manage our social media outputs but there are others like TweetDeck or Buffer
  • Analyse your twitter performance – Twitter have a great analytics tool that shows your performance over the last 28 days. It gives top tweets, mentions, retweets, new followers and many many more statistics and graphs, but even using the most basic stats will inform your future content and improve your tweeting.

Remember that Twitter is a place to connect and have meaningful conversations. Think about what your audience wants to know, not what you want them to know. Use visuals and humour, even if your cause is serious. If you’d like help with anything social media related please contact us info@voluntarysupport.org.uk and follow us on @volsupportns


Start a Conversation

We are midway through National Conversation Week, a week in which we are challenged to try a little harder to engage with those around us; to start a conversation. Most of us are guilty of sending a text, writing an email or searching online, rather than speaking with someone, but for those of us experiencing loneliness, this online world can increase feelings of social isolation.

Loneliness impacts people of all ages and stages of life, it does not discriminate.

Around 15% of working age people and a similar number of 65-70 year olds, reported feeling lonely in a recent study. Reports of loneliness in the 17-25 age range are as high as 43%.

Loneliness can have a significant impact on our health and well being, on a par with smoking 15 cigarettes a day and costs the NHS £1.8 billion a year. It is easy to do something to help.

Talking to one another is rewarding, interesting and fun. Why not to spend this week trying a little harder to talk with people around you. Chat to the person next to you at the bus stop, catch up with old friends or call in on an elderly neighbour.

You can make a longer term difference by being a befriender in our local community so get in touch with alison@voluntarysupport.org.uk or elaine@voluntarysupport.org.uk to find out more.


Runnymede Foodbank Need You!

12 months after rollout of Universal credit, food banks have see a 52% increase in demand.

Last year Runnymede food bank gave 1,281 three-day emergency food parcels to local people in crisis and the demand for food and the numbers of clients continues to rise.

Food poverty is a real problem in our community and you can do something about it.

Runnymede food bank need more volunteer drivers to help their delivery team complete weekly deliveries. Volunteers pick up and deliver crates of food on the mornings of the 2nd & 4th Wednesday of each month.

If this is something you can do – help the food bank here


SATRO need volunteers

Would you like to help children reach their potential?

SATRO are a local educational charity who need volunteers to help support their work in primary and secondary schools.

They’ve been working in Surrey and the South East and provide real-life experience of all aspects of the working world, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through a diverse and challenging range of programmes. In the past 30 years they’ve inspired over 450,000 young people.

SATRO say their volunteers sign up so they can ‘make a difference’ to young people and are frequently surprised by how much they have learnt from the experience themselves.

Rachel who volunteers for SATRO told us “My 7 year old son came home from school one day saying a girl in his class told him that her mum has said I couldn’t be an engineer as I am a woman. In 2002, really? I volunteer for SATRO as I enjoy bringing what fun I have had in engineering career to schools. I want to help make engineering attractive and at least a career option girls would consider by using whatever skills and enthusiasm I have. Perhaps I can make a difference to one child.”

If you’re feeling inspired to be part of this great volunteer team and help young people in Surrey, why not go along to the Grand Final of the SATRO prestigious Problem Solving Challenge which is a fantastic after-school event on 21st March  at ACS Cobham International School, Portsmouth Rd, Hersham, Cobham KT11 1BL.

Contact contactus@satro.org.uk for more information


The Joys of Spring (Training)

Over the next 5 weeks we are offering free training to local voluntary organisations as part of our Spring training program. Our goal is to support you and grow the charity sector in North Surrey and we believe that giving you skills through training to fundraise, manage and recruit volunteers and maintain a strong board of trustees is fundamental to your success. 

Why is training important? 

 All too often in the nonprofit world, budget constraints force us to make hard choices between day to day funding of projects and training for employees and volunteers. It may not just be a question of cost, you may not even have time to attend training. We believe that if you measure the outcomes from educating your staff and volunteers as they relate to your organisational goals then money and/or time spent on training is well spent. 

 You may need to recruit a strong board, increase fundraising, embrace digital or retain more volunteers. That makes training in these subjects a good investment for the people expected to realise these goals and this is the training you should prioritise.  

The success of any organisation is due to its people, and that’s particularly true in the case of the charity sector. During these difficult times, you can show their commitment to staff and volunteers by upskilling those who champion the cause and really contribute to helping your organisation achieve its vision.  

 Through training, the need for supervision decreases and your staff and volunteers will make better decisions on their own and solve problems more effectively. Training helps develop leadership talent and communication skills, it decreases fear in attempting new tasks and enables handling of stress, frustration and conflicts. These factors give people a chance to perform better which results in developing feelings of satisfaction in their role.Training develops talents and capabilities which ensure that everyone makes a contribution towards your long term goals. 

 Who to train? 

 Most training is considered for new volunteers or employees and it is good to invest in development of their skills so that they can increase their contribution. But ongoing training of current employees/volunteers is as important since it helps them to adapt their daily routine work according to changing requirements, improves their performance on current role and prepares them for an intended role. Importantly, training inspires new thinking which helps to reduce resistance to change.  

 Why not ask your employees and volunteers to identify training they think would help them in their role. Ask them how they would use the learned knowledge/skills/confidence, how these would benefit the team and how they would share the knowledge.  

 If you only have the money or time to send one person on a course, there are useful things you can do: 

  •  Ask the person who is going on the course to give feedback to other colleagues, share important lessons and any handouts or templates. This also allows the attendee to review and reinforce their learning, meaning that it’s more likely to have an impact.  
  •  Contact a training provider and see if they can come and deliver the training specifically for your team – it is often cheaper. You could also think about sharing a trainer with another voluntary group with similar training needs. 

 What are your training options? 

 Excitingly, there are an increasing number of training options: 

  •  We offer face to face training in one of our three offices on the subjects of fundraising, social media, volunteer recruitment and management and governance. There are also a number of local options offered by other volunteer centres and the Surrey Skills Academy. 
  •  Why not set up (or join) an informal network to find peer support where questions, problems and advice are shared and discussed. 
  •  E-learning is an accessible way for staff to learn. Some infrastructure organisations are offering bite-size and accessible training for smaller organisations to access as and when they need it. Have a look at Media Trust, NCVO KnowHow and the Small Charities Coalition. 
  •  As part of their corporate social responsibility, some of the larger search engine and social media platforms offer free training such a google Digital Garage and Facebook Blueprint and don’t forget YouTube with its many ’how to’ videos. 
  •  Webinars can help geographically isolated charities or those short of time and low on office cover. You don’t even need to participate – just sign in, listen and learn. 

 Finally, use your social media to find blogs to follow – ask other groups what information fills their inboxes and have a look. We suggest MediaTrust, Third SectorHubspotNCVO, White FuseUK Fundraising to get you started.

social prescribing

Social Prescribing

What is it?

Social prescribing helps people with a range of social and physical problems to access local services provided by the voluntary sector. It’s a way for them to connect to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.

Long term, it reduces health demand on GP practices and hospital admissions, since it’s estimated that about 20% of patient consultations are for social rather than medical problems. Rather than writing a medical prescription, doctors refer some of their patients to a social prescribing service which provides a non medical solution such as activities with local volunteer groups. Connecting with the community is good for an individual’s health and could potentially lead to big cost savings for the health service.

What are Voluntary Support North Surrey doing? 

Since 2015, our social prescribing project in Surrey Heath has had 587 clients and have generated 909 referrals for a social prescription to local voluntary organisations and groups. From our experience the biggest referral group is for befriending, which is not surprising given the national statistics for loneliness. Over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely.

Does social prescribing work?

Evidence suggests that social prescribing leads to a range of positive health and well-being outcomes. Studies in Bristol and Rotherham have found improvements in anxiety levels, feelings about general health and quality of life and a reduction in the use of NHS services.

From our own experience, we have found that social prescribing is a very powerful tool running in conjunction with statutory services. It helps support vulnerable members of our North Surrey society become less isolated, give them more support with health and home situations. Most importantly, social prescribing connects and reintegrates people in their communities and gives them hope.

We’ve had great outcomes for our residents. Recently an elderly couple in Ash Vale in their late 80s and both with chronic ill health conditions were referred by their GP to our social prescribing project. We registered the couple with Crossroads for respite care and referred to Sight for Surrey to provide specialist equipment. They were also connected to an Age UK befriending service to reduce isolation.

What can you do?

We need volunteers! All of the voluntary organisations who we refer to need volunteers or donations. There’s a huge range of ways you can be a volunteer. You could be a driver for a local good neighbour organisation and offer a transport lifeline for members of our community no longer able to drive. Citizens Advice Bureau advisors give financial guidance to people stressed and anxious about money or employment. Dementia support groups and community organisations offering respite, social events and activities also urgently need volunteers. We have a new befriending project called Time to Talk which has a waiting list of people who need a friend.

Get involved and take part in social prescribing to make real difference – contact alison@voluntarysupport.org.uk

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Amigo Success!

We are delighted with the success of our Amigo project and wanted to share with you the story of one client who has had a positive experience.

‘We received a referral for an individual who was suffering from anxiety and seeking support to go out and attend community activities. She felt isolated during the day as she does not work. Overall, this lady has a good support network but needed extra help to boost her confidence and increase her motivation to leave the house.  We matched this client with a volunteer who agreed to accompany her to attend a weekly support group.  As this individual was not comfortable travelling independently, the volunteer buddy arranged to meet her at the end of the road and accompany her to the group.  We matched the individual with a volunteer who had had a similar experience and had attended the same support group.  The client’s increased confidence encouraged her to try a different social group and enabled her to travel there by bus.  “The best thing about Amigo was being able to find a group where I felt I fitted in.  This has helped me to feel less isolated”.

It’s been really encouraging for our team and volunteers to have such positive outcomes and we really believe Amigo is making a difference to people’s lives in North Surrey so if you know of anyone who might benefit from an Amigo buddy or alternatively if you would like to volunteer to become a buddy, then please get in touch with Laura or Lynnette on 01276 707565 or email buddy@voluntarysupport.org.uk


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