Following the release of our report - Strength in Numbers - we invited Dawn Hewitt, Chief Executive of Chums, to share how her organisation benefited from applying to the support programmes we've managed over recent years.
As a small organisation, finding the time and money for business development work can be difficult. The truth is we wouldn’t have been able to fund this type of work without the help of grants to pay for it.
At CHUMS we provide therapeutic support for children and young people in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with compromised mental health and emotional wellbeing. In 2011, we ‘spun out’ of the NHS to become an independent social enterprise.
When we were part of the NHS we offered two services, had 11 employees, a handful of volunteers and just 350 referrals a year. Today we deliver 10 services across the mental health spectrum, employ 78 people and have a team of 120 volunteers and receive more than 3150 referrals. It’s fair to say things have changed a bit!
To aid this growth, we’ve applied to several support programmes run by Social Investment Business. In 2015 we received a grant from the Impact Readiness Fund to develop a robust theory of change and an impact management system. This was especially useful in getting our Directors on board with our Theory of Change. The support we’d had from the NHS to do this after we originally spun out was minimal and it was something that we really needed to do.
Then in 2016 we applied to Big Potential Advanced. This was a different type of programme and the main reason we applied was to do some Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis and revise our strategic plan and financial model for new contract bids.
For this project we worked with Stepping Out, one of the approved Big Potential providers, who are experts in identifying, creating and growing enterprises from the public sector, especially the NHS. This is an exceptional service which went above and beyond to ensure that we achieved the desired outcome we needed with the BPA funding.
The opportunity to work on our strategy, solidify our financial model and produce accurate data on SROI, alongside working with an experienced bid writer, was hugely beneficial.
They helped us to become much more flexible and business-minded, and we also secured a significant contract to deliver a Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Service across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to support an additional 2,000 children and young People, taking the total to 5,150. The support we received through Big Potential Advanced was vital to winning that contract.
If we could do things again differently it would have been useful to have received some support on marketing and communication as part of the grant package. This is a vital element of making a new contract or service work and not being able to get similar support for this work seems like missing a trick.
Ultimately, the whole experience has been extremely enriching and has changed us as an organisation. We’re grateful that those looking at our applications felt committed enough to fund our project and the whole process has had a direct effect on the number of people we can work with.