Since 2016 we have been opening DY1’s doors for a regular monthly drop-in, for anyone who wanted to learn more about being part of a not-for-profit or volunteering. Over the years, our team has met 93 people from 50 organisations, who have dropped by to ask questions, set up longer-term support from us and our other colleagues, and become more widely connected.
In 2019, we wanted to make sure that more people across Dudley borough could access our drop in, so we decided to move the drop ins around the borough, rotating between Dudley, Stourbridge, Sedgley and Brierley Hill each month. We wanted to hold each drop in at community venues that had a coffee shop feel, where people could just pop in without feeling too daunted. We also wanted to hold them in places where charity-run community venues would be able to benefit from extra custom. With that in mind, we added Age UK’s café in Sedgley, and social enterprise Café 105 in Stourbridge to our itinerary. We planned to run the Brierley Hill sessions at Harry’s Café, run by Top Church Training / The Connect Project. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic prevented that.
The drop in, now called Nonprofit Natter, is a good place for people to meet us for the first time and to learn more about Dudley CVS, the non-profit sector and the great projects happening across the borough. People who attend get connected to appropriate support, such as longer-term help to develop their group, support from our Funding Officer, or linked to our Children, Young People and Families Network. We have been joined by Dudley CVS colleagues, Funding Officers from The National Lottery Community Fund, Black Country Community Grants as a great way for our colleagues to connect with people and projects on the ground.
On top of Nonprofit Natter, our Volunteer Centre began some regular informal monthly get-togethers for anyone who managed volunteers. People were invited to chat about all things volunteering and to see if we could support each other with any challenges. Nonprofit Natter and the Volunteer get-togethers brought together 25 organisations for mutual support, help with good practice and sharing ideas.
A great thing about these drop ins is their serendipitous nature. Though each drop in is themed around not-for-profits and volunteering, the agenda is entirely open to those who participate. This means that participants can direct discussion and results come organically. Groups that may not have crossed paths before and that may not have sought each other out learn about each other and their work. For instance, Dudley Macular Support Group met Black Country Radio, resulting in Dudley Macular Support Group being invited onto a radio show to promote their activities. Creating the conditions that bring people together and enable shared learning and joint activity has become a big part of what we do.
Unfortunately, in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic made coming together impossible. We decided to offer these drop ins virtually, enabling anyone with an internet connection to join us. Although not ideal, it provided an important mechanism for people to come together during a difficult period; it even encouraged new people to join us as we look to supporting each other in our collective recovery.