A recent success with one of my clients

Virgin Money Foundation: Moving On (Durham)
Amy December 9, 2015 Latest News, Virgin Money Foundation Leave a comment

On 2 December of this year, the Virgin Money Foundation, the independent charitable foundation launched by Virgin Money, announced that it had awarded its first round of individual grants to 25 charitable organisations across the North East region with a total of around £900,000 being donated.

One of these charitable organisations was Moving on (Durham). We asked them to tell us a bit more about their work and how this grant will help them to grow.

Moving On was established in 1998 to break the cycle of youth homelessness in County Durham. They work with people (aged 16-25) who are homeless or on the way to becoming so, particularly those who are most vulnerable and at risk. Moving On (Durham) have five main objectives, providing:

Information, Advice and Guidance to homeless young people provided at 24 outreach venues across County Durham.
Counselling to help young people who are in crisis and confused to assist them in taking difficult decisions.
Assistance for young people to access accommodation
Tenancy and housing related support
Moving On Housing: a social lettings agency for young people with additional housing related support
Sue Ryland from the programme told us that the grant will help them to further develop the social lettings agency, Moving On Housing, which provides accommodation with support for homeless young people across County Durham. The team will continue to develop the project but also create a portfolio of houses for their tenants to move into at the end of the support period.

They also intend to employ a housing co-ordinator who will work with private landlords to lease and manage properties in which to place young people who have had the benefit of Move On housing and support but who are now ready to move into independent accommodation.

Sue also told us:

“The staff and Board of Trustees at Moving On (Durham) are thrilled to have been successful in this application. We are aware that the fund was very popular with organisations such as ours and that there was a great deal of competition. We are profoundly grateful to have been one of the organisation selected to receive support from the Virgin Money Foundation and we will ensure that many homeless young people will benefit from this award”.

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Celebrating Success

Times are increasingly hard for the small to medium voluntary and community sector. The latest spending cuts, with massive reductions in public sector funding, are about to make things a lot harder and hardly a  week now goes by without a charity closing down somewhere in the country.

Being a consultant who works to generate funding for my customers is therefore not easy.

However, success is possible. I work with a number of clients in a retainer basis, which means that I work with them for the equivalent of a day a week.

Operating in this way means that I can get to to know the agency really well including what makes them tick,  the role of the Board or Management  Committee,  the issues and problems faced by their beneficiaries and the nature and effectiveness of their services and staff.

With my retained clients I have assisted them in developing or revising their business plan. The plan gives them  a sense of where they want to go and how to get there,  and allows BidRightBiz to analyse what development and funding opportunities might be available to them.

Two of our customers, both of whom have a homelessness focus and work with people who have complex problems, have  done remarkably well in such a difficult funding environment.

Working with one of these last year, we raised over £250,000 from charitable trusts. This not only allowed them to survive when Local Authority funding (Supporting People) reduced but also to change direction completely in funding terms by developing a social Lettings Agency where income is earned through housing rent, management and support charges.  

This year, so far, we have raised £44,000 to help develop the Lettings   agency and £30,000 from the Big Potential fund to explore the possibility of using social finance to purchase houses. I am currently developing business plans to that end. The organisation, which had a turnover of around £150,000 when I can became involved, is on target for a turnover of over £600,000 by the end of next year.

With the other organisation, much smaller and with a twin focus on housing support and a furniture making social enterprise, we have also made great strides. Their business plan is based on generating as much of their income as possible through housing rent, management and  support charges and revenue from their social enterprise, so that the organisation is not dependent on grants and contracts in the long term.

As a consequence, I have looked for funding which will help increase their capacity. To this end we have raised £180,0000 from charitable trusts, available over three years, to increase their housing management capacity and develop two additional furniture workshops. The trust funding is being used to increase the pace of development so that earned income is increased, providing the organisation with a long term sustainable future. Turnover has increased from £67,000 two years ago to a projected £257,000 in the current year. I am currently working on funding applications to help them develop their infrastructure by purchasing a Management Information System and developing methods of better measuring the social impact of their work.

Of course I also do one of pieces of work. I recently supported a third customer in raising £285,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency to refurbish a large house as a hostel for homeless young people as part of the ‘Platform for Life’ Programme.

What are some of the messages then for voluntary and community organisations trying to develop funding sources which will help their organisation survive and thrive

• Firstly, have a plan or business plan to guide your direction over the next couple of years (and be prepared to change it if circumstances change). It also helps give grant giver and commissioners a better sense of why you want their funding

• Secondly, there is funding out there from grant giving trusts if you have such a plan. Grant funding should be used to help the organisation develop a future for itself rather than just on shoring up existing services where funding has been cut.

Finally, and I know this is a big ask for many voluntary organisations, try to develop your organisation towards sources of sustainable funding which are not dependent on grants or contracts in the long term, using grant funding to help you get there over the short and medium term.

Steve Johnson
BidRightBiz
January 2016.

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