Step Together was created in 1994. We chatted to our founder and trustee, Roger Potter, who tells us his inspiration behind setting up the organisation and how volunteering, as a catalyst for change in people’s lives, has always been at the centre of everything we do.
What’s the story behind starting the charity? What was your inspiration?
I have always believed that young people have something to offer; they represent a vast pool of talent who could make a major contribution to society and would like to if given the right opportunity and encouragement. After university, I really benefitted from my experience of volunteering in Bangladesh and I wanted to be able to give other young people the opportunity to volunteer and counter the negative stereotypes of young people in the late 80s and 90s.
How did you build up the organisation?
I started with a pilot scheme in Dorset. Looking back it seems amazing how little awareness there was in the 1980s of volunteering opportunities and their positive impact on individuals, organisations and society as a whole. We began with creating a database of volunteering opportunities for young people in secondary schools, which gradually grew until it was used in hundreds of schools across the country. We then built up a network of Volunteering Project Managers who were rooted in local communities, supporting individuals and this has continued within the structure of the charity today. There have been challenges along the way, however, Step Together is in a stronger position now than we ever have been.
Tell us what you like about the work of Step Together Volunteering and why it is important to you?
Volunteering as a vehicle for change in people’s lives is placed at the centre of everything that we do. Step Together has developed in an innovative way and responded to different needs accordingly. It is important to me because, although I can no longer claim credit for the inspirational work the charity is now doing, I am delighted that the original concept has evolved and grown in such a valuable way. It has been very rewarding to see the work being done with all three current client groups; wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans, people with convictions and disadvantaged young people.
What is the best piece of advice you have received that you can pass on?
Our first Head of Fundraising, John Brown, passed on the advice that to make an organisation successful “it’s not what you expect, it’s what you inspect” and also said “a ‘no’ is only a ‘no, not now’”. I also remember a quote from Richard Branson in response to a reporter who said he was very lucky; “yes, I have been lucky but the more people I meet the luckier I get”. Keep meeting people and spread the word!
What would be your ambitions for the charity in say, 10 or 20 years time?
I would like Step Together to be the national leader for volunteering and for far more people to be aware of the organisation. Step Together should be a household name.
What would you say to someone thinking about donating to Step Together?
I am more than happy to continue supporting the charity financially and with my time. I think the more people that do, the more we can make a difference to people’s lives.