Gig Buddies Blog

Social franchising questions about Gig Buddies

What are the commonly asked questions about the social franchising of Gig Buddies?

This year we’ve taken the really exciting step of inviting partners to work with us to develop their own Gig Buddies projects. We’re calling this ‘Gig Buddies In a Box’ and you can read more about our plans for the social franchising of Gig Buddies  here.

The website is designed to be an overview of ‘what’s in the box’, the support we’ll give and the sort of organisations we’re wanting to work with.

In September we’re hoping to work with our first cohort of partner organisations and we thought it would be helpful for share some of the commonly asked questions that have cropped up from applying organisations so far.

We’re certainly hoping that they will be the first cohort of many. And let us know if you have any other questions about franchising Gig Buddies.

Who are the key members of your team?

In Sussex we currently have 70+ pairs of buddies and we employ Madeline (Project Manager) full-time, Kate (Project Coordinator) 2 ½ days per week and Holly (Admin) 2 days a week.

However, we’re asking partners to be measured in what they can take on and are recommending they aim for 30 pairs of buddies. We think this would take a coordinator about 30 hours per week.

About your steering group? Do you have one just for Gig Buddies?

Our steering group is called the Storm and Thunder Team and is made up of participants with learning disabilities who oversee the project, and they were set up to do this. However, they also look at the wider work of our charity and some members attend trustees meetings. One member of Storm and Thunder (Dan) is now a trustee of the charity.

What do the training session plans for volunteers contain?

Generally speaking we cover areas such as:

  • An introduction to the way we work as a charity.
  • The Social Model of disability.
  • An introduction to learning disabilities.
  • Communication.
  • Safeguarding.
  • How to deal with difficult and unexpected incidents.

The training is also delivered with a fair degree of fun and various activities, and we always have a participant working with us to co-deliver it.

Is the main focus still around music?

The main focus is around music, partly because that’s where we came from as a charity, and it’s in our blood. But it’s also easier to focus on music when trying to identify suitable pairings. However, we’re all about keeping things user-led and person centred and any cultural activity is to be encouraged.

We have been asked a couple of times if we could find a volunteer to help take someone swimming. We don’t really see this as the sort of thing we’re about though. Essentially Gig Buddies is about two people enjoying the same cultural activity together so they can develop a friendship.

How do you recruit your volunteers?

Our volunteers come from all sort of different backgrounds. Some are disaffected support workers, who want to do things differently; others are people who’ve lost their gig life through having kids. There are musicians and music fans who are passionate about enabling other people to get involved.

We recruit them through some of the traditional volunteering routes like the Do-It website, and local volunteering organisation websites. We also run info stalls at gigs, put up posters over the toilets, advertise in local music listings, do talks at universities and other events. We also use social media a lot and find a good number of volunteers come via word of mouth from other volunteers.

social franchising

How do most people with learning disabilities come to you?

People get in touch through a variety of routes; social workers, support providers, carers, they’ve seen an advert/article, through word of mouth, us running information stalls at learning disability events and talking at partnership board meetings.

What is your process for matching people up?

This is a very good question – it’s not simply about music! We also look at things like where people live (do they need a volunteer who’s a driver?), maybe age, sexuality, gender, and also listen to participants’ preferences too. There are also questions about motivations – are buddies more interested in the connection to another person, in which case they could be matched to somebody with a more flexible idea of what a ‘gig’ is, or are they massive music fans who just want to go to ‘gig gigs’?

What commitment does the volunteer need to make?

We ask for them to do 2 ‘gigs’ a month. This means probably 1 gig and one coffee to plan the next gig. We ask volunteers to be creative too and use online resources to help participants choose the next event. Loads of cafes and pubs have wi-fi so it’s a question of taking a laptop or iPad and seeing what’s on.

Anything less than once a month means its really difficult to develop an on-going friendship.

What is your commitment to supporting them through the Gig Buddies relationship?

This is really key to the success of the whole project. We offer supervision to volunteers and participants (and ask volunteers to commit to at least 6 monthly supervisions).

We’re always happy to chat with participants and their carers about any issues they’re experiencing too and will do what we can to support the pairings to flourish. Sometimes this isn’t possible and we’ll support someone to find a new volunteer.

We also attend matching meetings too to introduce the new buddies to each other.

How many events do you put on a year?

We don’t organise many gig type events – maybe one big one a year as a fundraiser, but we do organise informal social meet-ups usually at gigs (around one a month for each the main towns that we work in). These are a great way for buddies to meet other buddies but also offer us a way to keep people on the waiting list engaged too. It’s important that this project is about enabling people to get out to events that are already organised – as a Gig Buddies Coordinator your focus is on building relationships rather than event management.


Can we be ‘affiliate’ members?

Some organisations, who already run volunteer befriending schemes, or don’t have the resources, have asked if there’s a way they could pay a lesser fee and use the Gig Buddies brand as an affiliate member.

We thought hard about this but we’ve decided that we want to keep things straightforward and equal for all partners. The price is therefore £6,000 over 3 years and £500 per annum after that.

This is partly because we want to protect the ‘brand’ of Gig Buddies so its of high quality everywhere, but also because it costs us to support the partners. We want to be honest and upfront about that.

However, we will offer a number of paid for places to our annual ‘Gig Buddies partners meet-up’ where we will share experiences, and plot ways in which we can develop what we do together.


We’re happy to chat about any other questions you may have so please get in touch.