If you’d like to talk to other Heart Support Groups directly for their advice and suggestions why not use the Heart Support Group Directory to get in touch with a local group. Alternatively let us know and we’ll try to put you in contact with a group that can offer specific advice.
This would not affect your affiliation to BHF and in fact many of our existing affiliated groups are registered charities themselves.
Becoming a registered charity does have its advantages such as certain tax relief and groups have told us that it’s helped them get funding from other trusts and foundations as well as improving the public perception of the group. However, there is a higher level of regulation and restriction when the group becomes a registered charity as well as an increase in the level of administrative work, e.g. submitting audited annual returns to the Charity Commission.
We are not in a position to advise you on whether or not becoming a registered charity is the right move for your group and we understand that some group members may feel uneasy about this potential change. We would suggest looking at the Charity Commission website for more practical information and talking to a group who has considered becoming a registered charity themselves for their perspective and experiences – we can help to put you in touch with a group.
One of the barriers you may be facing is that people think taking on a committee role will take up too much of their time and they don’t know what to expect. Think about creating job descriptions so that everyone knows what will be required of the role. You could also have existing committee members mentor potential new committee members so that they can be eased into their new role.
Don’t forget there’s always the option to have more than one person take on a new committee role. It would mean less responsibility for one person, won’t take up too much of their time and could relieve any concerns they may have.
Another option to consider would be getting people outside of the group to help. There may be people in your local community who want to help but don’t know how they can provide support to the group. Why not take advantage of the Do-it volunteering website? As a local organisation you can create posts asking for volunteers to help with a number of things ranging from recruiting a treasurer to getting a volunteer to help with group publicity and creating a website.
One of the most important things to think about when retaining members is making sure your existing members are getting the support they need. The best way to do this is to ask them regularly what they’d like to get out of the group and the type of support they’d like to receive. The committee can then think about how best to provide it, but make sure you involve members in the decision making. It will get them more engaged with the group and the activities will be more worthwhile as it’s something they want.There are a number of different approaches to attracting new members such as:
- Creating a website and social media accounts to interact with the public and members
- Telling your story to local media including radio stations, local TV, monthly publications etc.
- Having posters and leaflets to distribute at stands and the local hospital
- Promoting your group’s work and activities by giving talks for local organisations
- Growing a relationship with healthcare professionals so they may refer patients
Whilst this is not an extensive list, these methods are successful when they raise the group’s public profile. To help do this it’s important to think carefully about your key messages. For example, it’s a great idea to use posters to advertise your group in local community centres, GP surgeries and cardiac rehab classes etc. However, take the time to consider what you want the posters to say to the public. Don’t just advertise contact details and meeting times but tell the public what they’ll get out of joining the group. Whether it’s having community spirit or providing social and practical support you have a lot to offer so make sure potential new members know that!
You can also take full advantage of the Heart Support Group poster space in the community board in all local BHF shops. This is a dedicated space for promoting Heart Support Groups. Go and introduce yourself to your local shop and either put your contact details on the existing poster or swap it for one of your own. However, please be aware that you will need to share this space with other local groups.
Applying for funding from local charities, trusts and foundations is one popular approach groups have taken. The Awards for All scheme at The Big Lottery Fund gives grants of between £300 and £10,000 to help support small community projects and may be able to help your group develop. You may also find that there are grants available from local authorities and other organisations in your area. A good source of information is your local Council for Voluntary Service.
We know that some groups have found this difficult, especially if they don’t have charity status, but it is a route worth investigating as it can lead to huge benefits. You could try and build a relationship with the organisation you’re looking to apply for funding from and keep them up to date with your activities. It’s important to build and develop your reputation and demonstrate how your members are benefiting from the group.
Many groups ask their members to make direct financial contributions, either through an annual membership fee or by contributing towards the costs of activities and members are generally happy to help if it means the support group can continue running. However, we do understand this may not always be enough.
Some groups run fundraising activities such as coffee mornings, taking a stall at a local fete or doing a sponsored bike ride. There are so many possibilities when it comes to activities so try and get the whole group to think of ideas and you can use them throughout the year to raise funds for the group. Having a variety of activities could also mean you can reach a wider audience. When planning fundraising activities, it’s important that you make sure it’s well publicised. Promote it as much as you can and try and get local businesses involved too. It will also be a great way to promote the great work your group is doing in providing support to local heart patients.
Please note that the group is not permitted to use the BHF logo. When raising funds specifically for your group, you cannot use the phrase ‘affiliated to BHF’ as it needs to be made clear to the public who they are donating money to and what the money will go towards.
It’s possible that other support groups in your local area are experiencing the same problem so it could be worthwhile getting in touch with them and exchanging details of speakers you’ve had in the past. You could also offer to do a presentation at their meeting about your support group activities and ask that they do the same for you.
The group could also consider asking members if they would like to lead a session on a particular hobby or interest they have. This could be appealing amongst members especially if they have similar interests. It’s a great way to get people more engaged in the group and could help them grow their confidence whilst also finding a suitable activity for your monthly meeting.
It’s important to remember your meeting speakers don’t always have to be heart related. Get in touch with other local community groups and organisations to see if they would be interested in speaking at your meeting and promoting the work they do. Don’t forget to ask your members if they have any contacts. Approaching a warm audience would always be preferable and think about what you could in return to thank them and grow that relationship.
If you have any suggestions or would like to share your success stories let us know so that we can share it with other Heart Support Groups. Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 554 0426.