To help shape future investment and contract readiness programmes we’re carrying out some research into what we’ve learned. As we embark on a series of workshops with organisations who’ve received support from us, our Research Manager Anthony Gray recounts the five golden rules we’ve learned so far.
1. Keep a sense of proportion
Nightmare scenario: Staying up all night and putting lots of effort into a proposal only for it to be unsuccessful. Worse still, it’s rejected outright and you never receive any feedback on your work.
A common finding across a number of fund evaluations is that application processes need to be clear, simple and proportionate to the grant or support on offer. The clearer the eligibility criteria and the simpler the application form the better. Providing helpful information on the application stages, timescales and progress reporting doesn’t hurt either.
We make sure we provide detailed feedback to unsuccessful applicants and streamline the re-submission of unsuccessful applicants. This means, wherever possible, that the same people view the improved application.
2. Manage relationships better
Relationship management is crucial. Our relationship managers work to minimise or mitigate any potential issues across the ‘partnership triangle’ (us, support providers and grant recipients).
We’ve now introduced a similar process, to smooth the process between expression of interest and application, with named individuals working on a one-to-one basis with charities and social enterprises,
It’s a win-win situation. Applicants benefit from the advice, guidance and support offered. For us, responsive communication ensures that potential issues are identified and resolved as quickly as possible.
3. Choose the right help
There are a number of key questions charities and social enterprises need to consider when considering a provider or consultancy to support them.
In addition to fundamentals such as track record, knowledge and experience, does the provider or consultancy “get what you do”? Do they fully understand your objectives, outcomes and impact you want to achieve? Essentially, are you “on the same page”?
This then leads on to the more complex stuff. How do they go about assessing your requirements? How well do they understand the market challenges and opportunities of your sector? Are they up to date with recent trends in commissioning and service development? Answering these types of questions will help you identify the perfect partner for your organisation.
4. Meet in the middle
Never forget that success is, more often than not, a team effort. Securing senior level “buy in” to new service development and delivery is crucial but it’s the collective human capital in the organisation, and its partners, that will be key to success.
Ensuring a top down and bottom up approach will drive meaningful and cost efficient change. It will also help ensure that you’re able to identify and measure your impact.
Thinking about those impacts from a “sharp-end” perspective will not only help to minimise the cost of delivery but should also help to identify measures for outcomes and impact. This approach also ensures service development and delivery is continuously designed around the needs of your beneficiaries.
5. Measure the right type of impact
It's easy to get side-tracked into developing measures for impact that you think will be attention grabbing. However, making an impact is not the same as being noticed for what you do.
Social sector organisations are well versed in managing on tight budgets and there are various online tools you can use to save you time, effort and money, freeing you to think more strategically and to correctly identify and quantify your outcomes and impact.
Big Society Capital’s outcomes matrix is a useful resource when thinking about engaging with your customers and clients to establish your impact, while the New Economy Manchester unit cost database brings together over 600 cost estimates to help you monetise outcomes and impact.
If you have an opinion about investment readiness we’d love to hear from you. We're hosting two regional workshops which VCSEs can register to attend.
Sheffield - Wed 26 July (11:00 – 14:00) 9-12 Jessops Riverside, 800 Brightside Ln, Sheffield, S9 2RX
Nottingham - Wed 2 August (11:00 – 14:00) Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service, 7 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FB