In the corporate world, growth is seen as crucial to the long-term survival of a business, helping to drive performance and profit, attract new talent and fund investments.
But in the third sector, growth can be a complex proposition. A bigger network, more fundraising and additional volunteers are clearly positive, but from a pure numbers perspective, out and out growth isn’t infinitely sustainable.
Me2 Club is an inclusion charity, originally started by a group of parents in 2003 to help children and young people with additional needs to get involved in mainstream activities. As a local charity, we’ve been servicing the Wokingham borough for 18 years, supporting a growing number of children with a wide range of additional needs as well as mental health, behavioural and emotional difficulties.
Demand for Me2 Club’s services is on the increase: we’ve doubled the size of our staff team, relocated to bigger offices, helped 60% more children year on year and a key part of our strategy has been expanding into the neighbouring borough of Reading – a significant and ambitious undertaking.
Getting the word out
Me2 Club has a unique offering, and although there isn’t anything similar in Reading at the moment, we need to raise awareness of who we are and what we do in the area. While we have 18 years of word of mouth, an established track record and extensive network in Wokingham, we’ve started from a blank slate in Reading. The children and families don’t necessarily know about us or how we can help them, and if they do, they don’t always understand what steps they need to make to take advantage of our services. While we’re building partnerships with local voluntary organisations and the Local Authority trying to get our communications visible in as many places as possible, we’re currently only working with a small proportion of the families with SEN children in Reading and Wokingham: there are still so many more children we want to reach.
The capacity challenge
At any given time we have between 90 and 110 volunteers, and during the pandemic received a steady stream of enquiries from people wanting to provide regular help and support. Our capacity level is not set by our volunteers, but by our number of Activities and Volunteers Co-ordinators (AVCs), each of whom holds a caseload of up to 30 children and their families. It’s a chicken and egg situation; we’re currently operating at maximum capacity whilst simultaneously growing our waiting list of new families because that’s how we build a case for additional funding to hire more AVCs in order to further increase capacity.
It’s about thinking bigger, not just getting bigger
While growth is one way to solve the problem, it’s not infinitely sustainable, which is why we’re also focusing on scalability. In a social context, scaling refers to the attempt to reach more beneficiaries, thereby ensuring a greater proportion of those in need are supported without simply swelling as an organisation. Ultimately at Me2 Club, we want to be able to help more children and sustainably increase our impact.
Much of our future strategy centres around training and education. To this end we have appointed a Participation Officer to work with children, young people, activity providers and other bodies to give inclusivity training and help support them to adapt and modify their provision. By empowering providers to plan how to make their sessions inclusive, develop inclusion policies and spot the signs of a child who is being overwhelmed, we’re distributing the knowledge to the areas it will be most effective and have the greatest impact.
Evolving the Me2 Club offering
In addition to training and education, we’re also evolving the support we provide to include increased participation-based activities; by providing opportunities for children and young people that are meaningful and teach essential life skills, we can enrich lives through additional routes. Our SEND Youth Forum – which call themselves the ‘Youth Engagement squad’ – is a perfect example of this. We’ve also started a Young Assessors programme for those who don’t have access to Me2 Club, but who can build their skills and experience inspecting provision and building inclusion in the community.
The ideal future is one where we aren’t needed
Me2 Club is a resilient, forward-thinking and adaptable organisation. We know it’s not good enough to be delivering the same thing year in, year out; our ambition is to evolve and adapt to changing demands. But we’re also mindful that the fact we exist indicates there’s still a problem which hasn’t been resolved. Like so many charitable organisations, our ultimate aim is to build a future where we’re no longer needed, and we can close our doors. We hope and believe our strategy can take us a step closer to that reality.
To find out more about Me2Club’s aims and objectives we’d love you to visit our website, or you can follow our social channels for all our latest updates:
Visit our website: me2club.org.uk
Follow us on Twitter: @me2club
Like us on Facebook: @me2clubcharity
Follow us on Instagram: @me2club