Archive for the ‘charity’ Category

Paying for a charity

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

a prize from Mashed

I’ve mentioned a few times here before that I am a trustee of a youth volunteering charity. We started it a few years ago, and do a lot of very cool stuff with thousands of young people across the region.

And this isn’t cheap. Staff are the biggest expense, followed by rent and an array of other bills.

A common question I get from friends not familiar with charity funding is “where do you get the money from?”.

The short answer is “anywhere we can!”.


Another four day work week

Friday, April 25th, 2008

This week was another chance to get away from my desk for a day.

some of my slides

Support U 2
Last Thursday, I spent the day in Hursley House running a careers training day for young people. The morning was spent on how to write CVs, and the afternoon focused on interview skills. It was a part of the current phase of my mentoring project, Support U 2. I’ve written about Support U 2 already (both before and after), which is why I didn’t post about last week at the time – although the project has continued to be been refined and improved, the aims and general ideal is still much the same as I’ve written before.

Still, the day was a big success – in particular a couple of hours in the afternoon where young people each received one-on-one interviews from IBMers. Each interview was about ten minutes long, after which they’d get feedback on their interview technique before moving on to an interview with another IBMer. Very tiring – for both the young people, and the volunteer interviewers! – but I think it went well. There was a noticeable improvement in the young people’s interviews as the afternoon went on.

(And a big thanks to Nick, James and Andy for being amongst the fantastic volunteer interviewers. There were several others – I’d link to them all, but couldn’t find them online anywhere… 🙂)

That was last week’s day away from my desk.


IBM HackDay 5
Today, I spent the day in Hursley House again! This time for our latest internal HackDay. (It seems that a lot of the cool things I do at work are happening in the House… it’s conditioning me in a Pavlov’s Dog kinda way to really like being in Hursley House! 🙂 )

Unfortunately, I got quite distracted by a few customer issues – my day job is a service role, responding to customer problems with our software. It seems that Friday is the day when a lot of customers will report problems that they’ve run into – I guess that if they’ve still not something working by Friday, then it’s time to call IBM Support!

Even if I spent a lot of time doing normal work, it was still fun to do it in the House, and get to talk in-person to a few people that I normally only communicate with through blogs or Twitter. And excuses aside, I did get a chance to write a small hack of my own, which I even managed to get working before heading home. I’ll have to post about it soon.

Looking at my diary, I’m gonna have to work every day next week. It’s so unfair…

Support U 2

Friday, February 8th, 2008

An article I wrote for the Hursley intranet. There is nothing confidential in it (and it took me long enough to write!) so I thought it’d be good to share.

The first phase of Support U 2 – a pilot mentoring project for young people run between business, charity, and government agency – came to an end with a celebration evening in the Clubhouse.

What was the project all about?

Support U 2 was started to help hard to reach young people – people not in education, employment or training, and identified as being unlikely to change this without some additional effort.

IBM’ers are already mentors for young people through programmes like MentorPlace. Youth charity, Solent Youth Action (SYA), work with young people through volunteering placements, activities and youth groups. Government agency Connexions provide advice and counselling to young people.

All of this happens already, and makes a massive difference to the lives of thousands of young people.

The unique aspect of Support U 2 was how these organisations worked together. The project brought them together to make a focused, coordinated effort to change the lives of young people identified as being at risk of remaining NEET.

Rather than offer separate programs, they pooled our resources – IBM’s business expertise, Connexions’ expertise at working with NEET young people, and SYA’s expertise at finding young people engaging, educational placements and activities. This was brought together to produce an intensive, coordinated package, tailored to each young person.


Donating for freeware

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

If I’ve ever talked to you about Windows Mobile, the chances are I’ve probably mentioned my wiki note-taking app. Of all of the bits of mobile code hacking that I’ve done, it is the one that (a) I dont seem to shut up about, and (b) has been one of my most popular*.

The app has been around for over a year now, and gets downloaded from about 1000 – 1700 unique IP addresses each month (Plus a few thousand more from mirrors on freeware sites).

The forum set up for users to report bugs and request features has over sixty active users.

And I generally get emails from 20 or 30 other people with requests each month who don’t want to use the forum for whatever reason.

I’ve even had emails from people using the app far more than I ever envisaged: people who are using the wiki as a work intranet wiki, installing a copy for each of their staff; people who use the wiki to maintain and develop websites; and more.

It would seem that there is an audience and a demand for this app.

Nearly a year ago, I decided to try a little experiment to see how this demand would translate into people prepared to pay for it.


Me & U

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I don’t often blog about work that we do in Solent Youth Action. Not sure why. Perhaps because the best stuff we achieve isn’t normally something tangible I can pick up and show people.

But today it is – because today I got a proof copy of a booklet that we’ve produced that I wanted to share.

Me & U (“My Emotions Understood”) is a project we’ve been running with the Brookvale Youth Mental Health Team. The idea was to work with young people who have experienced mental health illnesses and support them to write a book of thoughts and poetry that could raise awareness of mental health issues. Through the production of the booklet, we supported the young people to try and explain the emotional experience of a young person with mental health issues.

They’ve managed to produce a stunning booklet that is as moving as it is informative. It’s an amazing achievement and, I think, very unique.

When I try and explain what “Solent Youth Action” does, people sometimes find that it isn’t what they might have first expected from a youth volunteering charity. I’ve blogged before that “volunteering” can take many forms, and this is another fantastic example.

The stuff charities send through the post

Monday, November 12th, 2007

There was an interesting article in Third Sector on Friday:

Fundraisers should stop using incentives, such as pens and coins, in their fundraising packs unless they are relevant to the charity’s cause, charity direct marketing experts have told the Institute of Fundraising.

If adopted, the proposal could put an end to incentives such as coins or umbrellas in packs, the institute has acknowledged… The agencies suggested … the inclusion of statements such as: “This pen cost 2p. We included it because we encourage supporters to write to beneficiaries, which is an important part of our work.”

It could also require charities to include a statement telling donors that they should not feel obliged to make donations because they had received an incentive gift….”

This makes sense to me – I’ve often thought it felt all too easy to do this stuff, and that more consideration should be taken about the benefits of these promotional items weighed against the cost – to make sure that they are not a waste of money.

Ironically – and the reason which prompted this post – the same day, I got a letter through the post from a charity I’d never heard of before. (I won’t name them because that feels a bit mean)

They sent me a stack of Christmas cards, and some little diary/calendar things. And an invoice – prefilled so I could just write a cheque and send it back. If I wanted more, I could order more. If I didn’t need all of them, I could send them back.

Am I turning into a grumpy old man (entirely possible) or is this more than a little annoying?

An organisation I had never heard of before sent me a bunch of stuff that I didn’t ask for or want, together with an invoice. And it’s up to me to go to the trouble of sending it back.

Bah, humbug, harrumph, etc. 🙂

It’s an interesting perspective, though – we’ve put a lot of effort into doing mailshots in the past. It’s always hassle and tiring, and in all the effort it’s easy to lose sight of how it might be received. This sort of thing can have a big impact on people’s perceptions of your “brand”.

I.T. infrastructure for a growing charity… revisited

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I blogged back in the summer when I was starting to think about overhauling the I.T. infrastructure for my youth charity, Solent Youth Action. But I never actually came back to this to say what I went with in the end.

You can see the original post to see what we started with, but in short, it was fairly primitive.

I don’t think that we’re really finished yet, but here is where I’ve got to so far…


What is volunteering?

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I was in London Waterloo this week (to get the Eurostar to Disneyland!) and one thing I noticed was the posters advertising for volunteers to be Special Constables.

I’ve sort of been vaguely aware of them before, but this was the first time I had a proper look. They have the same powers as regular police. They wear similar uniforms. They get “professional police training”. But they don’t get paid.

Is this volunteering?

I mean… they don’t get paid… but something about it doesn’t feel like volunteering. Is it a cheap way to get more police on the streets? I’m absolutely not trying to be negative about a role that I know next to nothing about, nor am I belittling the contribution made by anyone who wants to take on what looks like a very challenging role in support of their community. But it has got me thinking about what I consider to be “volunteering”.