An informal conversation and guide to the sometimes confusing world of volunteering.

MP support for TimeBank

I attended a 90 minute debate in parliament this morning entitled ‘The effects of cuts on the voluntary sector’.

TimeBank and its current funding crisis were heavily featured in the debate as a perfect example of an organisation delivering the  ‘Big Society’ yet having its funding cut.

Barbara Keeley MP argued strongly for organisations such as ours, which provide the infrastructure to make volunteering a reality and encourage social action not to whither on the vine due to funding cuts. Cutting away at our core funding which severely reduces our ability to act as that precious go-between for volunteers and the beneficiary organisations, completely undermines the vision of a Big Society. Read Barbara’s blog here.

There was a great deal of support from other MPs who recognised our role in encouraging volunteering, but at the same time acknowledging that there needs to be a careful and well-timed transition away from government funding. One MP suggested that the government was out of touch with the modern-day voluntary sector organisation. He said that these charities have to rely on government grants for core funding in order for the frontline services to be realised.

This is the harsh reality. We can’t be expected to deliver the level of care and expertise required to enable volunteering without the staff and resources in our back office which make it happen.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our e-petition to keep these issues in the limelight and in front of government.

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The Goat Race

The Spitalfields City Farm in London holds an annual Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race to raise money for and awareness of the farm.

The 2010 race raised almost £3,400 for Spitalfields City Farm. This year's race will be held on Saturday 26 March at Spitalfields City Farm, London (E1). Please show your support for the City's nearest farm to the Square mile by volunteering on the day. There are all sorts of things to do from helping to run the fairground games, serving at one of the bars or the tea stall, helping on the door and moving bales of hay around. They are looking for volunteers for a few hours in the morning or afternoon depending on what you can do.

This promises to be a fun day out so get some friends together and get dowm to the farm - if you're interested in volunteering email Anthony. You can also check out there Facebook page for updates.

If you can't make the Goat Race or don't live in London but would like to volunteer at another one-off event, check out others here.

The farm are always looking for volunteers to maintain the farm and gardens, look after the animals and help them to deliver projects. In short, without volunteers there would be no farm - so your support would be really appreciated. Find out how to get involved

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Find out how you can take your Employee Volunteering to a different level

Despite the negative funding news we've had from the Office for Civil Society last week, we are committed to delivering all our current and new Employee Volunteering programmes, as well as team challenges.

TimeBank will be showcasing its new and improved Employee Volunteering scheme at the Responsible Partnerships Exhibition on Thursday and Friday this week. So if you're planning to attend, come and see us at stall number 48 to have a chat about the tailored options we can offer - whether you're a small business or a big corporate looking for a one-off team challenge, or a personalised programme.

Our CEO, Helen will also be speaking on Thursday, 17th March at 11.10am and will explain how we have refined our Employee Volunteer options over the last few months. For example how we've built in more flexibility to bring you closer to achieving your social responsiblity goals. 

We hope to see you there. If you can't make it to the exhibition and would like to find out more, give Oliver Jacobs a call on 020 3111 0720 or drop him an email at

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Thank you for your wonderful support

Since receiving the awful news on Monday that our application for core funding from the OCS had been rejected, we have been overwhelmed by the warm response from all our supporters, volunteers and peers.

Since Monday we have received well over 2,500 signatures to our e-petition and have had some wonderful media coverage about our situation.

We have not taken this news lying down and will continue to challenge the government’s decision. If you want to add your name to our campaign then please do so (see my other blog for details). We are also urging our supporters to write to their local MP to raise awareness of this appalling decision and to ask them to put a question to the Minister in parliament. Here's a template letter - you can use this and submit directly to your local MP through the 'Write to them' website, just put in your postcode to find your local MP and submit your letter. If you would like to support us in other ways, take a look here.

Meanwhile at TimeBank it is business as usual – we are continuing to deliver our funded projects and our employee volunteering schemes to the highest level, the dedication and professionalism of our staff is without question. We will strive to help and support people into volunteering opportunities for as long as we can.

Once again, thank you for your support and I hope to be able to report more positive news in the near future.

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We need your help

Today we have learnt that we will no longer receive vital funding from the Office for Civil Society (OCS).

Our latest funding application to the OCS, which covers our core running costs, has been rejected at the first stage.

This is a devastating blow for TimeBank which has been living and breathing the government’s vision for a Big Society for the past ten years. Since our inception in 2000, we have helped and encouraged 300,000 people into volunteering – that fills Wembley Stadium three times over.

We are mystified at the government’s decision to no longer support our work. As well as offering help and advice to volunteers, we have also been responsible for some ground breaking volunteering projects which have addressed key social issues such as refugee integration, mental health and social exclusion.

We are urging all our supporters to save our charity. We are collecting names to present to Number 10. If we receive 100,000 signatures our case will be debated in parliament. Please help TODAY and tell anyone else who might want to support us. Your 'signature' could help to reverse this funding decision from the government. Support us by:

- Email - just put your full name in the subject box and your postal address inside the email - we'll collect all your names and take them to Number 10

- Tweet your support through @timebank

- Show your support through Facebook

- Donate to help us make volunteering part of the fabric of everyday life.

- Tell your friends - get them to support us too.

Thanks for your support - we really do appreciate it, now more than ever.

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Junction49er Laura-Liz wins Young Achievers award

Laura-Liz Partoon, 20 an active Junction49er has been involved in several community volunteering projects whilst being hard at work as a student.

On average, she manages 100-200 hours of volunteering per month - an intimidating feat. The list of voluntary ventures itself she's either fronted or been involved in since the age of 13 is vast and impressive. Yet each project holds a special place in Laura-Liz’s heart. Her bravery and her dedication to her projects during her school and university years make her a genuinely worthy winner of the Young Achievers 20-25 Community Award. Her first projects have covered a variety of issues including mental health, disability and young people.

Sarah, my TimeBank colleague and Laura-Liz’s nominator, speaks very highly of Laura-Liz, explaining why she was nominated: “Laura-Liz is an exceptional young person who never ceases to amaze with her commitment and passion for the causes she believes in. She is incredibly busy with all her volunteering but always finds the time to offer support to other young people to help them deliver their own projects. She is a true inspiration to all of us.”

Read more about Laura-Liz's achievements here and find out more about the other winners too.

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Big Society Awards 2011

Often people who do great volunteering work for their communities go unrecognised and unrewarded. But did you know that the Big Society Awards exist to do just that? 

Anyone can make a nomination for an individual or group to be recognised with an award. Launched back in November, the Big Society Awards recognise individuals, groups or organisations that are demonstrating the Big Society in their work or activities. The award focuses upon three specific areas: promoting social action, empowering communities and opening up public services.

The latest award went to The Old Vic Tunnels, a unique performance space offering opportunities for young people to gain experience in production. Their volunteer scheme has had over 300 young people take part so far in producing sell-out shows.

So come on, get nominating and ensure that those community heroes are ‘unsung’ no more. Nominate here.

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Summer Fun

Don't know about you, but I'm quite desperately awaiting that first warm day of the year when I get my flip flops out, paint my toenails red and enjoy a Pimm's and Lemonade in the sunshine.

It'll probably be a few weeks yet, but it's always good to plan ahead...

So, if you're reading this blog, you probably like sunshine and volunteering and you'll be pleased to find out that there are some great opportunities out there where you can give your time and enjoy the sunshine at the same time this summer.

Festival of Britain: What better place to enjoy a hot day in London than by the river. The Southbank Centre is celebrating its 60th anniversary with the Festival of Britain between April and September this year and are looking for 120 volunteers to make the event happen. Sign up now.

Go on holiday: If you want to volunteer further afield, you can get your boots muddy and enjoy some stunning countryside on a conservation holiday with BTCV. Or, if you're good with kids, give six days of your time to help disadvantaged children to have a the holiday of a lifetime with CHICKS.

Music Festivals: Oxfam's applications for festival volunteers open in March. But it's not just the big charities that are looking for volunteers. Check your favourite charity's website to see if they're going to any festivals this year. Kiota for example (a small charity raising funds for education in Tanzania) are looking for litter pickers for Glastonbury.

I'm sure there must be more. So if you know of anything else going on this summer that sounds fun, rewarding or interesting post it here, so others can find out about it too.

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