Part of the joy of working for myself, is that I get to speak to motivated, and inspirational people. I sat down with Sharron Wilkinson, the Founder of Give…a few words, and she shared with me where the inspiration comes from, what keeps her motivated and the magic of the written word!
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
Hi, I’m Sharron Wilkinson and I set up Give…a few words a positive uplifting letter writing project. It began as a Volunteer led Community Organisation in July 2020 and then became a Social Enterprise/Community Interest Company on the 1st March 2021. It was created in response to the problem that many people were feeling isolated during lockdown, primarily in care homes, but also people involved in charities and community organisations.
I am a great believer that nobody has a flatline existence. Everybody has their ups and downs and I think if there’s anything we can do as a society, it is that we can lend a hand during those down periods and let people know that they’re not on their own. By doing so, we can help each other far more than we know.
Give…a few words gives people a connection, lets them know that they are not alone and whilst it was set up during COVID, it is still needed and still brings a smile to people’s faces. We work mainly in Kirklees, but that is beginning to expand.
I’m a massive fan of connections, because if you can connect people and people belong, they become part of something bigger. Also from a business and organisation perspective, I think there’s great strength in bringing different people together. You can do loads and loads of really positive things if you get the right people and organisations who wish to collaborate around a table.
What’s your motivation? Why do you keep doing what you do?
I lost my brother suddenly when I was 16 and my dad to a brain tumour 10 years later. I have been very fortunate to have some amazing people around me who have supported and just been there for me when times have been tough. A simple “I am thinking about you” with nothing expected in return is so powerful.
When you feel passionate about something and it gets in your heart, for me personally, I had to follow it through. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so fulfilled in the whole of my life. I’m financially worse off than I’ve ever been, do the majority of the work on volunteer time. But, from a personal satisfaction point of view, it is the best thing that I have ever, ever, done.
The people that I work with and connect with are the kindest and nicest people that I have ever met.
You’re seeing the best of humanity because you’ve got amazing, selfless volunteers that are writing letters, that are designing beautiful things, drawings, paintings, they do all sorts things for no other reason than just wanting to lift somebody else’s spirits.
But yes, there are tough times as well and there’s times where I can feel like I’m out of my depth and I don’t know what I’m doing, because I’ve never set up a business before, but I’m really, really lucky that I’ve had some amazing support around me. Locala Health and Wellbeing, One Community Foundation and The University of Huddersfield have been so supportive, many other businesses as well. People that have just lent a hand or offered to help or have a conversation, I am incredibly appreciative of them all and also yourself at Straight Forward Funding too.
What are your own earliest memories of letter writing?
As you may not be surprised, I’m a massive, massive fan of letter writing. Some of my earliest memories are of writing to relatives in Australia and Doncaster! I’m from the era of days before mobile phones, so letter writing was a thing that was done to keep in touch with family and friends. When I went off to university, I would write to my friends, and when I went travelling, it was me writing from Australia and sending those back (I think quite a lot are still in our loft somewhere)! So yes, I’m a huge, a huge fan of letter writing.
Some of our recipients that receive the letters have commented that they are
“Amazed that a stranger has taken the time to write to them” and others mentioned that they “Had Never received friendly post before they received their Give…a few words letter”. They were just used to receiving bills through the post!
Some of our younger volunteers have never written a letter before and they have grown to love it too (and write the most empathetic and uplifting letters).
Where are you right now in your non-profit journey’? What’s your current focus?
I developed Give…a few words initial idea, as a letter writing project. We are now working on some “Positive one-off community events” (with letters) alongside monthly networking meetings open to all types of organisations.
We have big plans! We would like to look at ways to develop Give…a few words so that it isn’t completely reliant on grant funding, potentially an ecommerce site on the website to generate income.
The plans are exciting, but the focus is always on connecting people and working for the benefit of society. The aim of connecting people, reducing loneliness and isolation is hugely important to Give…a few words. It allows people to build networks and make connections but most importantly, lifts people’s spirits and (hopefully) make society just that little bit more positive!
The news is spreading, and we’ve had enquiries from all around the country who have found out about Give A Few Words and want to know how they can get involved or if they can work with us on specific projects. The scale of this could be huge and the enthusiasm for getting the messages and letters out there is infectious!
The number of letters Give…a few words receive is astounding!
When Sharron told me how many people were registered on their system as a letter writer, I was amazed! They have over 170 people and many of those are regular letter writers! It seems that people get the bug, they write a letter and then they want to write another and another!
But it doesn’t just stop at letters – Sharron receives artwork, photography, poetry, embroidery – the work isn’t just beneficial for those who receive the letters, but also those who write/provide them! People evidently feel good that they are giving something back – it focuses on positives, uplifting words and at the time we are in now, moving away from the troubles of the last 18 months, this is a real tool for everyone!
It isn’t just individuals, ‘Give…a few words’ is connecting business too!
As you have probably gathered, Sharron thrives on making connections and is very good at connecting with businesses and set up a networking group. This was set up as an opportunity for like-minded individuals to gather (on zoom, although they are stepping out into the world soon!) and support each other, share ideas and knowledge. Sharron acknowledges that it is a huge learning curve running a CIC but the people she is meeting, both the volunteers and the businesses, help her to learn and share and she is loving the journey!
The support of local businesses has been fundamental to the ongoing success. Sharron is extremely grateful to Locala Health and Wellbeing and One Community for supporting them. Then all the businesses who host (or have hosted) a letterbox for people to drop letters off such as Ballcraft Engravers, Morrisons and the Cooperative. Businesses such as Hey You Brands who designed booklets for their Christmas Campaign last year. Mailboxes etc who sponsor their (very busy) PO Box), Cummins who have a staff team who write monthly. Lubrizol for spreading the news across their UK sites and over to Mexico, Canada and America and many more. Businesses are joining together to help and support.
Is there anything more that the ‘business world’ could help you with, to support what you do?
I think, probably because I’ve come from a mainly charity background, I need to get a little more ‘savvy’ to the business world. Things like sales, pricing…they are just not my area of strength really, and, potentially speaking to people that have already walked the path and maybe who are just that bit further on in the journey. It would be helpful to understand their experiences and learning.
If any business wishes to help write letters, that would be brilliant too.
You don’t have to be a large business. This is open to SME’s, any size/type of business. You can write one letter or many, it really is up to you. All letters are appreciated.
We would love it if any business wished to purchase some letter packs, postcards or buy a workshop for a care home or charity or help us put on a One-off community event. They could also buy a 1-hour positive workshop on writing and wellbeing for their staff too (double win!)
We also run the network meetings on a voluntary basis so if any business also believes in connections and would like to sponsor this, that would be fantastic too.
What would your 2 or 3 top tips be for someone thinking about setting up a non-profit or delivering community activity?
‘Don’t overthink it, and just go for it! Follow your heart and trust your intuition – it is rarely wrong!’
Sharron understands the red tape and bureaucracy around setting up a business and still encourages people to give it a go if they believe in what they are working towards. She strongly believes that if you want something to work and progress, then by researching and finding the answers, connecting with people who can help and support you on the journey and believing in yourself, it will happen!!
How can people contact you, or get involved with your organisation?
If people wish to write, then probably via the website as you can sign up there (with your interests) if you wish to be a letter writer.
You can also drop us an email or connect with us on social media.
If any business wishes to get involved, again you can email us or contact us on Linked In, or feel free to pick up the phone and make a phone call. As you have probably guessed, I love to have a chat 🙂
All our contact details are on our website: https://thegive.co.uk/contact/