WILTSHIRE Community Foundation is using Volunteers’ Week to praise the dedication and commitment of those who give up their time to help it make a difference to thousands of people across the county.
Joint chief executive Vicky Hickey, said that volunteers dedicate hundreds of hours of their time every year to the charity and without them it could not deliver its work effectively. Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1 to 7, highlights the contribution to society made by volunteers and encourages more people to try volunteering.
The community foundation’s grants panellists alone donate a total of almost 1,000 hours a year, while trustees and committee members put in hundreds more.
“They are absolutely vital to the way we operate as an organisation, both from a governance point of view and also because of the knowledge and experience they bring,” said Mrs Hickey.
“Thanks to the time our volunteer grants panel members give us we can be absolutely confident the money we distribute – £1.9 million in 2022/23 – has gone to where it can make the most impact.”
Each grant programme has its own panel, made up of volunteers drawn from all parts of our community. Some, like educational panellist Denis Twomey, are even former grant recipients who bring a different level of understanding of those who need our help.
“I was lucky enough to be awarded an education bursary in 2014 and it enabled me to go to university, which wasn’t something I could have done without it,” he says. “I found myself in a position that I was able to start giving back and when I joined the education panel it felt the most circular moment to give back to the people that enabled me to do what I wanted to do.”
Fellow education panel member Rosemary Hopgood needed the help of a grant from another trust when her son, who is dyslexic, was young. She says: “He got a grant for some equipment and it was just like opening a door for him. That has doubly helped me understand how these grants help people.”
Before each panel meeting, panellists receive grant applications submitted by groups, charities or individuals and make their own judgement about which ones to support. Then at the panel meetings each application is discussed in detail, with panellists able to bring their particular expertise and experience to bear.
“I love reading about the organisations and it’s a really nice story to be reading about and listening to all this great stuff that is going on in Wiltshire and Swindon,” says panellist and trustee Damian Haasjes.
“You also have the opportunity to make decisions that will benefit those organisations. But you have to take your role seriously because it’s unlikely there is going to be enough money to support everyone who applies, so you have to think carefully about your decisions.”
Adds Mr Twomey: “There are differences of opinions but it’s all done in a really nice respectful manner so anyone can actually voice a dissenting opinion and there’s no judgement around it. It’s nice to come together with a different group of people, a different demographic with different experiences and viewpoints for a good cause.”
Mr Haasjes said: “I like the fact that everyone in the panel is listened to and we work together to come to a consensus, which is a nice bit of teamwork.”
Being a member of a panel and being able to see the impact of the grants awarded is worth the commitment, says Mrs Hopgood, who has been volunteering with Wiltshire Community Foundation for 10 years. “I enjoy seeing the applications from the young people and knowing how much they will benefit from the grants,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s humbling when you see their circumstances, particularly with the young people applying for the bursary, and you see how much they have put into what they are doing.”
Mrs Hickey said the community foundation gains a huge amount from its volunteers. “Firstly there are all the hours they commit to, which is important,” she said. “But also they bring a vast range of experience and understanding of so many different sectors of society, which benefits us in our planning, decision-making, development and contact building – and our profile in Wiltshire and Swindon.
“They are part of our team and they make a real difference to us and to communities across Wiltshire and Swindon. On behalf of everyone at Wiltshire Community Foundation I want to thank them for their time and commitment, and for the difference they make.”
For information on becoming a trustee or panel member: www.wiltshirecf.org.uk/recruitment.