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Designing volunteer models to succeed

6 June 2017

Last year we shared key findings from an evidence review by Parents 1st and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, which explored how volunteering initiatives can benefit the development of babies and young children. The evidence review was commissioned to support our strategic investment A Better Start.

The review found that volunteer initiatives can make a unique and valuable contribution to early childhood outcomes, complementing professional support. They can build relationships of trust and equality with parents and reach parents who don’t engage with other services, creating conditions that can lead to change.

From the review came a set of key principles for commissioners and providers and a framework that follows an evidence-based method for designing, adapting and implementing a volunteer programme.

Celia Suppiah, CEO for Parents 1st tells us more about how the framework can help practitioners to design volunteer models to succeed.

The framework assists commissioners and providers to work through a staged approach that engages key players along the way, promoting engagement and ownership whilst aligning the volunteer programme objectives with local area context, priorities and goals.

One of the key things we found is that many great volunteer schemes are conceived with noble aspirations for the people, families and communities they support. But, all too often there are examples of schemes that don’t achieve the outcomes they hope for. Many are un-sustained over time, either due to lack of continued investment, policy or even workforce changes that mean they lose momentum. Furthermore, programmes are often commissioned as an ‘add-on’ rather than being embedded into the landscape of the local ‘system’.

An important next step was developing a support package to guide local teams of planners, decision makers and practitioners to use the framework. We ensure a step by step approach is used that helps local partners to build consensus around direction and how the volunteer programme fits with local strategy. This enables teams to develop a clear theory of change to underpin their volunteer programme, plus a logic model and implementation plan. The design process needs to genuinely take into account the local context/picture and the need for local ownership.

Recently we’ve been working with Ripplez CIC, an innovative social enterprise in Derby to support them in the design and implementation of their new “Pregnancy Pal and Birth Buddy” volunteer programme. This first involved bringing commissioners and partners together for a design session. This not only provided vital opportunities for expressing their hopes and fears about the new volunteer programme; but also involved mapping out each player’s contribution as part of a ‘whole system’ approach to achieving early childhood outcomes. At the end of the session each partner pledged their contribution to helping it succeed, one partner said, “It has reduced my concerns, helped me to understand the peer support role better, and encouraged me to both enhance the programme and support it”.

To find out more about the support package contact

You can find the full evidence review and framework here.

“I want to say thank you” – Andrew finds his passion for art

11 May 2017

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Andrew Peacock tells us how National Lottery funding has made a difference to his life.

“I first attended Pathways to Wellbeing three years ago, after a local charity persuaded me to join. They had to drag me there kicking and screaming but I’m so glad that they did.

I’ve been sleeping rough for the past 12 years and everything I own is hard-earned and cherished. A piece of paper or a pen to me is precious. I’d never done any kind of art before coming to this project, but I’ve really progressed and it’s a lot of fun.

Pathways to Wellbeing inspired me to create pieces of art using an app on my mobile phone which had previously been provided to me by a local charity. I found that I could draw on my phone and I’d sit in the woods for six hours a night creating art – I’ve now made more than 2,000 designs.

The workshops, including visits from amazing artists, have encouraged me to push boundaries and try different stuff. During one of the workshops I learned papercutting techniques from a specialist artist, then in my spare time I used Bath Central Library as a workspace. I held my own art show at the library after staff saw the work I was creating there. I displayed more than 50 pieces of my work and I hope to hold more of my own exhibitions in the future

I’ve also designed a Christmas card for Holburne Museum which was sold in their shop. I decided that all proceeds should go back into the project to help others like me and I’m currently working on designing a display of fans to be featured in the museum’s café.

I now volunteer for Pathways to Wellbeing, acting as a mentor to other participants. After two years of working with the project, I realised that people in the group needed more help than me, so I sit with them and show them my work to give them ideas.

The project has changed the way I am with other people and has shown me that I enjoy helping others. That’s what National Lottery funding can do and I want to say thank you. I’m still living in a tent but here I am smiling and giving something back to the community.

Holburne Museum’s Pathways to Wellbeing project supports people with mental health problems through creative workshops in Bath. The initiative, which was awarded £95,295 of National Lottery funding in May 2016, helps people cope with mental health problems by creating pieces of artwork, which are later exhibited in the museum during special events.”

In 2016/17, more than £217 million of National Lottery funding was distributed to mental health related projects across the UK.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re sharing stories about the positive impact National Lottery funding has on the lives of people with mental health problems. Visit our Facebook page to read about more inspiring stories:



Royal visit to Lottery funded project a success

23 March 2017

In this blog, Joe Ferns, our UK Knowledge and Portfolio Director, tells us about a Royal visit to one of our funded projects.

Last Friday (17 March), His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited the Wadworth brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire and took a tour of the site as part of a celebration event for lottery funded project, Pub is the Hub.

Pub is the Hub received £452,925 of National Lottery funding in February 2015 through our Reaching Communities programme. The project is made up of specialist voluntary advisors for rural pubs and licensees who are thinking of broadening their range of services. Often this involves developing unused space to create a community hub and other services the local area needs such as a Post Office, crèche or shop.

I represented the Big Lottery Fund at the event, where the Prince chatted with the brewery team about the brewery process, met the artists who create the Wadworth pubs signs by hand, as well as the brewery’s famous shire horses. He also got the chance to pull a pint of Wadworth 6X – the brewery’s iconic real ale. The Prince then painted in the final piece to a plaque created to commemorate his visit.

It was an extremely successful event, with funders of the project receiving special thanks and recognition…

Chris Welham, CEO of Wadworth, one of the many regional pub operators who contribute to the project, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to welcome His Royal Highness and representatives of Pub is the Hub to our brewery. The work that the Prince and Pub is the Hub do to enable pubs remain central to their communities cannot be underestimated. I’m a firm believer that with a viable local pub, the community in which you live becomes a much better place. Pub is the Hub can proudly say their funding and advice has played a fundamental part in pulling communities together.”

John Longden, Chief Executive of Pub is the Hub since its inception in 2001, added: “Together with our patrons we wanted to say an enormous thank you to the organisations and businesses who have been stalwarts in supporting Pub is the Hub through the years. We exist entirely on donations and goodwill support from people who understand how much hard work goes into running a rural or community pub and also how vital these places are for economic, cultural and social cohesion.”

It was an honour and delight to represent the Big Lottery Fund at this Royal visit. I want to say thank you to the National Lottery players who have helped make funding this fantastic project possible. Having previously visited another Pub is the Hub site, I’ve seen and heard first-hand about the positive impact it can have on a community. I asked one of the license holders during my visit how he would describe the difference it had made to the area. His answer was: “It used to take ten minutes to walk across the village. These days, it takes over an hour because everyone talks to each other.”


For more information about Pub s the Hub visit their website

‘Fun on the Farm’ marks the end of popular Celebrate programme

13 March 2017

Last month we announced Oxford City Farm’s ‘Fun on the Farm’ event as the final project to receive funding through our Celebrate programme.

Between July and December 2016 Celebrate funded 1,714 projects across the UK and gave out over £9.5 million to groups to bring people together and celebrate what makes their local community special. Amongst these projects were 159 Christmas celebrations, 303 festivals, 7 bake offs, 2 world record attempts and an Elvis tribute act!

The last award made by the Celebrate programme was a grant of over £3,000 to Oxford City Farm for their community event which will take place on Sunday 8th October. Sally Mullard, Volunteer Fundraising Co-ordinator for Oxford City Farm said:

“We’re delighted to have received this funding. The focus for the day will be on celebrating all the work our volunteers, steering group and supporters have put into securing a wonderful new green space for the local community. We have lots of fun food-related activities planned including bring-a-plate picnic, apple pressing, music, and craft activities for kids and lots more! It will also be a great opportunity for local people to see the site and share their ideas about how the farm will develop.”

Lots of Celebrate events are still to happen this year. Check out our map to see what’s going on in your area.

If you’re holding a Celebrate event, or just attending one, tag @BigLotteryFund on Twitter or Facebook and use #BigCelebration to share your updates, photographs and video with us.

Hear Women Share their #BigChange

10 March 2017

Hear Women take a trip to the seaside

Hear Women is an organisation based in North London who work with women and girls from East and North Africa to enable them to reach their full potential.

In December 2016 they were awarded £10,000 Celebrate funding to run a series of Christmas, New Year and Easter events for refugee and migrant communities in the local area, with a particular focus on women and children.

This International Women’s Day we spoke to some of Hear Women’s volunteers, to find out what has inspired them to make a #BigChange for women and their communities.

What has inspired you to contribute to Hear Women’s efforts to make a #BigChange for women?



“What has inspired me is the importance of recognising the potential in women, and for them not to be held back as a consequence of societal expectations which arise due to their gender. The empowerment of women through social, economic and political means ensures that women can be seen as positive agents of change, and become active and confident members of society.

“When it comes to Hear Women’s work in the UK, teaching women English, encouraging them to take control of their health and well-being, and making them aware of their basic rights, these are important steps in making them feel integrated into society. I have a personal interest in encouraging women to take control of their lives and pursue independence, and by volunteering at Hear Women I am able to contribute to this cause.”


Hear Women also offer financial workshops


“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women are widowed as a result of a series of wars and internal conflicts. Women’s rights organizations struggle against harassment and intimidation, while they work to promote improvements to women’s status in the law, in education, the workplace, and many other spheres of Iraqi life, and to curtail abusive traditional practices such as honour killings and forced marriages.

“All those factors give me the motivation and determination to help women all around the world who suffer from violence, discrimination and abuse. So I decided to volunteer with Hear Women to learn how to advocate for our rights and change my life and other Iraqi women’s life for better.”


“My experience with war in my own home country, Libya, and seeing how much women suffered, made me feel I should play a role in helping them. Women suffer during and after war, as existing inequalities increase and social networks break down, making women more vulnerable to losing their dignity and pride, and much more. I have seen Libyan women suffer from violence, being forced to relocate and becoming refugees. All of this gave me the inspiration to stand by those women.

“I was waiting for an indication to start work on my dream, and to make a difference to those in need, when I was lucky to meet Deqa, the founder of Hear Women, and we talked about women in general and what Hear Women Foundation offers to help. That answered my question and now I have started volunteering; the best experience I have had in my life. It has opened my mind about life and has pushed me to raise the Libyan issue with others.

“Hear Women has made me a better listener, more patient, and has given me the ground to start making my dream come true.”

Celebrating LGBT History Month at the Big Lottery Fund

20 February 2017

February in the UK marks LGBT History Month, an annual event which shines a light on the often-overlooked histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.

At the Big Lottery Fund, we’re taking this opportunity to celebrate the wide range of LGBT projects we support across the country, from small community groups to large scale initiatives that support LGBT people young and old to overcome barriers, and live fulfilling and creative lives. Check out our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for photos, stories and top application tips from projects across the country.


Conference at The Proud Trust

For this blog, we spoke to two organisations who have been funded through our Reaching Communities programme, LGBT Foundation and The Proud Trust, about the top tips and advice they have for other LGBT organisations looking to apply. In the words of The Proud Trust – “Don’t be afraid to talk about sexuality and gender on your application, the Big Lottery Fund have a positive attitude to LGBT needs and inclusion!”

Involve the community

LGBT Foundation, who received £299,742 for their Well Women project to improve the health and wellbeing of lesbian and bisexual women, emphasise the need to involve the community: “Speak to the people you want to support – they might be able to offer some great insight or ideas which would improve your project. You could set up a stakeholder group, hold a focus group, do some twitter engagement or do a short survey – it could make or break your project, so invest as much time as possible into ensuring your project reflects the needs of the people you want to support.”

Provide evidence

The Proud Trust, who received £473,123 for their project supporting LGBT youth to overcome the barriers posed by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, highlight the importance of evidencing your


Drama Week at The Proud Trust

application: “Look online for evidence to show the need for your work. Lots of Universities, local authorities and voluntary sector groups have done research about LGBT people, which can help highlight the needs of your group, e.g. Queer Futures (Dept of Health), Youth Chances (Metro), How You Can Help Us (The Proud Trust).”

LGBT Foundation gave similar advice: “Evidencing your project need is key, however when it comes to robust research about the needs of LGBT people in particular, it can sometimes be very difficult to get your hands on up to date or large scale data. However, LGBT Foundation have handily pulled together a lot of research and statistics in the Evidence Exchange which holds thousands of statistics about LGBT communities.”

Explain your terminology!

The Proud Trust advise applicants to “put things in plain English to help the person reading your application understand – don’t assume the person reading the application knows what ‘non-binary’ or ‘trans-masculine’ means, and always explain acronyms the first time you use them, especially long ones like LGBTQUIA!”

What about smaller grants?

“If you want to put on something like a training course or an event, you can apply to Awards for All for the money, even if you are a small group. You don’t even have to be a registered charity.” say On Road Media, who were awarded £10,000 for their trans awareness project, All About Trans.

If you have a small scale project to fund, you can apply to our Awards for All programme, which awards small grants of up to £10,000 to voluntary and community groups. Many LGBT organisations sent in their top tips for applying to Awards for All – find more on our Instagram account.

Creating a ‘World of Wonder’ for children and families

20 November 2016

To celebrate Universal Children’s Day, we hear from Hull Community Church on how they worked closely with local children to create a space where they could feel safe and be themselves.

Hull Community Church has always had a strong ethos of helping the local community and providing activities and support for families in need. But when part of their building, previously rented to a separate charity, became available, an opportunity arose to create a unique play space for local children and to put them in the driving seat.

Hull CC’s project lead (and minister) Anne Dannerolle and her small team didn’t just consult local children, they helped make their ideas a reality. Around 60 children and young people had their input. One young girl, who came to the project from a troubled family background, was particularly influential, and made it clear that the new space should be somewhere safe and welcoming children could go to when being at home was too difficult.

The Bounce Room

Children enjoying the Bounce Room

In 2015, Hull CC was awarded a Reaching Communities grant of £476,247, with just under £100,000 to be spent on creating the World of Wonder (WOW). The children had ambitious plans for the new space, including a Hobbit Hole, a treehouse slide and a ‘bounce room’. Delivering their vision and giving them ownership was important to Anne and she fought hard to retain their ideas, even when architects and builders said things couldn’t be done. When the project looked as though it was going to be too expensive, Anne and her team got creative, sourcing specialist items cheaply online. Trips to a reclamation yard also resulted in beautiful old timber for the Hobbit Hole.

The community got stuck in as well. People of all ages pitched in with painting, plastering and creating unique decoration for the different areas of the WOW. A local art student created a huge mural of a tree to complement the treehouse slide.

Since the WOW opened, kids of all ages have been throwing themselves around in the bounce room, which with its twinkling-star lighting is also a great place for disabled children and those with special educational needs. The Hobbit Hole is a popular hangout for teenage visitors, and as for the slide… well, Big Lottery Fund staff can vouch for how much fun that is!

But the impact on individuals tell a powerful story too. One woman brought along her young son who has autism and requires significant day-to-day support. He had great fun serving the chocolate pudding at the Wednesday family tea session. His mum commented:

The Hobbit Hole

The Hobbit Hole

“Autistic children don’t like to get involved and do things with other people. Seeing him helping like this means so much to me.”

“This group provides opportunities that are incredibly valuable for a child with ASD. Support to integrate and be himself allow him to build skills and express himself by doing things he loves. Many take these opportunities for granted, but to special needs parents, they’re miracles.”

Her son is planning to have his birthday party at the WOW later this month, as it’s “the only place he feels totally comfortable and at home.”

The building work might be done, but that’s only one element of the project. Hull CC will spend the next three-and-a-half years delivering activities to help them further develop relationships with the community and continue to support people through the challenges they face.

“We’re so thankful for the World of Wonder and this amazing space,” says Anne. “But it’s only as amazing as the parents, children and young people who use it, and who have become part of our extended family.”

Mentoring girls to reach their full potential

27 October 2016

The Girls’ Network matches girls between 14 – 19 years old from the least advantaged communities with professional mentors from all walks of life.

To celebrate National Mentoring Day, they have shared Julie’s story with us.

ko0hcrzJulie* was suffering from depression and anxiety just before her GCSE exams. She was at risk of being expelled from school due to poor attendance, and had missed almost all of the deadlines for college applications, too. The school had effectively ‘given up’ on her, and her mother didn’t know what to do.

Her mentor met with her, and quickly recognized the symptoms of anxiety. Working alongside her mother, she pulled together a plan of action to help Julie get back on track.

As well as regular contact, Julie’s mentor also helped arrange counselling sessions to support with anxiety, and took Julie to a workshop run by the Maudsley Hospital for young people with anxiety.

Julie is now attending school more regularly and has made really good progress with English coursework, earning her target grade of B- in English Literature. Her mentor arranged for a tutor, who had also suffered from anxiety and depression, to work with her. Julie is now also applying for a Health & Social course at City & Islington College and is organising work experience through a family friend at a hospital in Portugal over the summer.

All of this growth has been facilitated by her mentor, with help from Julie’s mother, to support and help Julie exactly as she needs. Julie and her mentor have built a wonderful relationship, and will continue to work together this year as Julie makes the transition into college.

Julie’s mentor said: “I’ve had the most wonderful year working with Julie. She’s bright, she’s articulate, she’s creative, she’s the most emotionally intelligent 16-year-old. It is like talking to a peer.”

You can read more about The Girls’ Network here

* Julie’s name has been changed to protect her identity.