A photograph of a landscape overlain by the Geopark logo and the text "Supporting Organisations Across Charnwood Forest"
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Geopark Announces New Support for Community Groups

Over the course of 2023, Charnwood Forest Geopark organised a series of ‘How’s Your Group Doing’ sessions to gauge how we could best support local voluntary and community organisations. In response to the needs of your organisations, this article outlines the resources and training sessions that we are planning and recommending. The events have been created with the kind help and support of our partner organisation Voluntary Action Leicestershire.

You said ‘we want to explore green and social prescribing but don’t know how’:

So you’ll be offered a free workshop about how to get involved in green and social prescribing, including a chance to meet link workers and other key individuals in the nature and wellbeing sectors. Alongside the Geopark team, you’ll be offered training in becoming a Mental Health Friendly Place, safeguarding, Mental Health First Aid and other relevant skills.

  • ‘Getting started in green and social prescribing’ – Wednesday 24 April, 10am – 3pm, Shuttlewood Clarke Activity Centre. Contact abrand-barker@nationalforest.org for more information.

You said ‘we need help finding funding’:

So we’re offering free one-to-one sessions during February and March for you to spend time identifying and assessing your organisation’s core costs, opportunities to rationalise spending and finding gaps in funding. Get in touch with abrand-barker@nationalforest.org to book a slot.

We’ll also run workshops centred on funding:

  • ‘Money matters: funding and financing’ free workshop – hear from a variety of funders and hear how other options including membership models, charitable discounts and in-kind donations can all contribute to rebalancing your finances. Thursday 29 February, 1.30pm – 3.30pm, Woodhouse Eaves Youth and Community Hall
  • ‘Better Bids’ – Dr Julie Attard, an experienced and successful funding bid-writer and scheme manager for the Charnwood Forest Geopark, takes us through the steps to write a great funding application. Tuesday 26 March, 9.30am – 12noon, online

You said ‘our treasurer role needs more support’:

So we’re running a ‘Treasurers’ Special’ workshop for advice about finance issues, recruiting a treasurer and ensuring best practice. You’ll also have opportunity to hear from local examples of community organisations who have experience in going through big financial change. We’ll bring a set of resources for you to take away, also making them available on our website.

  • ‘Treasurers’ Special’ – New Date to be Announced.

You said ‘space and storage feels inaccessible’:

So we are auditing rentable spaces within the Geopark, and making that audit available online as a freely accessible resource. We’ll create a volunteer role to help us do this. We’ll also create a ‘swap space’ on our webpage to connect people who have space and those who want space.

  • We will promoted this on our website and social media when it is ready.

You said ‘we want to know more about renting and owning a building’:

We’re working with our friends at VAL are recommending a free online training with the Ethical Property Foundation (EPF). The next two dates the EPF are offering training are:

You can also access a large amount of resources on the EPF’s website, in particular the Weston Property Manual: https://propertyhelp.org/weston-property-manual/ but do explore their other free resources too.

You said ‘let’s look after local places and increase pride in them’:

So we will be launching a campaign as part of the Great British Spring Clean to run a Charnwood Forest Geopark co-ordinated litter-picking event between 15 March and 31 March. We’ll use the rubbish we pick up to create an impactful art installation at Timber festival in July. We’ll also use the Great British Spring Clean campaign to tidy up and improve the condition of some key sites identified at the Charnwood Forest Geopark stakeholder forum event.

  • Find out more

You said ‘we’re not sure what we need to do about safeguarding and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)’:

So we’re planning to create a short animated film about this with local creatives and share it with you and others across the Geopark. We’ll ensure that EDI is part of every piece of training, workshop and resource we make so that it is clear how it can be incorporated into your organisation’s daily practice.

  • We will promote this on our website and social media when it is ready.

You said ‘we’re not sure how to use digital tools to run our group more effectively’:

So we’re planning a ‘bring your laptop’ surgery event so that you can sit down with digitally confident people to explore tools that may suit your organisation, get answers for your ‘how to’ questions and improve your confidence in using technology to benefit your organisation.

  • Time, date and location to be confirmed, but please register your interest with abrand-barker@nationalforest.org.uk . If you need any support in the meantime, please feel free to contact Ali.

You said ‘our committee is fatigued and we need more people to help run the group’:

So we’re offering free visits from March onwards to your group to go through the jobs that your committee does and assess which can be shared with other volunteers and external supporters, creating opportunities for more people to get involved in supporting your organisation. We’ll create an online resource too so that your group can give this activity a try in your own time should you prefer.

You said ‘it’s really difficult to recruit volunteers at the moment’:

So we’ll run a workshop aimed at helping you think more creatively about how you can recruit more people to volunteer with you, including diversifying your volunteering team. We’ll explore what makes your organisation a great place to spend time, why people may want to get involved, and how we can think in new ways about volunteering. We’ll look at promoting volunteering opportunities; micro-volunteering and one-off tasks; and life-stage focused recruitment. This workshop will include time to meet people from other organisations in your area and light refreshments.

You said ‘we want to start working with volunteers’:

So we’re running a workshop session to introduce organisations new to volunteering to all the elements to consider when planning to work with volunteers, including good volunteer management practices, health and safety and data handling. Free lunch included!

  • ‘Introduction to working with volunteers’ – Tuesday 12 March, 10am – 1pm, Mount St Bernard’s Abbey

You said ‘we want to revisit our organisation’s mission and purpose, ensure we’re working to that and learn tools to communicate it well’:

So we’re providing a free day-long workshop that gives your organisation the opportunity to return to your cause and purpose and learn how to garner support from your audience through effective communication, including increasing donations, volunteering and committee recruitment.

  • ‘Cause and communications: talking about your organisation’ – Wednesday 24 January, all day, Shuttlewood Clarke Activity Centre. Find out more and book here.

You said ‘we’re not sure what organisational structure is right for us’:

So you can get in touch with VAL and their advisors when it suits you to have a one-to-one session. We’ll also share a suite of resources on our website.

Those sessions provided by the Geopark are supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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