The Support U History
Discover more about Support U, our history, and the legacy we're looking to build for the future.
It was in 2010 founders Andrew and Lorna had identified the need for a community organisation to help assist the public in accessing LGBT+ services across Reading and the Thames Valley, it was then that Support U was born.
Working with the local council, and with the support of Cllr. Tim Harris, the community group gained the necessary traction and support to build a formalised LGBT+ help service in Reading.
Armed with £10,000 in start-up funding, and a small space to occupy, supported by 4 volunteers; the service launched in June 2011.
Whilst the team had significant community insight, LGBT+ knowledge and business experience, the reality of running a charity set in.
Nobody had anticipated that the charity would grow as quickly as it had, with the team responding to it's first 1,000th query within 12 months.
Resources in the support team became extremely overstretched, and without budget to hire a full time member of staff, the charity quickly understood the benefits and pitfalls of operating a sustainable and reliable organisation soley on volunteers.
As the charity began to grow, the costs of the service began to quickly spiral; from insurances, to broadband and telephone, the charity found itself struggling to keep on top of its basic overheads.
The organisation took a business decision to look to reduce its overheads, and successfully secured a 40% reduction in running costs. Coupled with regular fundraising activities, the charity continued through a turbulent patch.
Overnight Growth, New Building and Projects
The charity experienced almost overnight growth when Support U secured its first long-term project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project, over 12 months, would document the hidden voices of Reading to later become showcased at Reading Museum.
The launch of the Hidden Voices project meant that we needed to hire a project leader, to begin to document the history of Reading - the first of its kind for the area. As a result of the increased exposure, we grew our volunteer teams by 20%, and it quickly became apparent our current space wasn't big enough to house all our services.
After a number of months we identified a perfect space located in Reading's town centre. We embarked on the journey of moving in to Castle Street, and understanding the complexities that comes with running a public building. The 3,500sq ft facility is now home to our core support service, regular groups and on-going projects.
By the end of 2015, Support U had responded to its 3,500th query for the year, supported by a team of 40 volunteers.
Accolades and Successes
Following our success with the Heritage Lottery Fund, we've gone on to become Sainsbury's Charity of the Year, became the preferred Stonewall Training Partner, launched a town-wide awareness campaign with Reading Buses, and most recently secured funding through a 3 year project with BBC Children in Need to provide LGBT+ awareness and training in schools.