New Starts, Fresh Resolve.

Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Partnerships, Policy and Communications reflects on 2015 and offers  resolutions for the sector in 2016:

As we embark upon the New Year, as is customary it is time for some reflections and resolutions. Personally, 2015 was a year of significant change for the Shrubsole household. My little girl started primary school and is learning to read; my little boy learnt to walk, is learning to feed himself and started nursery and my wife went back to work and a new role after maternity leave. Each of these changes needed new routines and approaches to be developed and learnt for us all as a family but we were lucky we had the material resources, particularly stable housing and employment, to help us start our various new chapters (relatively) smoothly.

In the voluntary sector, 2015 was also one that brought about huge change, with some of the key events likely to have a significant impact now in 2016 and for a long time to come. The first was the election of a majority Conservative Government and its decisions on public spending. As we reflected at the time, some in the voluntary sector had given the impression that they were hanging on for the return of a Labour government, for the taps to be turned back on and for normal service to be resumed. As we head into the New Year it is very clear that those of us seeking to shape public policy and practice need to focus on presenting arguments and evidence that resonate with this Government and conservative opinion more broadly.

Garden tap

There are certainly no taps and there will be no turning them back on. The Spending Review, whilst the headlines were of expected cuts not being made – and indeed within individual Departmental budgets there were some  welcome announcements, such as some increased resources for tackling domestic abuse – the big yet under-reported story was the size and length of the cut and squeeze to local government funding.

the early months of 2016 will see officers and elected members engaged in frantic attempts to make ends meet as they face a series of Hobbsian choices…”

In town halls up and down the country, the early months of 2016 will see officers and elected members engaged in frantic attempts to make ends meet as they face a series of Hobbsian choices between how much to cut vital and well-loved service A as compared to vital and well-loved services B, C, D or E and onwards. And the impact on the voluntary sector will be huge: less money for everything; more of the remaining money parcelled up into bigger pots and contracts; the officers who you used to work with and understood you gone or now with much bigger workloads; higher thresholds for all public services; more people with greater needs relying on voluntary provision. Anything that is not related to meeting a copper-bottomed statutory duty – and that means the vast majority of local charity services and activities – is going to really struggle.

Anything that is not related to meeting a copper-bottomed statutory duty…is going to really struggle.”

With less public money available the voluntary sector will need to raise more of its own income, and so comes into play the second key issue that reverberates from last year – the debate around charities, what they are for and crucially how they raise their money.

Donating Money To CharityDay after day in 2015 charities became front page and headline news and it wasn’t pretty.  Kids Company entered public consciousness and for many represents all they would profess to know about the “charity sector”. And the debate about fundraising, whilst prompted by particular circumstances and examples, gained traction because of a more widespread concern that the practices of some large charities had strayed too far from what the public understood and expected charitable fundraising to be about. This has then prompted debate around charitable ratios, what the relationship should be between charities and the state, charity campaigning, salaries and more. Beyond the specifics – much of which has been misunderstood, misinterpreted or even misrepresented – there is a general sense from much of the media and some politicians that charities have been under-scrutinised and should be called to account. And whether as symptom or cause, public trust in charities has been hit.

the effects of the storm are likely to be felt most acutely by small and medium sized charities – which of course constitute the vast majority.”

Although the large charities were under fire, the effects of the storm are likely to be felt most acutely by small and medium sized charities – which of course constitute the vast majority (97%). We already knew that whilst there was a sizable funding gap facing the sector as whole, it was much worse for small and medium sized charities (who had lost between 34 and 38% of income) who in addition faced a “capacity crunch” reducing their ability to engage in new initiatives, restructure and rebuild.

We need to recapture and cherish that spirit of resolve and resilience.”

So there seem few reasons to be cheerful. But life in the voluntary sector has never been easy – every charity formed when people of goodwill got together to say, “this is wrong, this should not happen and we will do something about it”. We need to recapture and cherish that spirit of resolve and resilience. So here are some suggested resolutions for 2016:

  1. Keep doing what we are doing well. Day in, day out charities are doing fantastic work, often below the radar. People need and rely on us – and this will only increase as services reduce and welfare cuts bite – so we should have confidence in what we do and keep doing it. And the majority of the public are with us – with hundreds of thousands of people having given time, money and goods to support charitable causes over Christmas, whether helping homeless people or refugees or neighbours and communities cope with flooding.  At Lloyds Bank Foundation we have supported small local charities tackling disadvantage across England and Wales for 30 years and will continue to do so.
  2. Look for new coalitions, alliances, approaches and solutions – in what we do and how we do it. With funding harder to come by we need to be looking for new ways to leverage what we have and bring in new sources of time, support, expertise and resources. At the Foundation we will be looking for opportunities for greater collaboration with others, including working more closely with Lloyds Banking Group, harnessing their capabilities to help charities to sustain and develop.
  3. Be louder and prouder about what we do as individual charities and what the sector does as a whole. We should be positive, confident and authoritative about our work but also better at making it come alive and telling our individual and shared stories of achievement and success. This will also help to mobilise supporters to help advocate for charities in the debates and decisions as councils set their budgets.

We will all need to be bold and sometimes bolshy in public and smart in private to resist or redirect the worst of the cuts.”

We will all need to be bold and sometimes bolshy in public and smart in private to resist or redirect the worst of the cuts. And when difficult stories are published and challenges raised it’s time to get on the front foot to journalists, MPs and Ministers, not just providing limited rebuttal after the event. As a Foundation we will play our part by making the case for and highlighting the value of small and local charities and the need to reform commissioning with new research and stronger advocacy.

This year will undoubtedly bring concern and challenges but can also bring opportunities. We must all work together to make it a year of moving forward for the voluntary sector: new starts, fresh resolve.

Happy New Year!

30 Years of Breaking Disadvantage

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To mark our 30th birthday we held an event focusing on the Charity Mentoring programme we launched last year. Paul Streets, our CEO shared his reflections at the event:

Back To Our Roots

Birthdays are inevitably a time to reflect on where we are in life, what we’ve achieved, and of course to give us a chance to take a look back at where it all began.

In which case we ought to pay homage to 1985; the year the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales – alongside sister Foundations for the rest of the UK – was created, as well of course as the launch of the first mobile phone network and personal computers in the UK, and Live Aid, when music and charity first came together to sear global poverty into public consciousness.

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Sampson Lloyd II, Founder of Lloyds Bank

But for a real exploration of our origins as a foundation we must cast our minds back further still, to the beginning of Lloyds Bank back in 1662. It was then that the great great grandfather of the first Lloyd of Lloyds Bank was rotting in gaol because as a Quaker he refused to swear an oath to King Charles II. History tells us that for his crime, Lloyd was ‘put in a low room, with the felons and malefactors in a chamber overhead, their chamber pots and excrements etc falling upon them…’

It was here that he and his wife Elizabeth gave birth to Sampson Lloyd. When Sampson Lloyd was later released he moved to Birmingham and proceeded to set up the largest steel foundry in Britain. And just over a century later, in 1765, his son Sampson Lloyd II, established Lloyds Bank.

This story is worth sharing not just for legacy’s sake but because it tells of life-changing transitions and of someone who became a prisoner of conscience. It strikes a chord with us here at the Foundation as we strive to continue to support charities who focus on helping people break out of disadvantage to make successful transitions to better situations, and do right by as many people as they can.

Small and Medium Sized Charities We’ve Helped Britain Prosper

Whilst an independent charitable trust; with our own strategy and board of trustees, we wholeheartedly share and contribute to the mission of Lloyds Banking Group which is to Help Britain Prosper.

Our contribution is to ensure that those communities and individuals who would otherwise get left behind are supported to have the best chance to prosper. Because we know from the work we fund and support that if you are homeless, tackling mental health issues, drug or alcohol problems, experiencing domestic abuse, if you have just left prison, just left care or are experience domestic violence, and you don’t have the support many of us enjoy, prosperity seems like a distant dream. We know that providing support at that critical moment, when people are seeking help and are striving for a better situation, is the best route to helping them move on in their lives and enabling them to prosper.

transitions

We also know that key to leading people out of serious disadvantage, are good, effective small and medium sized local charities, run by local people, bringing together volunteers, other local organisations, services and businesses, to ensure they are in the best position to provide a trusted source of support to people who are neither trusted by, or trusting of society. That’s why over 30 years we’ve supported 42,000 of such small and medium sized charities, investing around £340m and becoming the largest corporate Foundation in the UK.

More than money

Were Sampson Lloyd II here today I think he’d be extremely proud that not only is his bank on every high street, through us its Foundation, we working on every back street in the charities we support.

He’d be doubly proud – as we are – that as well as giving money to support local communities we’ve now created a network of 200 colleagues (and counting!) from Lloyds Banking Group who through our Charity Mentoring Programme are providing additional support to charities by sharing their business expertise, acting as a sounding board and linking in with other staff time and resources. All helping to make charities stronger and more effective in these difficult times.

Charity mentoring has shown that bringing together people from two very different worlds really works. It challenges the stereotypes of what people who work in banks are really like, the stereotypes of why people end up in  dire circumstances, and what volunteering is really capable of achieving. Through Charity Mentoring we’ve seen surprised reactions on both sides – from mentors who thought charities would have them painting or gardening, and from charities who were cynical about mentors’ motives.

Mentors I have met have been profoundly inspired by the experiences they’ve had – either because the issues the charity addresses have touched their own lives or the lives of those they love, or just because they can see for the first time that the issues facing the people they’re supporting ‘could happen to me’. Many have commented on how professional the voluntary sector is, delivering great things for people at low cost day in day out.

What Next?

Charity Mentoring has, we believe, the power to hold a mirror up to others in showing that it’s time to move beyond tired ideas of low value volunteering to a model that really benefits both parties. For ourselves we are looking to expand charity mentoring to ensure that all charities we support who want one can access that support but also to extend the model with mentors connecting specialist support and the time of other colleagues, such as around fundraising, to meet the needs of charities and helping bring them out of the shadows and into the centre of each community where they can be recognised for the vital and life-saving work they do.

30 years in, we can be proud of what we’ve done, but it feels like we’ve got a lot left to do. As we know from our recent research, funding is harder than ever to come by, especially for small and medium sized charities who are primarily funded locally, and yet as public services shrink too, there are more people than ever needing their help. Our birthday is a good moment to acknowledge what has been achieved but also more importantly to reaffirm our commitment to redouble our efforts to provide funding, time, expertise and a voice for those we exist to serve – locally based small and medium sized charities on the frontline of, as our strapline says “breaking disadvantage, bettering lives”.

 

Expert Yet Undervalued and On the Front Line

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Policy and National Programmes Manager, Caroline Howe reflects on the findings of our recent survey and explores what this means for the sector over the coming months.

When we surveyed our grantees for our new Expert Yet Undervalued and On the Front Line report, we expected to hear that charities are working in tough times – our grant managers on the ground see it day in day out. What was sobering though was the scale of the challenges charities face, including the number of challenges that arise simultaneously. Hearing these messages in charities’ own words drives home the pressures, frustration and determination that characterises so many of the charities we fund.

For many this starts with the change in demand they’re experiencing, expressed by nine out of ten respondents – for most, this includes an increase in client numbers whilst also working with clients for longer due to their more complex needs. Dealing with this at the best of times would be a challenge but at the same time charities are finding it ever harder to attract funding together with a raft of other challenges. As one charity put it:

The biggest challenge is that we are now facing all of these challenges simultaneously”

In this scenario, it’s not surprising that a worrying number of charities are not sure how they will secure income over the next two years – 63% think it will become more difficult while in Wales, more than a third of charities are concerned that they’ll be unable to balance this income against rising demand. Many of these organisations are delivering services to individuals who are most at risk and who cannot access support through other means. Government mustn’t overlook the important role that these organisations are fulfilling in communities right across England and Wales if it is going to meet its objective of delivering effective services.

It’s clear that the small and medium sized social welfare charities that we support are particularly vulnerable. Smaller, local charities are renowned for their resilience and they are working hard to be able to respond to increased pressures. 99% of respondents are taking steps to diversify their income, but finding new funding streams is not as simple as you might hope. Despite government drives to increase use of social investment, only 5% of charities report attempting this as for many charities it will never be a viable option – their services are too complex and cannot work to a payment by results model. Earning income can be particularly difficult when working with those facing the greatest difficulties too:

We cannot charge our clients. We deal only with the poorest and most vulnerable who are already in financial difficulties. They cannot pay for services”.

Even where new funding streams could be sought, they come at a considerable cost to organisations with limited resources that may be struggling to meet front line demands –these options can “require significant initial investment and present financial and operational risks to the charity”. Where charities can make the initial investment, there is some evidence that they have reaped wider benefits than increased income, including raising awareness of their organisation and learning from other organisations in consortia. This offers some hope to many organisations but sadly does not help those who do not have the capacity to reach this position.

The survey also highlighted the intense pressure on resources brought about by the commissioning process. The NCVO Civil Society Almanac shows that 83% of government income to the sector is through contracts or fees yet half of our survey respondents who bid for contracts report the process to be impossible or difficult.

half of our survey respondents who bid for contracts report the process to be impossible or difficult.”

The commissioning system allows larger organisations to dominate, “branching out into different areas where they see a funding opportunity” even where they lack the local knowledge and expertise needed to reach those most at risk. Operating in a system which “does not put a high enough value on quality of practice”, larger organisations “put in whatever bid is necessary to win the contract and then deal with the consequences later if they not meet the targets set”. In many cases, smaller charities do not have the resources to undercut valuable services in this way. “This leaves organisations….with the expertise and local knowledge vulnerable” and they can find themselves forced out of the marketplace. Such practice is worrying for smaller charities themselves – but what is more worrying is the risk it poses to the people they serve and that has to cause concern for all of us.

It’s a concern despite government claims that it has protected spending on front line services as this isn’t reflected in the experiences of the charities we heard from on the front line. The charities we fund are feeling the full brunt of the cuts – the recent Financial Sustainability Review highlighted this, with charities under £1m losing 34-38% of their income from government sources since 2010/11. Securing their future and ensuring those individuals most at risk can access the support they need demands a fairer commissioning process; one where smaller organisations are not placed at an unfair disadvantage. For government, this also means acknowledging the wider social value that can be achieved when commissioning smaller organisations, recognising that working with these organisations can bring the greatest value overall. And government can do this – by adopting a more flexible funding mix that enables a greater proportion of grants to be awarded, government can ensure that the processes reflect the needs of the service and not the other way around.

If this isn’t done, the results will be catastrophic.”

If this isn’t done, the results will be catastrophic. Already we are seeing the impact of the cuts on the people charities serve. They are driving more people, with more complex needs to charities’ services as other, largely statutory, services close down and the thresholds to access statutory support are pushed up. This will only worsen as the government rolls out the impending Spending Review which projects a further 25-40% of cuts. If government are going to achieve more with less, it makes sense that small and medium sized charities are part of the plan. These organisations can deliver the wider social value that can bring real value for money, provided that government reassesses how it works with the sector. This has to include a fair commissioning process and more grants to ensure the organisations with the knowledge and experience to reach those most in need are not placed at a disadvantage.

Independent funders have their own part to play in this too. We, and others, need to support small and medium sized charities with core, long term funding whilst helping to build their capacity so that they have the freedom and ability to deliver solutions that will work. We also need to push for the structural changes that will secure an effective environment for charities to operate in. Our report is a step in building the case for change with its strength resting on being the voices of charities themselves – we’ll be following it up over the coming months with further evidence that we hope will demonstrate to commissioners and government more widely, why and how they should engage and support smaller charities – seeing them as central to being able to deliver their objectives, whether that be preventing and resolving homelessness or domestic abuse, or helping those with mental health issues or long-term unemployment . As one respondent put it:

Responding to this new landscape requires the vision and commitment not just of charities but of all players.”

Now more than ever is the time for these players to come together, so we can ensure the needs of the most at risk continue to be met despite the phenomenal pressures on resources and this cannot be achieved without supporting small and medium sized charities – “we are normally in the best position to be able to work most effectively with the people who need our help and this mustn’t be taken for granted”.

Caroline Howe is Policy and National Programmes Manager at Lloyds Bank Foundation. Read more about the Foundation’s National Programmes.

Fortitude, tenacity and consistency: celebrating seemingly unremarkable people and organisations doing remarkable things in the Voluntary Sector

Paul Streets, CEO at Lloyds Bank Foundation

As we mark 30 years of funding small and medium-sized charities, we’ve developed an Awards Programme that celebrates and showcases their important work. We recently announced our regional winners across six categories. The differences between these categories, programmes and pitches is both interesting and refreshing: it reflects the diversity and richness of what people do with the support we give them. Two categories that particularly shone for me were Unsung Heroes and Against The Odds. Each one remarkable.

The first a set of stories about individuals. Volunteers who have been the bedrock of organisations – sometimes as founders, sometimes just in being there to do whatever, whenever. People who been through their own personal hell, come out the other side and have then accomplished more than they might ever have achieved without adversity by choosing to use their own journeys to help others. Often people who have turned adversity into a personal asset which they have shared with others.

In July we had a reception at the Senedd where we announced the Welsh winners (pictured above). The ‘Unsung Hero’ for Wales, Sarah Baker from TOGs Centre talked so positively about how her son’s Angelman’s Syndrome had been such a positive driver for her. If you could paint a kind of aggregated pen picture of such volunteers it would be one of fortitude, tenacity, consistency – often over years and years – and massive optimism that people can come through whatever life throws at them. In some respects seemingly unremarkable people doing remarkable things.

If you could paint a kind of aggregated pen picture of such volunteers it would be one of fortitude, tenacity, consistency…seemingly unremarkable people doing remarkable things.

The second set of stories about organisations and what they’ve done to pull through …sometimes more than once – uncomplaining, often in the face of big cuts or losing big contracts – which they report without anger just as facts – to find a new way forward. Boards and CEs refreshed. New money sought. New purpose and direction found. The twinkles shine through the text. A pen picture that would echo collectively that of the individual Unsung Heroes.

I am struck by the juxtaposition between those stories and the vision George Osborne set out in the July Budget and in launching the Spending Review. The government has argued that even after five years of austerity, cuts of 25–40% in a whole range of key public services should still be possible. Things feel just about OK, so why not do more?  After all, it is argued crime is down – despite cuts to the Police they have managed. Allegedly the public report high satisfaction with public services.

And indeed that’s probably true for many people. The odd extra pot hole perhaps. For many of us we’ve still got secure jobs, homes, the dustbins get collected, my local library is still there, my trains have even improved and will do even further as I crawl past the billions being spent to improve London Bridge, and my parents have had fantastic care through the NHS.

Now of course there has long been a divide between those who “have” and are OK and those who “haven’t” and are far from. The welfare state, public services and the voluntary sector have always, separately and together, been part of helping to narrow the gap and help the “have nots”. But the money to do so will remain in short supply.

The recent NCVO Financial Sustainability Report projects a £4.6bn shortfall in voluntary sector income in the next few years – largely driven by a reduction in Government funding. At one level that’s only about 10%. Sounds doable. But if you read below the headline figures, there has been a significant redistribution of the sector’s spending power from smaller to larger organisations. In the last few years the small/medium-sized charities we fund have seen a 30% cut in Government funding. The next few will likely see something similar…so over about six to eight years they’ll likely see any government funding they receive roughly halve and the challenge of winning increasingly competitive public service contracts means what flows to them may well be even lower.

Charities have been positively likened to cockroaches in their ability to withstand a nuclear war and continue. But we want good charities to not just survive but thrive.

Charities have been positively likened to cockroaches in their ability to withstand a nuclear war and continue. But we want good charities to not just survive but thrive – Our Against The Odds category demonstrates that. But these are the best, alongside the other 121 charities which won or were highly commended at a regional level. There are 36,000 small/medium charities working in health and social care alone – around 160,000 in total.

Foundations have a vital role to play here as the level of grants we provide now matches that from Government – leaving us as one of the few remaining sources of vital unrestricted funding. Whether we like it or not as Foundations that gives us extra responsibilities – to think about the accessibility and distribution of our grants across the country and against need.

But we also need to find a way to speak these truths about the sector to power. Maybe Central Government has no money anymore, but it can recognise the vital role of the sector in reaching those who are not seeing any light at the end of their tunnels.

Maybe Central Government has no money anymore, but it can recognise the vital role of the sector in reaching those who are not seeing any light at the end of their tunnels.

It does have the power to seek for the money left to reach the right places through the right ways. But for that to happen it needs a narrative for the sector which is sadly absent.

Too often the voluntary sector is allowing its story, purpose and achievements to be told, or indeed mis-told by others. It is striking that no-one is telling a positive story about the sector and in particular what small and local charities are doing day-in day-out to help the people who need it most to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. But these charities cannot have a voice if they don’t exist.

These charities cannot have a voice if they don’t exist.

If I sound angry I am. But anger has always been a big personal motivator in my work on different ‘lost’ causes through the years.

And all hope is not lost.

If we honestly believed this Government didn’t care – as some in the sector have said to me – then perhaps it would be.

But David Cameron has been noted as a person driven by a motivation for social reform. George Osborne’s commitment to a higher minimum wage is a clear sign that this government can take ideas from across the political spectrum and be influenced by evidence and effective campaigning (Living Wage Foundation and all who have supported and worked with it take a bow).

Yes, we need to hold the Government to account… but most of all we need to work with them to find a way to ‘socially reform’ which can work for those who know better than they ever will: our Unsung Heroes battling Against the Odds.

It is them we betray if we keep quiet and continue to wring our hands because it’s oh so difficult…

…if they had  done the same and not responded to the call to help their fellow citizens we’d have no charities and no-one to give Awards to.

Reflections on the General Election and the new Conservative Government

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Never has the phrase “a week is a long time in politics” seemed so apt with the fallout from the 2015 election, the surprise election of a majority Conservative government and the impact on the other parties (and their leaders) still dominating the airwaves, twitter and newsprint. Amidst a sea of insight and analysis here are three reflections on what this might mean for the voluntary sector and three suggestions for how we should respond:

A. Everything changes, everything stays the same: for all the speculation as to what a majority Conservative Government means for an EU referendum, the Human Rights Act, the union or even the BBC, the reality of David Cameron being re-elected means that the core issue for this Parliament will be the same as that of the last one – the public finances. The Conservatives plans to turn a deficit of £75bn this year into a surplus by 2018/19, alongside meeting the spending pledges made during the campaign, all mean that George Osborne’s emergency budget on 8th July will fire the starting gun for a very hard-fought Spending Review. Central to this will be how the Conservatives meet their objective of cutting a further £12bn from working-age welfare.

Alongside welfare, local government spending is likely to be in the eye of the storm and has already resulted in an unprecedented expression of concern from every single local authority leader in England and Wales. Given the huge cuts of the last five years and against the continuing pressures of an ageing population and other needs, it cannot be long before the very fabric of local government and services comes under extreme pressure – bringing the Barnet “graph of doom” very much to life. And of course given that the voluntary sector, particularly small and medium sized charities, primarily derives its public income from local government, any further reductions will leave many having to do more with a lot less.

B. Working with the new Government – personnel: many charities put a lot of work before the election into influencing the full range of Manifestos – in the expectation/hope of treasured objectives making it through negotiations and into a coalition agreement – but now only one matters. In the last Parliament many of us became adept at leveraging as far as we could the Lib Dems both publicly and particularly behind the scenes – but such channels are no longer available. One of David Cameron’s best contributions to the process of Government has been continuity of Ministers, as opposed to the high turnover of the Labour years – and indeed most of the Cabinet remains unchanged. That means, however, for those of us on the outside there is not the opportunity for fresh starts – Ministers have heard our arguments and formed their views. So if we are going to change minds on an issue now we (a) have to go direct to Conservative Ministers and (b) are going to need new and better evidence/approaches/arguments than we have tried to date. We should also expect further cuts to the Civil Service and greater change in the size and leadership of Quangos.  But hopefully the stronger role backbench MPs created for themselves in the last Parliament, such as through the election of Select Committee Chairs, and the small size of the Government’s majority, should present some opportunities, if used well, to influence debate. And in relation to MPs it is good news that across the parties there is a slight increase in the number who have experience of having worked in the VCS as well as more women generally, and more from BME communities.

C. Policy on the Voluntary Sector specifically: the Conservative Manifesto did not say much about the VCS but what it did say focused on extending the current direction of travel: scaling up social impact bonds and payment by results, getting charities more involved in service delivery through “the Work Programme model” plus looking at integrating services between and within councils as per the Troubled families programme. Our old friend “the Big Society” still got a mention, alongside support for volunteering including through the interesting idea of a new entitlement for employees of large firms to have three days of volunteering. As a sector we should of course welcome this support for volunteering and voluntary action but also try to ensure it is linked to and not somehow seen as separate to supporting the organisational form of voluntary action – namely strong, vibrant voluntary organisations.

So how should the Voluntary Sector respond to the new Government? Clearly we should engage willingly and openly with any Government, always looking for opportunities and partnership.  We should be focused and far sighted about those we exist to serve, but not cowed by fear or seeking favour to raise questions, concerns and challenges.

We should be focused and far sighted about those we exist to serve, but not cowed by fear or seeking favour to raise questions, concerns and challenges.

1. Ensure the voluntary sector makes clear its relevance across Government: with Rob Wilson confirmed in post as Minister for Civil Society there is continuity but as a sector we need to ensure that support for and policy around the voluntary sector breaks out of the OCS ghetto to become “in with the bricks” of how all of Government does business. That means firstly showing more clearly how we, day in day out, help the Government deliver its core objectives, whether that be getting people back to work, tackling domestic abuse or addiction, or improving health or educational attainment, and therefore arguing for the core public expenditure in these areas to work for, with and through the sector.

Secondly, putting the voluntary sector at the heart of the drive to improve efficiency and effectiveness, not as a cheaper alternative to public services – far from it – but because if we are ever to genuinely deliver more with less, Government needs to work with the voluntary sector around early, preventative and holistic interventions.

…if we are ever to genuinely deliver more with less, Government needs to work with the voluntary sector around early, preventative and holistic interventions.

Thirdly, we need to seize the opportunity of greater devolution to ensure that it works for communities and neighbourhoods as much as for nations and regions – for example that greater devolution to Greater Manchester provides the space for community groups to bring together health – physical, mental and public – with social care and wider interventions at local level, not that it replaces unaccountable rule from Whitehall with that from Manchester townhall.

Fourthly, having convinced the Government of our value we need to make the case for a stronger, broader set of tools that better allows the voluntary sector to deliver across these agendas, including real reform of commissioning – replacing the drive towards social investment, scale, competition and contracts, with transparency, collaboration, varied funding and grants, particularly to better support the small and specialist organisations. The elevation of Oliver Letwin to head the Cabinet Office may help with some of this, bringing together some sympathy for charities with the broader Government reform agenda.

As an independent funder we will look to play our own part, funding and supporting the bedrock of small and medium sized charities tackling disadvantage in communities across England and Wales, as well as championing them and bringing their issues, concerns and the contributions they can make onto the national agenda.

2. Think about our language and frames of reference: We as a sector and individual organisations are clearly in the business of solutions to society’s ills but we must make sure that our public pronouncements also reflect that, positively proposing where/how we can do more as well as highlighting wrongs. Whilst remaining effective campaigners we need to ensure we are talking not just to our own donors, members and supporters but also the wider public and full range of media (witness, for example, the Sun’s new partnership with Women’s Aid campaigning against the closing of women’s refuges), telling stories of hope and lives changed, bringing alive concepts such as “social value” and building new alliances with business and others. We also need to use language which backs up the arguments that we are making to Government, such by drawing the obvious comparisons between small and medium sized charities and SMEs – who this Government likes and understands – when arguing for reform of procurement.

3. Be bold, ambitious and define our own future: David Cameron launched his new Government from the steps of Downing Street by talking about “one nation”. We should ensure that governing as “one nation” is not just around bringing the UK together but is as much about the old Disraeli sense of reducing social division and supporting the poor and vulnerable with a vibrant and vocal civil society making change happen. But we as a sector must get on the front foot and shape our own role in building “one nation”, not wait for it to be defined for us by politicians or bureaucrats.

…we as a sector must get on the front foot and shape our own role in building “one nation”, not wait for it to be defined for us by politicians or bureaucrats

At times over the last five years it has seemed like parts of the VCS were hanging on until a more left-leaning Government and/or the “taps were turned on again”. The taps will remain nearly dry for many years to come so we must rethink the relationship with the state and be architects of our own futures. Across the country homelessness and domestic abuse charities, for example, came into being precisely because the state was failing to care and people of goodwill came together to do something about it and still today they house, support and empower thousands of people, not because Government told, paid or contracted them to but because it is right. And if we look at some of the greatest changes in public policy and broader debate that were secured over the last Parliament –from the adoption of the 0.7% aid target, equal marriage, greater support for private renters or the living wage – then the voluntary sector, our voice, passion, evidence and arguments were at the heart, proving that changing policy is indeed a core part of “the knitting”.

The country has spoken and a new Government is getting to work. In turn we need a vibrant, bold, confident voluntary sector, vocal on behalf of the voiceless, fearless in identifying folly and failure, resolute in revealing solutions and confident in fulfilling our missions on behalf of those we exist to serve and at the heart of the nation at large.

Duncan Shrubsole is Director of Policy, Partnerships and Communications for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. You can read more about Duncan on our website or follow him on Twitter: @duncanshrubsole

The Challenge of Changing Lives

Harriet Stranks, Director of Grant Making North, acknowledges that delivering good services whilst running a smooth back office isn’t always easy

 As a Foundation we ask charities to do the very best that they can with their funding, in good faith, to change peoples’ lives. That is a very tall order, and we know it.

The Foundation knows that charities have a really hard time keeping their head above water. We know there is an exhausting battle between doing the admin, getting the money in and delivering the services. We know that charities are very often living hand to mouth and the funding climate is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up.

Under all this pressure of running a charity, we ask you to change lives…to sit and listen to the man who doesn’t have anyone else to turn to, to make a phone call to the housing office to argue his case, to get him a warm coat, to help him understand he is not alone and to make his lot a bit easier, one day at a time.

If this kind of work was simple, the government would do it and we could all pack our bags and go home. Only the not for profit sector has the patience to work with people who are having a really tough time, furthermore, they do it with humility and give people dignity during moments of crisis.

We know that all of this is not easy, and sometimes it doesn’t work out – that’s ok. We trust you to do the best that you can, with the resources that you’ve got and make as much of an impact as possible, one person at a time.

That’s the reason we’ve invested money in what you do since we were founded in 1985. It’s also the reason that this year, as we mark our 30th anniversary, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate your work with our 2015 Charity Achievement Awards.

Charity Achievement Awards

We know that the most effective work you do doesn’t always take the form of a shiny new idea or a huge scale project, but nevertheless it makes a transformative difference to your community. And given that times will remain tough, with money tight and the need for help growing, whoever is in power following the general election, we feel that recognising, celebrating, indeed shouting about the part you play as small and medium-sized charities across the country is important. We know you’re helping people get back on their feet and rebuild and improve their lives, and your role is more vital than ever.

So we’ve created six categories that we hope will reflect some of the elements of the work you do and the way that you do it:

  • Outstanding Impact
  • Against the Odds
  • Valuing Volunteers
  • Championing Change
  • Unsung Hero
  • Enterprising Collaboration

If your turnover is under £1m and you were in receipt of an active grant* from us in January 2015 or have been awarded a new grant by April 2015 you’re eligible to apply. We will look at your entries firstly within each region and from then, the winners of each category in each region, will go onto a UK-wide round alongside those from our sister Lloyds Bank Foundations for Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.  Winners will get a small unrestricted grant and we will work alongside you to promote you, your work and your achievements.

So now is your chance to get involved. Don’t hide your lights and achievements under a bushel, tell us about them and enter the Charity Achievement Awards.

We’ve tried to make it as easy to apply with a simple online form and you can enter against as many different categories as you like.

Applications close on 1st June at midnight so don’t delay – apply now!

* An active grant may have been awarded or started some time previous to this date but should not yet have ended and the charity must still be doing work against it. For example any two year grant that started from January 2013 onwards would still be active and therefore eligible.

Harriet Stranks is Director of Grant Making North for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. You can read more about Harriet on our website.

Making Charities More Robust Through Development and Improvement Funding

Grant Manager Emma Beeston explains why the ‘Enable’ programme means she can say ‘yes’ more often:

As a Grant Manager with Lloyds Bank Foundation I am in the lucky position of getting to meet with small and medium-sized charities and learn about their work, achievements and challenges. We know that these locally based charities are able to make a difference to the people in their community in a way that isn’t always possible for larger organisations, and I love the fact that I can play a part in helping them to reach more people.

The downside is that I also have to say ‘no’ a lot. We cannot fund all the requests that come our way and part of my job is to be honest where a charity’s bid is unlikely to be successful and so at least save them from spending precious time on an application form.

So you can imagine my pleasure in having our new ‘Enable’ programme to offer. Not only does it award grants to charities for those organisational development projects that are hard to get funded but the success rate is pretty high. So I get to say ‘yes*’ more often.

Enable was launched in August 2014. It is driven by what charities identify they need to make them function more effectively and so far it has funded quite a range of projects: business and service developments and plans; development of monitoring systems; investigation of mergers, partnerships, shared services, contract diversification; consultancy support; quality standards; or development of new income streams and enterprise.

What all the work has in common is that it strengthens charities which are helping people at key transition points in their lives. And given the difficult times smaller charities are finding themselves in right now, that has to be a good thing.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what these charities have said about their Enable funding:

“The support allowed us to review our current programme format. We now begin working with young people on the development of attitudes and soft skills, helping them overcome issues that can be barriers to our more practical help with tasks such as CV writing and mock job interviews”

Michelle McKendry, CEO, Futureversity
Read the full case study

“In the last year Shak has changed and developed hugely but we worked hard to make sure we continued to deliver excellent services even during this time of transition. Now that we’ve reshaped our team and activities it’s time to focus on guaranteeing the sustainability of the services in the medium and long-term and the Enable grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation is helping us to do just that.”

John Boyle, Director, South Hampstead and Kilburn Community Partnership

So, if you work with people who are disadvantaged in multiple ways and are supporting them at a critical time in their lives, do take a look at Enable. You can apply for up to £15k to fund those organisational development ideas that you would love to do if only you had the money. And you might just make your Grant Manager’s day.

*though still not every time – sorry. The key criteria for getting Enable grants can be found here.

Emma Beeston is a Grant Manager the West of England, for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. You can read more about Emma on our website, on her blog, or follow her on Twitter.