Our achievements, 2010-2011
Investment in staffing pays off
"The staff actually listen, they also hear and come up with hard-earned wisdom when asked. They were available, non-intrusive, sensitive to difficult situations."
Clarke Court and 385 Kingsway Residents’ Association
Thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund for the Money in Mind project, we have expanded our staff team to seven. This has enabled us to significantly increase the amount of time we can spend supporting groups through our range of intensive support services:
- one-to-one advice
- direct help with design and print
- financial management support.
This aspect of our work had been squeezed in 2009-2010 due to an increase in demand for our equipment services, which had put our staff team under considerable pressure. With an enlarged team, we are now able to meet the needs of groups for both the practical resources and the straightforward advice they need to help them run their activities well.
As well as improving our intensive support services, we have put additional time into our core drop-in services, enabling us to help more groups in the community print room, spend longer with each group, repair equipment faster, and deal with bookings more efficiently.
The overall picture remains that in each year:
- we are used by over 1,800 different groups, over 50% of which are based in Brighton & Hove (A large proportion of the out of town groups and visits are website uses.) In 2010-11, the number of user groups was actually 1,943.
- these groups make more than 4,700 visits to use the Centre (around 95 a week) and 75% of these visits are by Brighton & Hove groups. In 2010-11, the number of visits was actually 5,034.
- Around 1,000 of these visits are by groups in areas of social housing, BME groups, and groups of disabled people (our priority groups).
- 70% of the 4,700 total visits are to the building itself, and the remainder are to our website.
- during their visits groups make 4,000 uses of information and publications.
- during their visits groups make 6,000 uses of equipment, 4,000 of which are in the Centre and the remaining 2,000 are equipment hire.
Maintaining our services at this level requires a continuous assessment of the needs of our user groups, the condition of our equipment and the balance of our staff time. We rely on the skill, flexibility and experience of our staff team to keep everything working smoothly and efficiently.
How we adapt to meet changing needs
Three aspects of our work have changed significantly in the last two years:
- Our print room was entirely updated in March 2009, following a grant from CapacityBuilders
- We are involved for the first time in a partnership project – Money in Mind – which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. This enabled us to employ an additional worker in January 2010.
- We have noticed a change in the type of design and print work we are being asked to do by our priority groups - a clear shift away from routine minutes and posters towards more complex colour designs and intensive support with newsletters.
Each of these changes has led to a change in the way we organise our work. We discuss the impact of these changes in the rest of this section.
Community Print Room: a step up in quality and quantity
We have now seen two full years’ usage of our revamped community print room and it is clear that the equipment is well suited to the needs of community groups.
The print room has become much busier; it has been used 32% more often in the last two years than in the previous two.
“We are delighted with the introduction of colour printing/photocopying last year. This was a real breakthrough and has enabled us to print attractive posters and programmes for our events.”
Clifton, Montpelier and Powis Community Alliance
The bulk of this increase is due to the popularity of our colour photocopier. This provides a new dimension to the publicity materials groups can produce in the print room, and has undoubtedly drawn new groups to the Centre. 513 different groups used the print room in 2010-11, compared with 386 in 2007-08.
In order to meet the needs of these additional groups in the Centre, we have restructured our staffing rotas so that we now have two members of staff available on the front desk whenever we are open (Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 4pm).
Our front desk workers are a first point of contact for any group needing to book services or discuss their support needs. They deal with phone calls and email enquiries, take bookings, check equipment in and out, make running repairs as necessary, issue invoices and process payments, and keep our popular noticeboards up to date, as well as being on hand to help groups in the print room.
Design and Print: moving with the times
Since 1985, we have offered a design and print service to our priority groups. The service was developed in response to requests from groups based on council estates, whose volunteers often had no access to computer or print equipment, and welcomed the offer of support to produce professional looking posters, letters and minutes.
"The service is invaluable to tenants in so many different ways, ie equipment for fetes, posters for events, book accounts auditing etc etc. And all this has been done for myself and tenants with the utmost politeness and efficiency. Have always had excellent results, whatever I've asked for."
Mursan Tenants Association
Over the years, both technology and the needs of groups have changed beyond all recognition.
Many volunteers now have access to computers in their homes or local libraries, and a new generation of activists have a higher general level of familiarity with technology.
The number of Design and Print jobs we do for our priority groups has been falling for two years and is now lower than in the past.
This drop has contributed to a reduction in the number of visits to the Centre by priority groups this year, and to an apparent drop in the usage of our computer network.
However, the amount of staff time we have put into this area of work has increased in 2010-11 by 63%.
This surprising figure is explained by a change in the type of work we are doing for groups. Instead of relatively quick posters and minutes, we are now helping groups to produce newsletters, reports and complex colour designs for their publicity materials.
An open door for community groups
Our front desk is also a place where groups can access on-the-spot advice about any issue they are facing. Our increase in staffing has meant we are better able to meet the demand for this popular ‘advice on demand’ service. 2010-11 saw a new high of 140 occasions when groups received specific, focused help with a wide range of issues, from fundraising strategy to design skills, writing a constitution to keeping accounts.
For priority groups, there is additional, planned support available. Again, this is flexible and responsive to each group’s needs. In 2010-11, we delivered:
- 182 planned support sessions
- 256 pieces of design and print work
- 122 examinations of accounts
Equipment hire returns to normal levels
After a peak in 2009-10, usage of our range of hire equipment has dropped back to its usual level of just under 2000 hires. The most popular items in 2010-11 were:
|Meetings equipment||Play equipment||Fundraising equipment|
|Display boards||108||Disco/karaoke||43||Candy floss||89||Tombola||36|
|PA equipment||98||Tabletop games||27||Money aprons||71||Stocks||35|
|Cameras||65||Bubble machine||21||Live wire||63||Inflatables||33|
|Laptops||35||Tug of war rope||20||Coconut shy||37||Clown striker||24|
Money in Mind: an effective partnership
“Having accounts independently audited gives peace of mind to groups, and they can see that their accounting procedures are good. The service was very quick and all questions were answered and our group felt supported in the process.”
The Money in Mind project began in October 2009. Through a partnership of the Resource Centre, Impact Initiatives and the Working Together Project, it offers free training, support and resources to help small groups manage their money better. Any community or voluntary group in Brighton & Hove with an annual income of £35,000 or below can benefit.
By the end of March 2011, the project had helped a total of 180 different groups and had delivered:
- 18 training courses
- 95 examinations of accounts
- 172 one-to-one support sessions
The success of the project has been based on the proven effectiveness of the financial management support provided by the Resource Centre to priority groups for over 20 years.
“I have never been very confident when it comes to figures, so when I volunteered to become the treasurer of our group I didn't have any idea where to start. The staff at the Centre were willing to show me how to manage the accounts. I feel much more confident in that area and have no problems now. I would like to thank all the staff for being patient and helpful. I would not have been able to manage without them. The group would also like to thank everybody for helping us with all the fundraising. Without this support there would be no yoga group.”
Tarner Yoga Group
Working directly with volunteer treasurers, we are able to develop accounting systems that meet each group’s particular needs. We are available to give ongoing support, through annual examinations of accounts and further training, phone or email support, as required. Our online information resources have been developed specifically to provide useful reference material for small group treasurers.
Through the Money in Mind project, this kind of tailor-made support is now available to all small groups in the city.
Last updated July 2011