Why 1+1=3: Money, strategy and creating change

Olof Williamson was a Senior Consultant at NCVO, looking at the latest thinking on funding, finance and public services. Olof has left NCVO and his posts have been retained for here for reference.

Last week we started a new round of the NCVO Certificate in Sustainable Funding. It is built around one purpose: to enable the delegates to secure the resources they need to create lasting change in the world. My hope is that through this four-day programme they can discover why, through creating momentum, buy-in and clarity, we can find that money+strategy = more than the sum of their parts.

Talking money

Let’s start with the cash. While the giving of time is the heart and soul of the voluntary sector, money allows it to do so much more than would be possible without it. The voluntary sector’s income was £38bn in 2011/12.

So money is vital to so much we do, but there are an infinite number of ways to bring it in to the organisation and sustain financial security long-term. There can be a bewildering array of different options, more or less efficient or viable. Over the four days of the Certificate we’ll be guiding the delegates in how to organise their creative thinking, choose between options and prioritise action to turn what may be a limitless wish list into a manageable plan.

Thinking strategically

This refining of options is where good strategy comes in. There’s no one fixed definition of strategy, but I like the idea of the big picture, a high-level game plan for achieving your goals.

Drawing on evidence, choosing between options, prioritising and describing are all important stages. And having a strong and communicable strategy is essential to bring in the money, build support for your plans and sustain your work long-term.

For example, a charity I advised last autumn shared their new sustainable funding strategy with a trust funder, who was so impressed they extended an important grant for an additional year – an unexpected and happy endorsement of their clear thinking.

Some of the tools we’ll be using in this strategic planning are the Sustainable Sun Tool, the Income Spectrum (and the Funding Strategy Kite which I’ll share more about in later blog).

Creating change

This leads us into the change that you want to make in the world, whether social, cultural or environmental. That difference, the impact of your work, needs to be central to the plan. Whether it’s a link back to your mission, vision, or charitable objects, this connection adds huge value.

Blackboard showing sum 1+1=3

And that is also where the sums don’t add up. In a good way.

A strong sustainable funding strategy will build momentum, create goodwill and bring in additional resources including money and much more.

As Sarah Aston, one of last year’s Certificate participants put it, “Before attending the programme my funding ideas were like a pile of materials, and now they’re flying together like a kite.” And this bringing together is what gives you and your colleagues, stakeholders and supporters something to focus on and work towards.

Or another charity manager was able to use their document (and the thinking behind it) to successfully make the argument for more investment of time, money and creative thinking in their organisation’s fundraising. This internal investment is paying off as they are able to develop new streams of income that had been postponed for years and have a renewed purpose in their fundraising.

Learning together

As we take the delegates through the course we’ll be drawing on work from NCVO, Institute of Fundraising, Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness (and many more experts) to bring what I hope are the most relevant ideas and techniques to the group, helping them to resource their work and make the biggest possible difference.

  • The next Certificate in Sustainable Funding will be taking place in September/October 2014 – find out more about the Certificate in Sustainable Funding.
  • NCVO also provides bespoke consultancy to clients across the voluntary sector – contact us to discuss your organisation’s needs.



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