Working closely with funders to set up innovative projects

As a small charity, TimeBank is constantly thinking of new volunteering opportunities that will help deliver positive change. Not all our ideas come to fruition and we certainly don’t believe in innovation for innovation’s sake. Good volunteering projects are driven by evidence of need.

Some of our ideas are discounted internally having worked up proposals, while others are kept on hold as we look for an appropriate funder. However, occasionally we work closely with a funder to develop an application from original idea to delivery. Such was the case with the Forces in Mind Trust

Five years ago, we worked with FiMT to secure funding to deliver our original Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine Project – supporting ex-services personnel with a trained mentor to help achieve a positive and productive life after their military service. This amazing project was able to support many ex-services personnel, but it did highlight some challenges. As the project only delivered support across Glasgow and Edinburgh, we were unable to help many potential beneficiaries away from the central belt. And many of our potential beneficiaries chose to isolate themselves and not to access other existing provision outside of their homes.

As the original project came to an end, we approached FiMT to discuss the possibility of developing an online mentoring model: we know our face-to-face mentoring model works, but we really wanted to know if the this could be replicated online and as importantly would the technology allow us to do this.

It would be great to say that at that point FiMT said “…that’s a great idea, here’s the money…”. Quite reasonably they didn’t. But unlike many other funders they worked closely with us over six months – pushing us hard to refine and revise our proposal to have the best possible chance of success. Not only did their internal grants team provide feedback, but they also have access to a research team at Anglia Ruskin University https://www.vfrhub.com/fimt-research-centre/ who were able to offer expert analysis. 

In April of this year we were awarded funding to deliver an 18-month pilot and we are now well underway. But FiMT’s unique approach didn’t end with the award of funding – they remain very much a hands-on funder. Both the CEO and Grants Manager attended the project inception meeting with our independent evaluators, a tangible demonstration of the care and commitment FiMT have to the projects they fund.

We really do believe that our online model will deliver some exciting results, offering the opportunity for beneficiaries to receive support they might not otherwise have accessed, but also the chance for people to volunteer their time in a completely new way. Over the next 12 months we will be posting updates to let you know how we are getting on and where will go next with online mentoring. 

If you’d like to know more, do take a look at www.timebank.org.uk/shoulder-to-shoulder