£50k for text initiative

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A volunteering project in Kirklees is one of just eight in the country to win cash from a government fund promoting innovation.

Volunteering Kirklees has been awarded £50,000 from the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund to develop a text messaging service to help volunteers find out about opportunities in their area.

Last year Volunteering Kirklees was contacted by more than 4,000 people interested in sharing their time and skills.

It also helped more than 350 charities, community groups and businesses across the district to find volunteers.

But it hopes to reach even more people by making greater use of mobile technology.

Volunteer service manager Sharron Wilkinson said: “Texts are a great way to let people know about local chances to help out.

“But designing a system that can cope with lots of users is a big project.

“With funding and support from Kirklees Council we’ve shown it can work on a small scale and this is our chance to develop it further.”

Volunteering Kirklees has 1,200 people signed up to its text service, which has been running for more than a year.

It will now work with Huddersfield-based Thumbprint City to develop a text service that could be used by volunteer centres nationwide.

“This is about helping more people to find the opportunity that is right for them,” said Mrs Wilkinson.

“We want to use texts to get targeted information to potential volunteers and help organisations to fill vacancies as quickly as possible.

“The texting service can also tell people about one-off opportunities, such as litter picks or helping out at festivals, as well as emergencies.

“When Kirkwood Hospice were stuck for a driver to transport patients, Volunteering Kirklees sent out a text and got five offers within an hour.”

Nesta, which runs the Innovation in Giving Fund, will also provide a coach to help Volunteering Kirklees team develop the text service and create a product that other volunteer centres can buy.