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
January 2016.

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Surviving the Storm

The voluntary sector is currently facing a perfect storm, or indeed blizzard, as the government pushes forward with a further round of public sector funding cuts. The damage done to the sector by previous cuts has been severe, with many organisations closing or facing substantial reductions in income.

Voluntary Organisations are now closing on very regular basis. Two CVS’s in Darlington and in County Durham have closed in the last 18 months as has Havering CVS, Community Action Fareham, adoption charity BAAF, Women’s charity Eaves, CrossRoads Care East Anglia and 5 Citizen Advice Bureau’s in Glasgow …

The income of many voluntary organisations has dropped and brought with it redundancies at both small and large organisations e.g. NACRO, Action for Children, Hartlepool Volunteer Development Agency, NAVCA … the list could go on.

The Coming Storm

Income from national and local government to the sector has dropped by 50 % over the past 5 years alongside increasing competition from the private sector.
Big Voluntary organisations are doing OK, alongside large private organisations such as G4S and SERCO, but medium and small charities are not and increasingly lack the money, capacity and and expertise to bid for large contracts or fundraiser to scale.

Payment by Results contracts are increasing, but most voluntary organisations don’t have sufficient free reserves to fund a service upfront until performance payments kick in and don’t want to be poorly paid sub-contractors to somebody else who has been awarded a large regional contract.

Local authorities and government agencies face further massive funding reductions- up to 50%, which will in turn greatly reduce funding to the voluntary and community sectors.
There are still large numbers of new charities and social enterprises being registered each year competing for what limited funding is available.

There is therefore massively increasing competition for trust funding, including from larger organisations who previously would have focused on tenders rather than raising money from trust.
Many powers are being devolved to a city/ sub-regional level. In the North East, where I live, there will be two new structures and Mayors covering the Tees Valley and the rest of the North East respectively. However devolved budgets will also reduce by up to 50%.

There is a push towards social investment, though this approach is as yet unproven with substantial risks being perceived by many voluntary organisations. Furthermore, very little funding is as yet being put forward by commissioning bodies in ways which could be competed for using a Social Investment Bond or loan.

How should the voluntary sector respond to this perfect storm? It isn’t easy and the next five years will likely see the closure of many hundreds of voluntary organisations.

Those that wish to survive and thrive, need to take a close look at themselves and how they will go forward. There are a range of options they can explore and actions they can undertake:-

Weathering the Storm

  • Consider whether there is a real need for what the organisation does or what it wants to do and take action accordingly.
  • Examine whether the needs of beneficiaries have changed which require changes to the organisation’s services.
  • What makes your organisation different from other voluntary organisations and/or social enterprises and how can this be promoted.
  • Look outside and see what other organisations are doing that might be incorporated into your own services.
  • Can you describe how you are successfully meeting the needs of beneficiaries? What outcomes do you deliver and can you measure their impact, to use the jargon.
  • Are you flexible enough to to keep your tools sharp and respond quickly to arising opportunities whether that be a gap in the market for a service or a new funding opportunity.
  • How will you actually go forward over the next 2-3 years. Develop a strategic plan with an an annual business plan setting out milestones, outcomes and performance indicators.
  • How will you fund the plans? Develop a funding strategy, even if parts of it are still unclear and improve your ability to make funding bids.
  • Make sure that you have good management systems in place to manage finances and measure the progress of service users.
  • Are there more cost efficient (cheaper) ways of delivering existing or new services?
  • Have you got the links in place with all statutory and commissioning bodies relevant to furthering your cause ?

Implementing some or all of the above won’t guarantee success but will give you both a reason for going forward and a plan of action to to take you forward in a very choppy and unclear landscape.

Steve Johnson

November 2015

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