So you want to become an NCVO consultant?

With a week to go until the deadline for my maternity cover (Consultant – Sustainable Funding), I have a vested interest in making sure that someone really good gets the job. But I’m also aware that being a consultant with NCVO might be a bit of an enigma. So, for all of you who were thinking of applying (or who were interested in NCVO consultancy generally), here’s a few insights into what I do (and why it’s usually a lot of fun).

How NCVO consultancy works:
• Within NCVO sits a little band of intrepid souls, each with their own specialism, who work together to try to help individual charities and not-for-profits. But unlike the grant-funded projects of old, we charge for our work. I actually quite like this as it means our work is highly valued by the client (if you’ve ever worked on a grant funded project where you’ve given something for nothing, you’ll understand the pitfalls of everything being free!). And we have several ‘Grant Plus’ contracts with funders that allow us to still work with some smaller organisations who wouldn’t have the budget for consultancy support otherwise.

• Unlike working as a lone consultant, the big advantage of being part of a team is that you can put together bespoke solutions – so a lot of the time, work will come in looking like straight-forward funding support, and after I’ve met with the client and had a detailed chat, it turns out they need a good dollop of strategy with a bit of impact too in order for the funding support to be successful. So I’ll link with colleagues and propose a combined solution.

• We don’t do grant or contract bid-writing. We don’t take on projects where we don’t think we’ll have much impact. This is great – there’s nothing more frustrating as a fundraising/income generation consultant than working with organisations where you feel like you’ve been brought in as a sticky plaster to churn out a few funding applications, knowing full well that with a bit of support, that organisation could produce something great themselves, increase their chance of success and then not have to pay a consultant next time. So if a client is struggling with generating income, I’ll go in and help them to look at the strategic, resource and process reasons this could be and refer them to some training for writing applications (or, if they insist, another consultant who can write the bid).

• We also promote the concept of ‘sustainable funding’. So, no more pigeon-holes where you can only look at grants, or individual giving in isolation. Instead you stretch your brain by looking at all the income options and how they fit within the whole organisation. A lot of my projects are looking at melding together two or more income streams so that they complement each other and spread the risk.

• And finally…most NCVO consultants deliver training too. For my maternity cover this will include the new Certificate in Sustainable Funding, which is a great new high-impact course where senior individuals from organisations are supported over four modules to look afresh at their strategies.

The downsides – of course there are some – are possibly predictable. As a consultant, you’ll have to find new clients and bid for work, so it can feel a bit pressured and a departure from the grant-funded world of old. Plus juggling several projects at once, managing all the relationships and keeping them on track is an ongoing challenge. And you need to be insightful, persuasive and focused – working out what is going to achieve the desired outcome for clients, even if they have initially requested something else (such as bid-writing!). But you’ll learn a lot (not least by working with colleagues in different disciplines) and get to meet a lot of amazing organisations where you can make a big difference.

Think you can hold the fort for me? Deadline is 7 August.

PS: It’s a full time maternity cover position, but if you really can only commit to part time then we’ll still consider your application.

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Ros is NCVO's lead in Sustainable Funding, promoting a more sustainable, suitable and strategic approach to generating income of all kinds - donations, grants, contracts and trading. @RosJTweets

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