Whenever I sit down to write my end of year blog I think not much has happened. Then I start to flick through my diary and realise what a huge amount has been achieved!
This one started with our office move. It wasn’t without its challenges - IT is never a friend in such circumstances - but we are very happy in our new home with our friends at the YMCA.
In early January I was in Leicester to visit one of our delivery partners, the Shama Women’s Centre, with Lord Ahmad, then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) who was fascinated by the work being done there.
The impact of our Talking Together project never ceases to amaze me. One lady told me that for years she’d been a victim of domestic abuse from her brother-in-law. He started to attack her again but the week before she'd learnt on our course to call 999 in an emergency and ask for the police. The attacks stopped. A simple English language project – not just life changing but life-saving.
In February I was once again invited to speak on the Charityworks programme. I absolutely love this project, supporting graduates into a career in our sector. This year one of the tutors was ill so I was asked if my session could be Skyped to their South West cohort. It was quite an experience but I’m told successful!
It was Charityworks too that introduced us to one of our most interesting potential partnerships. At a lunch encouraging different charities to take a graduate I met the Chief Executive of Acorns Children’s Hospice and a conversation about our respective organisations sparked an idea for a new way to use our mentoring model – working with young people with life limiting illnesses who are transitioning from children’s to adult services. We held focus groups in November, the funding bids have been submitted and we can’t wait for this exciting new partnership to begin.
The beginning of the year also saw the start of a new iteration of Engage, our volunteer project supporting young people in Newham who are not in education, employment or training. In March we celebrated the success of our Carers Together project in partnership with Carers UK with a Westminster launch, which to our delight was hosted once again by TimeBank supporter Sir Kevin Barron MP.
Not long afterwards the DCLG asked us to extend our English language project into London, to harder to reach groups in Birmingham and to pilot an IT and Hidden Carers project – a huge reflection on our reputation for delivery and our ‘fleet of foot’ ability to quickly upsize and deliver when required.
April saw me speaking at ECF 2015, a gathering of the world's leading campaigners, fundraisers and communicators using digital media for achieving social change. I’d never stayed overnight at an Oxford college so thoroughly enjoyed the experience and having the opportunity to talk about how we can harness the power of a new generation of volunteers. We were also thrilled to secure funding from the John Ellerman Foundation. Core funding is hard to come by but vital to empower innovation, partnership building, funding diversification and programme development so this made a huge difference.
Our volunteers of course also make a huge difference and this year I’ve been delighted to join some of them at events for our mentoring projects The Switch and City Opportunities to celebrate with them, hear their stories about volunteering with TimeBank and of course to thank them – definitely one of the best bits of my job. As it was when one of our volunteers, Sean, persuaded his company Swift to donate 5,000 euros to TimeBank and I was lucky enough to attend their annual conference to accept it.
We’ve hosted several overseas groups this year from the Netherlands, South Korea and one, Common Purposes, a group of international leaders. It gives us a chance to share our knowledge and experience, learn from others and harness the incredible power of volunteering internationally.
April saw us Christmas volunteering!! I know it was a tad out of season but we had postponed it due to the office move in December and true to my word I hadn’t forgotten. Plus it was a little warmer for outside volunteering! We headed to Birmingham en masse to join our colleagues there and volunteered at the Ackers Adventure Centre – a charity that provides access to open space and adventurous activities in over 75 acres of diverse landscape in the centre of Birmingham.
Part two of my Windsor leadership course also took place this year, six months after the first course. It was another opportunity to learn from and spend time with leaders across sectors and take time out to think – something as CEOs we rarely do but which is so very important.
Our first Talking Together project came to an end in June and in October we launched the external evaluation report in Westminster. This was one of the best and most successful events we’ve run with lots of partners, funders, stakeholders and volunteers together. It was also one of our most successful projects ever - delivered on time, above target and under budget – 1,571 women taught by 144 volunteers in 18 months with a calculated social return on investment of £9.31 for every £1 spent.
Another part of my job that I love is bringing new people and skills onto our Board and this year saw another round of recruitment and induction for four fantastic new trustees.
In October our Board approved a very ambitious five year business plan, designed to ensure our long term sustainability and maximise the value we give to our beneficiaries and volunteers. As ever I am hugely impressed by the calibre and engagement of our trustees and consider myself and TimeBank very lucky to have such incredible governance and quality volunteers at the very top of our organisation.
Last week, this time in season(!) we did our Christmas party volunteering and how amazing it was to spend time with colleagues at a care home making mince pies, Christmas cards and decorations with the residents – and sharing our experiences afterwards over a curry and a beer! This year lots of companies have taken up our Christmas volunteering challenge and we are excited about the potential for future years.
Finally, I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to join Carers UK CEO, Helena Herklots, on the Isle of Wight for one of her 50 hill walk challenges to celebrate 50 years of Carers UK. As I mentioned, Carers UK and TimeBank partnered on our Carers Together project which finished earlier this year and the partnership and indeed friendship has continued. Caring has been a subject very close to my heart this year as I supported my Mum caring for my Dad at home during his final seven months. It made me realise the huge challenges and pressures of caring full time that many millions of carers do on a day to day basis. So I was proud to join Helena in memory of my Dad and in awe of my Mum and of every other carer who puts their life on hold for a loved one.
In 2015 we were proud to celebrate our 15th birthday. Who knows what 2016 will hold but I am confident that TimeBank will move forward taking on new challenges and new volunteering programmes and may I take this opportunity of saying thank you to our incredible volunteers, staff team, trustees and supporters and wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.