Argos Staff get their Hands Dirty for Charity

60 Argos Store Managers help support various causes across Milton Keynes

Community Action: MK work with Argos to deliver their employee volunteering programme, where staff volunteer some of their work time on helping local causes. On Monday 23rd May, 60 Argos Store Managers went out to various places across the city. They supported Willen Hospice, Stanton School, The British Red Cross, MK Snap, Coffee Tots Pre-School, The Urb Farm and York House in Stony Stratford. On this occasion the projects were also lucky enough to receive a cheque from the teams towards their work. Check out some of the images and quotes from the day…

Urb farm

Stanton School

“It’s amazing that the volunteers have achieved so much in just 4 hours. We are always delighted to have volunteers at Stanton School” ­ Helen Nicholson, Headteacher Stanton School

“I’ve really enjoyed volunteering today. It’s an easy project to do and I can see how this can relate back to my area back home” Emma, Argos Volunteer


Willen Hospice

“WOW! Not only have we had the fantastic assistance of 10 volunteers today that have helped us in the Furniture store and warehouse…BUT they have also given us a total of £200 donation for the hospice!” Bob Prince, Distribution & Store Manager at Willen Hospice


MK Snap

“It’s a great idea to take part in volunteering like this. We can take these ideas back to our areas and encourage others”Debbi, Argos Volunteer
“I wouldn’t think of arranging an activity like this. We have 10,000 volunteering hours to use; this is a way to use them productively” Yu Ming, Argos Volunteer
British Red Cross

British Red Cross

“This opportunity is bringing on a fuzzy feeling. It’s always good to have fuzzy feelings!” Argos Volunteer
“It’s great to be out doing something that is not for profit but making a real difference” Argos Volunteer
“This is the first time meeting the team, feel as though we are really bonding” Argos Volunteer
“We were struck by the energy and enthusiasm the group had, and their interest in the project. They enjoyed getting stuck into the tasks, but also asked a lot about how volunteers work and some of the ways tending the plot helps our clients. We were also not expecting such a kind donation, this will really motivate our volunteers and help clients plan to grow what they would like to see grow.” Kerri, British Red Cross

If you would like to find out more about how your staff could get involved in our employee volunteering programme, or if your charity could use teams of volunteers, contact us on

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New Conference coming for Business Startups

Thinking of starting up your own business? Then the new Think Startup conference is for you.

Think Startup is a one day conference to connect enterprises, startups and people with passion to one place. They are bringing national and local speakers to talk on what it takes to bring your business to the next level.



Visit for more information or get your ticket here.

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Volunteers Week

Community Action MK are celebrating volunteers week which runs from the 1st – 12th June 2016. We are inviting businesses large and small to work collaboratively and bridge the gap with community organisations, charities and schools. Our aim is to ensure everyone across Milton Keynes is given an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to our thriving city.

‘Employee volunteering is great for building strong and resilient teams in the current challenging economic environment and so it’s good for the businesses and their employees as well as the community groups they help. At CAMK we aim to provide easy access to quality opportunities. Our prep work ensures employees and groups all have a valuable time. Employee volunteering develops a greater sense of community and makes Milton Keynes a better place to work and live.’ Tim Marren CEO of CA:MK.

CA:MK will identify and create a range of projects that individuals or teams will be able to choose, throughout the week. We will coordinate the volunteers to ensure that the activity benefits everyone who takes part. CA:MK will collect feedback and create an evaluation report for the week, so, if you are in charge of volunteering at the employer end, you’ll have information to show the opportunity has been a success for you .

The cost to take part in volunteers week will be £30 per volunteer. This will contribute to the resource of CA:MK staff time.

Here are some volunteering opportunities that you could be involved with…

To learn more visit our page 

  • Fancy a breath of fresh air working on a variety of outdoor tasks with a local community farm, activities will include: painting, scrub clearing, small-scale construction and planting. Thursday 9th. Volunteers needed 25.
  • Get down and dirty to clear the way to extend our local canal. Safety equipment will be provided. Thursday 2nd June. Volunteers needed 20.
  • Be a part of history by volunteering for a National Charity to help preserve their gardens for everyone to enjoy for years to come. They are able to accommodate teams throughout the week (not 2nd June). Teams can be 20+.
  • Help a school to deliver employability skills to their students to prepare them for the future. Wednesday 8th June. All welcome.
  • Deliver skills for life coaching to homeless young people. This can be helping them to budget, cook, shop or just a general chat to help prepare them for when they are successful in securing a home of their own.
  • Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied sailors and disabled sailors can participate on equal terms. This group are inviting volunteers to go along to support them to get onto the water. They also keen to show volunteers how it is done and encourage them to get onto the water too! Sailing will take place on Wednesday 8th June 12-5pm.

If you would like to get involved with any of the above activities please contact Tracy Pearson 01908 661623 or email


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Volunteering Round Up – January 2016


Hope the first few weeks of January are going well for you? A little bit of volunteering news from us first;

We have updated our best practice guide on recruiting volunteers with some recent safeguarding updates, please follow this link to our website. Have you booked on to our free safeguarding workshop for volunteer managers next week? Sign up here! It will be useful if you are already aware of your responsibilities or if you are new in post it will introduce you to what you need to know.

We often get contacted by volunteers who live outside Milton Keynes but have seen a volunteering opportunity we are promoting within the city, via the Do-it website. Have you thought about how you might capitalise on this? It can be relatively quick and easy to create a ‘digital’ or ‘micro’ volunteering opportunity. Check out our Digital Volunteering factsheet here.

We love getting feedback from groups who we help to recruit volunteers. Buckingham Canal Society recently said;

“Without Community Action: MK’s encouragement and practical help we would never have been able to involve volunteers. They are always there to help make sure policies are in place and advise about legal issues. They promoted our opportunities which enabled us to get some really good volunteers. Our organisation is involved with the conservation and restoration of the Buckingham arm of the Grand Union Canal by organising regular work parties to carry out the tasks so it’s really important we have volunteers, we just couldn’t run without them.”

Featured Volunteering Opportunity:

Are you looking to get experience in events management? Deaf Zone MK are looking for volunteers to help make their social events really special – find out more here.

065/365: Show us your smile!

From NCVO: What challenges will volunteering face in 2016?

“Funding will continue to be an issue in 2016. While volunteering delivers enormous value it is not cost free, but this is a truism many policy makers and funders seem incapable of grasping.

Volunteer management remains a Cinderella profession and needs far greater investment and recognition if it is to deliver to its full potential. As do Volunteer Centres which will continue to feel the brunt of local authority cuts. Many are successfully re-inventing themselves to survive and thrive in the new reality, but further changes will be required if they are to continue to be able to provide the support volunteering needs at a local level.

And depressingly, given all the work which has gone into building better relations between local job centres and volunteer centres over the years, we are still hearing stories of job coaches not giving the right information on ‘volunteering while on benefits’ which is limiting the contribution volunteering can play to skills development and employability.

But to finish on a positive note. With the BBC planning a volunteering season for next year, and with London confirmed as the European Capital of Volunteering 2016, there is perhaps an opportunity to shift the media focus on charities onto a more positive plane.”

More than One Billion People Volunteer Globally

This was one of the headline findings from the UN’s State of the World Volunteerism report, published in June.

Basic Income Could Boost Levels of Volunteering

NESTA predict 2016 as a big year for the development of Basic Income. This could be a real boost for volunteering, allowing more people who want to volunteer, to spend their time doing so without being financially penalised. Read more

Volunteers are amazing!

Volunteers from the Skipchen organisation travelled to Lesbos in November to build a field kitchen. Sam Joseph, co-founder of Skipchen, said other bodies had seen their work and want them to repeat the project on other islands. The group had previously run a cafe in Bristol stocked with unwanted food. Via BBC.

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The Year in Volunteering


Before we have a break to celebrate the season and re-charge our batteries so we can get stuck in to starting a new year, we thought it might be nice to reflect on 2015 and how it has been for the Volunteering team here at Community Action: MK – and what a year it has been!

But before we do, we end the year with some great news – we have just found out that we have been awarded a level 4 in the NAVCA Quality Audit for our Volunteering work. We are thrilled to receive this, the highest level possible and want to thank everyone whose hard work made it happen.

We always enjoy meeting new volunteers and helping them find the right volunteering opportunity and this year we helped 1,256 of them!

We’ve been pleased to see that all the Christmas and seasonal opportunities that we have been promoting have been completely filled. Clearly this time of year is one that people feel a real passion about giving back and supporting each other. We’d really urge groups who may not have thought of involving volunteers at this time of year, to consider doing so next year as there are many people wishing to find a good cause to help with. Let us know if you’d like more advice about how to go about involving volunteers.


Back in the spring we held an Inquiry into the Impact of Volunteering on Community Wellbeing. We wanted to find out, directly from charities and community groups in MK, how they think volunteering contributes to personal and community wellbeing and find out what more could be done to support this. We heard face to face in-depth evidence from many local organisations which reinforced for us the commitment to the strategy we developed for volunteering in Milton Keynes in 2013.

As a result of the findings, we have been able to influence Milton Keynes Council’s thinking around how volunteers can best be supported to engage with new opportunities and play a bigger part in shaping and delivering the services that really matter to them. We’ve also improved our internal systems and developed the ways in which we promote volunteering opportunities, making much more use of digital platforms but still maintaining our face to face contact and personalised approach. We’ve helped groups explore micro and digital volunteering and explored how event based volunteering could be supported with local arts and heritage organisations, amongst other things.

The key messages from the Inquiry were promoted in a campaign during Volunteers Week back in June, with local press coverage and great social media engagement. Work is ongoing to make sure we really embed the findings in our partnership work in 2016, particularly within the area of Health & Wellbeing at a strategic level.

NC895 Volunteer Week Items_Twitter 01 AW

2015 saw further big changes to, the national digital volunteering platform. Overall we have been pleased with these developments, and do believe it is now far easier for people to express an interest in volunteering opportunities without having to spend too much time on unnecessary admin. We haven’t yet seen this reflected in an increase of numbers of volunteers but are hopeful that 2016, with the use of a more powerful database behind Do-it (which had been delayed for almost 2 years) we will really see this come to fruition.

Our Employee Volunteering programme went from strength to strength in 2015, with 183 volunteers from Home Retail Group supporting local charities and groups with all sorts of things from sprucing up outdoor spaces, to restoring historic landscapes and creating giant puppets for a parade. We’re really excited about a new possibility for 2016 which will see Do-it launching, which we hope will be a fantastic way for us to showcase the value of local brokerage to our corporate clients whilst using a digital platform that makes it super easy to access and navigate. If you’re new to the work we do to connect businesses and the voluntary sector in Milton Keynes, have a look at our wonderful Make it Possible video –

We shall hit the ground running in January and February with two events for Volunteer Managers, so please save the dates –

Wednesday 20th January – Safeguarding Workshop

More details and booking via Eventbrite

Wednesday 24th February – Fundraising for Volunteer Managers

More details and booking via Eventbrite

Our office will be closed from 24th December and re-open on 4th January, therefore there will be no volunteer drop in during that time.

Wishing everyone we have worked with this year a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2016.

Alissa, Debbie, Shona, Laura & Jeanette

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A Day in the Life of the Support, Development & Volunteering Team Part 2

The Support, Development and Volunteering team at Community Action: MK helps charities and community groups, set up, find funding, recruit and retain volunteers and connect with the people and opportunities that matter to them.

Here, Debbie Leask talks about a typical day in the office….

7.30 am – I arrive early and respond to my e-mails and check my diary for the day. There is a lot to get through. I don’t work on Fridays so Mondays are always incredibly busy. At the moment I work on 2 – 3 different projects so today I will be doing all sorts of tasks!

8.30 am – I complete a feedback form logging how my support meeting went with a local organisation the week beforehand.  This helps us to monitor what kind of support we have provided to local charities and community groups and the outcomes. We discussed different methods of recruiting volunteers.

8.45 am – Next I post information relating to our next Volunteer Managers Forum on to Eventbrite. We hold 3 forums a year and this time we are focusing on Fundraising which is kindly being hosted by the Spinal Injuries Association. The forums are always fully booked and it is a great opportunity for local Volunteer Managers to learn from one another and network.

First Volunteer managers Forum Sept 2014

9.15 am – We currently have approximately 360 voluntary roles registered with Community Action: MK and we receive new opportunities each week. This morning there is a new role which I upload to the national database of volunteering opportunities  and I also add to our paper directory of opportunities. We are working on a programme with MK Council to increase volunteering and engage local communities around what matters to them in terms of how they want to see services such as libraries, children’s centres and youth services run in the future. There are a couple of new opportunities from a children’s centre which I add to the directory.

9.45 am – Next I write the weekly media article promoting local voluntary roles and the benefits to volunteering. I email it across to the local newspapers, BBC radio stations and MK Web.

10.30 am – I have a 1:1 volunteer appointment with a young lady who is interested in volunteering. She has come along with her support worker. We explore options and try to find her a role where she will be able to increase her confidence. We discuss charity shops, community cafes and performing art roles. It was agreed that she will consider her options over the Christmas period and get in touch in the New Year. After 14 years in this job I am always touched by the people I meet, some overcoming their disabilities, wanting to donate their time supporting local charities.

11.30 am – There are four of us in the Support, Development and Volunteering Team and recently we have revamped our volunteering leaflets so this morning Alissa and I head out across Milton Keynes delivering them to local Parish/Town Councils, libraries, community centres and support groups.


12.30 pm – Lunchtime meeting with Tracy Pearson, Project Lead for our Employee Volunteering programme. We work with Home Retail Group and other local businesses to help them connect with charities and community groups in Milton Keynes. We place teams of employee volunteers into activities to support the voluntary sector across Milton Keynes and the feedback from groups has been brilliant. Volunteers have told us they feel more connected to the local community and their team.

1 pm – I work part time and my day finishes at 1.30 pm. I take time to read publications and newsletters that I have received over the week. This helps keep me up to date on volunteering policies/issues/updates that are forever changing.

I’m always happy to talk to organisation or volunteers on the phone so please do call me on 01908 661623 or email

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A day in the life of the Support, Development and Volunteering team

The Support, Development and Volunteering team at Community Action: MK helps charities and community groups, set up, find funding, recruit and retain volunteers and connect with the people and opportunities that matter to them.

Here, team leader Alissa Pemberton talks about a typical day in the office….

7.30am – I arrive early and check my mail and diary for the day. There are four of us in the team and we’re always busy working on all sorts of different projects so it’s helpful to get my head round where we all are before the day starts.

8.30am – Posting on our social media channels to thank everyone attending our Volunteer Managers’ Forum and The Parks Trust for hosting us this morning. We run these forums every quarter for both paid and volunteer volunteer managers to come together and share best practice and learn from each other. They are always fully booked and recently we’ve started holding them at member venues which really helps give people attending a sense of what each other does.


9.00am – Working out some costings for a potential project with the Open University to support ex-prisoners into volunteering roles. We are really lucky to have such great links with the Open University and have particularly enjoyed supporting some of the projects that have come through the Citizen strand of the MK Smart project.

11am – Start thinking about promoting Christmas volunteering opportunities. We always get contacted quite early on by people wanting to arrange volunteering over the Christmas holiday. It’s a great boost to all the fantastic charities and community groups who do so much over the winter to help vulnerable people so we’ll collate all the appropriate opportunities in a document to share with people. It’ll link to our page on the national database of volunteering at where we have over 360 opportunities registered in Milton Keynes.

1pm – Lunchtime meeting with our Employee Volunteering team. We work with Home Retail Group and other local businesses to help them connect with charities and community groups in Milton Keynes. Last year we placed more than 480 employee volunteers into activities to support the voluntary sector across Milton Keynes and the feedback from groups has been brilliant. Volunteers have told us they feel more connected to the local community and their team. We tried on our new bright pink t-shirts so that we can be easily identified when we’re out and about!


3pm – Working on finding some exciting guest speakers for some sessions with staff from library, children’s centres and youth services for a programme we are running with MK Council to increase volunteering and engage local communities around what matters to them in terms of how they want to see those services run in the future. It’s all part of MK Council’s drive to work in a more cooperative way and encourage co-production and community hubs. We’re really excited as this is just the sort of thing we love doing!

3.30pm – Take a call from a resident who wants to use our volunteer run community car service to get to an appointment at the Hospital. The service provides safe and reliable transportation for vulnerable members of the community, in order to help them access a range of medical services or social care visits. So far we’ve got 9 volunteer drivers and 30 passengers registered which is a great start after only 1 month.


4.00pmTake display down from the Healthwatch event we attended yesterday in Middleton Hall. It was great to see so many charities and community groups attending to demonstrate the valuable services they provide. We enjoyed connecting with lots of the groups we recruit volunteers for and speaking to potential new volunteers about how volunteering could boost their wellbeing. We handed out lots of our new eye-catching flyers so are standing by for lots of new volunteers!

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