Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Using the database

I’ve been tidying up some of our database of organisations at work today. This just involves following up on the ‘failure notices’ from mail-outs of our newsletter (Hastings Community News).


When I got here, about 6 months ago, we didn’t send any newsletters out by email, but we did print 1000 a month to be delivered by post.


Now we print about 750 copies a month and email about 300 PDFs. This makes life a lot easier, saves the cost of stamps and also produces quite a significant saving in staff time on folding, collating and enveloping.


Some of the extra spin offs are that we get better distribution in large organisations like the Borough and County Council, plus a presence in the email inbox of a lot more voluntary and community organisations each month. That generates more feedback and contributions too.


I’ve also been working on our membership proforma recently. The first step is converting it to a format which can be filled out and emailed back to us, which is now pretty much complete. Again, this will mean making sure the database details on member organisations contains as many email addresses as possible and also sorting out these, to ensure that they are still the correct ones for each organisation. Still, its a lovely evening so that can wait for tomorrow.



March 27, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climbing – My Trip to K2

Yesterday was great fun. My first trip climbing at K2 , (I don’t mean the one in the Himalayas, I’m on about the one in Crawley). 

Its  perhaps not what everyone would describe as fun, because unless you have climbed a few times it must be difficult to see where the pleasure can be gained in putting yourself through all that trauma.   

At first,  learning to climb is really all about moving from one safe set of holds to another,  preoccupied with the consequences of what will happen if you fall. Not a rational fear, since on indoor climbing walls you are almost always suspended from a rope with enough stretch to act as a shock absorber. Then you discover the worst that happens is that you fall a couple of feet into the open space and swing about in your harness. As you loose some of that initial fear you begin to loosen up, stretch rather than cringe and start exploring how far your balance will go. You set yourself more difficult problems where the holds become smaller and harder to grip. At the same time, the mind has to deal with two sets of contradictory thoughts. The first thought is to stay exactly where you are (since trying to move risks the fall) The second thought is not to stay where you are, since your position is only temporary and eventually fatigue will force you to let go. Working this though, you finally realise that a swing into thin air is always a possibility when you move but only an inevitability when you don’t.As the routes you pick become more difficult, an increasing number of ‘holds’ are beyond the point of balance or reach and the static positions become ones you can only stay on for very short amounts of time. Increasingly you have to swing out beyond the point of balance or jump a bit (dynamic moves), just to reach the next marginal hold. Once there you can stay only long enough to push off to the next set of movements – so you stay on the wall by keeping on the move.This is the point where a climb ceases to be just a ladder of individual holds and gets more like a ‘routine’ of moves, where you stay in the air by a mixture of timed swinging, pushing and rocking in limited patterns determined by the shape and positions of holds and your own flexibilities. A little bit like dance or learning to walk, falling forwards and catching yourself from falling with the other foot. One exception to all this is Southern sandstone. This is a film of someone climbing ‘The Niblick’,
which is a Southern sandstone route in my area. Sandstone climbing is a lot like Tai Chi. No shuffling allowed, because you generate sand under the feet, which acts like marbles and then you just slide off. The same goes for hands, you won’t get away with a ‘clutch and yank’ technique developed on indoor climbing walls.  Sandstone climbing is nearly all about smooth delicate moves where you have to place yourself and apply the right pressure. You can see this guy wipe the sand from the bottom of his shoes before he makes his last few foot placements, it makes all the difference between staying on and falling off on sandstone.

March 26, 2007 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

learning geek speak

Now there is a useful thing,  someone called David Wilcox  has done a really useful A-Z of Social Media.

I found out about that while I was following links from a National Council for Voluntary Organisations blog report on How Online Communities can make the net work for the VCS

March 20, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why join groups?

Today I have been poshing up the ‘What we all do’  pages on our website, learning how to upload files to our wiki diary (which I’m going to entice other staff to start using before too long) adding people to our contact database, marking database records to be sent Community News by email and  redesigning a membership form for voluntary and community organisations to become members of Hastings Voluntary Action.

Designing membership forms is more tricky than it appears. The golden rule is that if there is a wrong way to fill it out then people will find it.

Firstly it needed to be made in a way that that people could fill out and email it back to us, since past forms have been printable but not returnable by email.  Secondly, it needs to be personalised, so that organisations don’t have to repeat what they had already written in years gone by (so some of the sections need to have existing information pasted into them). Thirdly it needs to reduce the possibility that people could skip over pre completed items because they were in a rush and thus avoid reporting any changes. Fourthly, it needed to be in clearly identifiable sections, so people could phone us up and discuss the different sections if they needed to. Fifth, it needed to be on the minimum number of pages possible. Sixth, it needed to explain why we want information about the money that other organisations raise and where they get it from. Seventh, the sections need to fit with our database for recording the information when the forms are returned. And eighth, it needs to progress in a sequence that seems logical to respondents.

I think the whole thing is finished now, but the conversations with others did raise the issue of  how we better promote the reasons to join our CVS. I think I shall bash the words “why join” into and see what comes out the other end.

March 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment