Circles of Friends aims high!

Local organisation receives Silver Award for their volunteering offer.

The Volunteering Quality Standards sets benchmarks for working with volunteers; providing a solid foundation on which to build a volunteering framework that is, amongst other things, consistent, effective, and inclusive.

Upon first applying for the quality awards, Circle of Friends were a newly established group looking to improve their informal volunteering procedures and introduce structure and stability into their volunteer journey. Through their hard work and learning, they have successfully achieved a Silver award.

Circle of Friends is a community group, based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, aimed at bringing people together to improve their mental health, boost social connections and share positivity. They provide a social lifeline to many different people and rely solely on volunteers.

Circle of Friends was created by Jane during the pandemic, and she worked tirelessly to bring her vision to life, with numbers growing each week. Jane is an active member of the VAST Volunteer Managers Network and found out about the scheme through our quarterly meetings and newsletter.

Circle of Friends wanted to use the scheme as an opportunity to get the right processes and procedures in place, as the group is growing larger, and they need more volunteers to continue the work that they do. The group also have lots of exciting ideas for the future, so again need more help to make their ideas into reality!

VAST worked with Circle of Friends to identify their areas for development, and to create a realistic action plan to support them to achieve their goals at a realistic pace. Support Staffordshire and VAST then worked in partnership to support Circle of Friends to the Silver level.

Jane has had support from Support Staffordshire to access training, networking events, and advice around starting a new community organisation. Support Staffordshire have helped Jane access funding, equipment, and advice around policies.

Jane has also been able to develop a new partnership with Vici Coaching, who have assisted her to develop the relevant policies and plan to keep supporting Circle of Friends moving forward.

The quality standard scheme gave Circle of Friends the opportunity to evaluate their processes at every stage of a volunteer’s journey and pull together a smoother process to improve the recruitment and retention of volunteers.

Quotes from Circle of Friends:

Jane Williams (founder)

Circle of Friends means the world to me. It’s everything to me, supporting other people to help improve mental health and reduce social isolation. Circle of Friends is growing incredibly fast, with our coffee mornings becoming busier than ever before. It’s a supportive and friendly group who all help each other.

Completing the VAST Volunteer Quality Standard Award has helped us put into place the processes and procedures needed to look after our volunteers, who are absolute integral to our organisation. I am so proud of what we have achieved, and I am excited to work towards the Gold level.”

Karen Burgess-Jones (Vici Coaching)

I’ve recently started working in partnership with Circle of Friends, being able to support Jane with my knowledge through Vici Coaching. Circle of Friends is an incredibly supportive organisation, and they should be proud of achieving the Silver Award. We are excited to work with them to get them to the Gold Award.”

Quote from Support Staffordshire:

Jamie Wells, Senior Locality Officer, “I’m delighted that Jane and Circle of Friends have achieved the Silver Quality Standard Award.  It’s always a pleasure working with Jane as her enthusiasm is contagious and her passion for helping others is always so evident.  I’m delighted to see a fledgling group develop like this and hopefully having these policies and documents in place means Circle of Friends can now concentrate on their core work of helping more people live fuller lives.  Well done Jane – next stop, Gold!”

Quote from VAST:

Sian Osborn, Project Officer, “Circle of Friends have worked incredibly hard to achieve the Silver award of our Quality Standard scheme. Their effort demonstrates their commitment to their volunteers. We are excited to continue working with and supporting Circle of Friends as they develop in the future.”

Circle of Friends continue to work on their volunteering offer and are currently working to achieve the Gold level.

VAST is continuing to promote the Quality Standards to organisations in and around Stoke-on-Trent, as well as promoting the organisations who have completed the scheme to demonstrate to others that the scheme is achievable and worth doing.