The Heart of Bucks ‘Inspiring Buckinghamshire’ series gives local people from a range of sectors a chance to share their knowledge and insights to help inspire others.
Here we are speaking with Katie Higginson, CEO at Community Impact Bucks
Tell us about yourself and your connection to Buckinghamshire.
Prior to joining Community Impact Bucks as its CEO in 2019, I worked for over a decade in a range of roles within the VCSE sector including national funders BBC Children in Need and the Football Foundation.
Having grown up in Buckinghamshire and gone to school locally, I moved back to the county a few years earlier and was keen to get involved in the vibrant voluntary sector on my doorstep. I was really excited when the role at Community Impact Bucks became available as it meant I could join a great local charity with lots of opportunity as well as be able to support voluntary activity taking place across the whole county.
I am particularly interested in building stronger connections between local voluntary organisations and other sectors: we have set up several networks to bring the sector together, and we are now a key part of a number cross-sector partnerships to ensure the voluntary sector is represented and the key role they play within all aspects of the county is recognised.
What personal achievements are you most proud of?
In March 2020 Community Impact Bucks adapted in a matter of days to provide essential support to help the county’s VCSEs deal with the immediate impact of the pandemic. With funding and volunteering sources affected, we helped them navigate the constantly changing government guidance and take steps to ensure their survival.
We were able to move some services completely online, adapt others to still meet client’s needs, as well as ensure the efficient dissemination of information.
A key part of the effectiveness of that response was the collaboration between VCSEs and Buckinghamshire Council – for example the establishment of the VCSE Partnership Board, and the Volunteer Matching Service.
This showed what we could do in a crisis and we have retained that agility so that we are able to constantly adapt to the world that is changing so rapidly around us. This put us in a great position to move quickly at the start of the Ukraine crisis.
What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?
Funding is a challenge for every not-for-profit organisation and, as a small charity, we at Community Impact Bucks have in the past struggled to attract funding for our work as it doesn’t fit simply into one category nor ‘tug at the heart strings’.
However, we can tell a funder that their money will go towards changing lives across Buckinghamshire – we are constantly working to improve our monitoring and evaluation to evidence the real difference our services make.
To improve our financial stability, our strategy is to apply for more multi-year funding – thereby giving us the time to concentrate on delivering and evolving our services. We also ensure that any funding bids include the full cost of delivering the project, such as the back-office functions, without which we couldn’t run the organisation.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
It is something that we are often told but sometimes find hard to put into action – to look after yourself.
Many of us work in the voluntary sector because we want to help others and it is a core part of who we are. For anyone heading up a charity, the welfare of staff and volunteers are also at the forefront of your mind all the time. It’s important to set boundaries and try to leave the role behind at the end of the day.
The pandemic has definitely opened up discussions around wellbeing and I feel that the importance of looking after your own wellbeing is now more recognised and accepted as part of people’s personal and professional lives.
I try to model this to my team – for me, taking time out for exercise makes a big difference – and encourage them to get a work-life balance that works for them, get the rest they need, and share any worries with others.
What is your greatest hope for the future for Buckinghamshire?
Buckinghamshire is a county with many brilliant assets. I have always been impressed – both when I was growing up here and now in a working capacity within the voluntary sector – by the amazing community spirit and the many capable people who are passionate about where they live.
However, there are definitely some Bucks communities where people are facing significant challenges and don’t enjoy the same advantages. I hope that by working together – by which I mean the voluntary sector, statutory organisations, businesses and the communities themselves – that we can address that inequality and help every community to thrive.
Follow Katie on Twitter, click here.
To find out more about Community Impact Bucks, click here.
To follow Community Impact Bucks on Twitter, click here.
Read more of our Inspiring Buckinghamshire entries, here.