Stronger charities: impact measurement and fundraising
Lillian Brown gives highlights of the representations made in the recently published House of Lords select committee report, Stronger charities for a stronger society around the areas of impact measurement and fundraising
A new report by House of Lords select committee, Stronger charities for a stronger society (PDF 1.7MB) published on 26 March 2017 outlines a range of recommendations for making small and medium sized charities stronger and sustainable.
Two of the areas relate to impact measurement/reporting and fundraising and contracts for small charities.
Small charities, big impact
Among those charities that contributed to the report, there is widespread agreement that the charity sector should be able to demonstrate the impact of their work. However some of the barriers for small charities participating in impact measurement included:
- insufficient funding to support impact measurement
- too much focus on trying to impress funders rather than addressing steps to take to improve work on impact, and
- no set standard or guidance in producing impact statement.
Further calls from charities were that impact measurement for all groups should be proportionate, realistic and reasonable.
Practical, flexible approach
VAL's Show your impact programme is designed to practically address these issues for small and medium sized charities. Now in its second year, the City Bridge Trust-funded programme provides practical support and training on a range of outcomes related areas – from data collection methods and digital tools to writing your theory of change and reporting on your outcomes.
Each of the ten participating groups that join the programme each year receives one on one support to develop or improve on an outcome area of importance to their organisation. We have found that this practical, flexible approach can help ensure that the process is tailored to where the organisation is and help them move forward from there.
Fundraising and contracts
Another strong feature in the Lords report was a range of concerns around funding and contracting arrangements by existing commissioners. These include:
- complexities of commissioning processes contracting including its short-term nature which can hinder innovation
- difficulties associated with payment by results as hindering planning and again stifling innovation
- the decline of public sector grants, and
- fewer funders willing to cover core costs leading to further challenges for smaller charities.
There was, though, a strong recognition of the important role of grant funding and a suggestion of a revitalised role for grants. Here are some of the benefits and recommendations for grants:
- realistic and justifiable core costs are essential to charities
- despite cuts, local authority grants still allow communities to benefit while at same time allowing charities the capacity to innovate
- they are easier, flexible and are seen as a more positive approach to funding than contracts
- they are the most efficient way of commissioning an outcome especially for smaller groups.
Plan, plan, plan
Whether your organisation opts for contracts, grants or other forms of income generation, developing your fundraising plan is an essential aid in helping you to:
- organise and structure your approach to your funding/income
- identify potential income and funding sources, and
- share the information across the organisation to ensure buy-in.
VAL’s upcoming course, Developing a fundraising plan on 20 April, aims to give organisations on overview of the necessary steps needed to develop and deliver a successful fundraising plan.
More work ahead
VAL welcomes the spotlight on the need to protect and support the contribution of small and medium-sized charities, and the report affirms the work we’ve been doing to provide specialist support around impact measurement and fundraising. There’s still more work that needs to be done on the part of government, commissioners, funders and infrastructure bodies to make it happen. We will continue to work with our members, partners and national organisations such as NAVCA and NCVO to ensure the needs of #smallbutvital charities, which make up the majority of Lewisham’s VCSE sector, remain on the agenda.
Lillian Brown is our Development Support Officer – Project Development & Fundraising, email@example.com
The first course of Show your impact Year 2, Collecting impact measurement data methods and digital tools for outcomes is Thursday 27 April 2017. There are still places left on the programme, or you can also dip into a session on a one-off basis. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.