When the grants run out: how we’re keeping the Sustainable Funding legacy going

Earlier this year the Sustainable Funding Project at NCVO finally came to the end of its last Big Lottery Grant. Of course, all projects are supposed to close at some point, just like all charities are supposed to eventually do themselves out of business. But with Sustainable Funding, just like most charity missions, the need seemed so big that it was hard to imagine we’d ever solve it. Charities and the voluntary and community sector still have massive funding problems that could be helped by taking a more holistic approach to funding, by integrating income generation of all kinds with their wider organisation.

So, what to do with all the materials and resources? How to keep the concept, expertise and experience going without the project itself?

The first way, is making the project materials available on the NCVO website.

We also keep delivering the training we’d developed during the project, such as Grow Your Own Income for organisations interested in trading. Although, long gone are the days when grants let us offer this for free. And Sustainable Funding is a key plank of the NCVO Consultancy offer; I’ve found working directly with organisations over a longer time period actually a lot more rewarding than a lot of the lighter-touch project work.

Which made me think – surely the highest impact work for sustainable funding would be that which falls between the training and consultancy? Something that is affordable to as many organisations as possible, but allows us to work with them over a longer time, in a more personal way. This brought us to the Certificate in Sustainable Funding.
The Certificate has been my baby over the last year; we’ve developed the concept and the materials, tested it out on our first group and then adapted and tweaked it with their feedback. And now, just as I’m about to go on leave to have a real baby, it is ready to go.

Why I hope the Certificate will be a worthy legacy of the Sustainable Funding Project

  • The Certificate in Sustainable Funding is aimed at people working (or volunteering) within organisations at a senior level – you will be looking to develop a Sustainable Funding strategy for your organisation or part of your organisation.
  • It runs over four days of workshops, delivered by NCVO consultants, with a manageable amount of set work in between, supported by an online group of your peers.
  • After the four days, you then have three months to write your sustainable funding strategy, after which it will be reviewed by an NCVO consultant (and you’ll be given a chance to act on our recommendations, if you choose).
  • The Certificate is assessed based on a combination of your attendance, the set-work you complete and evidence of your understanding of the concepts and skills involved; we want to support you to get to a point where you have an achievable strategy.

Oh and:

  • A ‘sustainable funding strategy’ is much better than a ‘fundraising strategy’, because it includes all the available sources of income and puts them in the context of your organisation. Bolt-on fundraising strategies can create a lot more work for less financial return, and often create quite a cultural divide while they’re at it.

We’ve opened applications for the course starting in February – take a look our website.

I hope that the Certificate will support people and organisations to create a truly workable sustainable funding strategy. It will give you more knowledge and support than a stand-alone day’s training and it should also allow you to take ownership of your strategy in a way that is often missing when you employ a consultant to create a strategy for you, not with you (almost always a bit of a disaster).

And on this I sign off…I wish you good luck with finding a sustainable solution to fund your organisations and I’ll see you in a year.

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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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