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Why beneficiaries should be heard at party conferences

The party conferences have now taken place and my Twitter timeline seems to be full of updates from charities who have invested time and money to travel to Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow to champion their cause to politicians. With an election due next May, it is good to be seen.

What are your predictions for how charities tell their stories in 2014?

This year is going to be an exciting year for charities and how they use and tell their stories. I’d like to see the sector going back to basics and showing why they do what they do and the impact they have on society.

Authenticity will be key. I’d like to see the people that charities support – beneficiaries, service-users, clients, expert citizens – being a core part of a charity’s communications, fundraising and campaigning.

It’s surprising what you hear when you listen

I am passionate about storytelling, but often I meet people who are more passionate than me. Recently I had a conversation with Tony Phillips, commissioning editor of the arts at Radio 4 and at the BBC World Service. His most recent and perhaps most ambitious series is The Listening Project

Literacy campaign is a model for charities

As someone who is passionate about reading, I want to offer huge congratulations to the London Evening Standard and the national charity Beanstalk (formerly Volunteer Reading help) for putting a spotlight on the issue of literacy.

Support your volunteers to capture their stories

What do you get if you combine your passion for all ability cycling with the Eurovision Song Contest? A inspiring fundraising challenge to cycle all the way to Malmo (the host city for Eurovision 2013 if you didn’t know) by an amazing individual.

The stories of volunteers deserve a higher profile

Sadly, these days, with an elderly father regularly admitted for treatment, I am a frequent visitor at Royal Free Hospital in London. However, this weekend my visit was cheered by a volunteer doing her ward rounds serving tea and coffee to patients, and bringing much needed warmth into a cold ward.

In praise of Westminster Libraries staff

As I’ve watched the campaign against library cuts grow, I’ve been inspired by the passion of those involved. Community sit-ins in Barnet, high profile celebrity engagement online and varied use of social media. But yesterday, on a public libraries forum, a member of Westminster Libraries staff shared this open letter, written and published by colleagues addressed to their local councillors.

It is thought provoking and powerful and I hope staff working for charities in a similar position might be inspired by what they say.

Who would make a third sector Top 100 Women’s Powerlist?

I’m not a huge fan of “best of”-styled lists myself and it’s not just because I’m unlikely to find myself on one. But I often think that it’s the people who I admire that are the ones who usually go unrecognised.

So I’ve been following with interest the blogs, tweets and conversations going on around BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List, which closes for nominations this Friday (30 November). The programme is inviting listeners to nominate the individuals who they feel have shaped the way we live today. Which women have the greatest impact on British politics, society, culture and the economy?

Put aside your ego and think about the beneficiaries

In the last 48 hours I’ve had conversations with two different people that highlight some of the things that disappoint me about the way charities work.

I was having dinner with the CEO of a small human rights charity (income under £500,000) working with some of the most vulnerable and hidden groups in our society. She is one of the most inspiring leaders I know, who founded the charity 12 years ago and had driven it forward subsequently. The area her charity focuses on is particularly niche and she has been lauded by all those who know her – from her funders to the media. She has also been honoured by the Queen for her work.

Now is the time to help grassroots sports projects to tell their stories

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve been on an Olympic holiday and am still basking in the afterglow. I took a week off, guilt-free, to immerse myself in all things sport-related, which was met with some amusement by friends as I’m not particularly sporty. I was lucky to have got some tickets and managed to see some amazing events, from beach volleyball and hockey to diving and swimming.

As someone whose biggest sporting achievement was dedicating six months to training to run the London Marathon, I was in awe of the dedication the athletes had put into their training. Apart from the empty seats saga, I was impressed by practically everything that was delivered by the organisers, especially the wonderful volunteer Games Makers.