Let’s not bother fundraising at all: the rather surprising closing message from the NCVO Funding Conference 2015

During Monday’s conference I noticed quite a few people on Twitter, discussing the day as it unfolded (#NCVOFundingConf, if you’d like to look). Personally, I am much too verbose for Twitter and easily confused if distracted, so I thought I’d round up the most useful bits I found from the conference here instead. This allows me nice satisfying sentences, without the need to compulsively abbreviate.

So, in no particular order, here my insights from the day:

EU and BIG funding

From the opening plenary and in spite of Andrew Morris’ very upbeat and friendly presentation, and in spite of combining EU and BIG monitoring requirements, I still think EU funding sounds like it will be a lot of work for many smaller organisations. But well done to the BIG Lottery Fund for their proposed new match funding initiative with added support to help recipients get the systems in place. If you are brave enough to give it a go, it looks like there will be £550m up for grabs. Quite a carrot, even with the monitoring requirements. And the big plus with EU money is that it’s one of the few sources of income that the funder is actively trying to get more organisations to apply for!

Could Lean methods be used in sustainable funding?

Nigel Kippax’s workshop introduced the world of lean methodologies, often used by business and industry but almost never used in the VCS.

The workshop got me thinking about whether lean could be used to achieve the holy grail of fundraising:

  • integrating and embedding sustainable funding so that…
  • raising money happens alongside, and in harmony with the rest of the organisation’s work.

Find out how one organisation actually implemented these ideas…

Join our practical workshop P4 ‘From deficit to surplus: how to turn around your organisation’s funding and finance’ at Evolve 2015.

Find out more about Evolve 2015

It needs some thinking about, but I suspect there are some big gains to be made. I’m talking to my colleagues about how to take this forward…watch this space.

If you’ve had a go at using lean to sort out your fundraising and income generation, please let me know!

Building a funding strategy

I went to the marvellous Richard Sved’s workshop (@richardsved) on building a strategy, to be told that he’d lifted some of it from one of my blog posts. Lovely to know someone actually reads this stuff…

If you are interested in hearing more on funding strategy then I’ll be co-delivering the Certificate in Financial Sustainability at the end of next month. (I may steal your car-metaphor Richard. Treat it as payment for the blog material 😉 ). The idea behind the Certificate is to serve as a legacy to the Sustainable Funding project and to give organisations a kind of half-way point between just a day’s training and hiring a consultant.

It’s a shameless plug, because the Certificate is really good…and I always get the feeling that while a workshop can be brilliant, it’s probably not going to result in many completed strategies.

Stakeholder analysis

Both Richard and Judith Courts in her workshop on Marketing used a rather neat stakeholder analysis tool, that I like and must remember to use more often.

Stakeholder analysis tool

…is the best fundraising is no fundraising?!

And finally, I discovered that there is actually someone out there who thinks that charities shouldn’t be fundraising at all.

Craig Dearden-Phillips  (@deardenphillips) put forward the case that there is plenty of resource to go around in the public sector and that charities shouldn’t bother chasing grants and donations, instead moving to a wholly earned-income model.

All the money we need

Here’s the proof: Craig’s slide from the conference.

It was good to hear such a provocative presentation, as it can be helpful to challenge established wisdom. So Craig, I have listened, I have given it some consideration, and I think on that count, you’re wrong (Sorry). I’m still sitting firmly in the Sustainable Funding camp – there are pro’s and con’s to all types of income and I do not see why earning money through contracts is necessarily any more stable on its own than anything else.

My take

Craig’s description of the paternalistic public sector vs the more grassroots voluntary sector was interesting as it reminded us that in some cases, transferring services to the voluntary sector is a cultural necessity as well as a financial one. People have been making this point for years, but sometimes it’s worth being reminded because it has two consequences for funding strategy:

  • That the delivery of services by the VCS might be better for beneficiaries (beneficiaries/service users/customers – which ever you use in your organisation)even if those services have less resources than they once did. Therefore, VCS organisations weighing up the different funding options against delivery of their mission should take this additional benefit for beneficiaries into account.
  • When putting together a tender proposal, the VCS shouldn’t sell itself short; to be able to offer a cultural benefit gives a competitive advantage that I suspect is often underplayed and undervalued.

So, those were my main thoughts and ideas

Were you at the conference? What things have you taken away from it??


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Rosaline Jenkins 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

4 Responses to Let’s not bother fundraising at all: the rather surprising closing message from the NCVO Funding Conference 2015

  1. Thank you Ros for a concise round-up of the conference – pity I missed it, workshops sounded very thought provoking.

    Especially Craig’s thoughts about public sector vs voluntary income. Enough money to go around? Debatable, but the Myriad of hoops that have to be navigated for some public sector income makes it both undesirable and prohibitive for small and large organisations alike. Grant funding can far more responsive and less cumbersome, but a mix of the two is the best approach – a diverse income base is the way to future proof sustainability. So, approach the income stream that best suits the way that your organisation works and what delivers the best outcomes to the users.

    • Rosaline Jenkins Rosaline Jenkins says:

      Hello Graham. I agree, a lot of public funding is prohibitive for small organisations. It’s a tough one as making the case for why an organisation shouldn’t apply for funds can be hard to sell to senior managers or trustees, but sometimes that’s entirely the right decision. Craig described how his organisation completely transformed in order to be able to pursue public contracts and became very business-like. That’s not a road all organisations will be comfortable taking – and that’s fine, as long as the decision made from a strategic level. The worry I have is so many organisations don’t realise that their organisation’s culture and structure will be affected by its funding model (and vice versa).

  2. Richard Piper says:

    Thanks, Ros, for a lively and enjoyable read … as well as being useful for those of us who couldn’t make it!

  3. Leah Levane says:

    I do not think that the VCS should be bidding for public sector contracts at all. It is part of insidious privatisation and against the principles of voluntary sector and charitable aims. Of course there are some aspects of work that VCS organisations can provide better than large public sector organisations and we should definitely be doing that and where this complements the work of the public sector this should be supported with grant aid, with appropriate conditions about delivery, probity, etc.

    I know that the environment has shifted a long way from grants into contracts, but this has not been helpful to the sector, especially the small local organisations which are often best placed to work with local communities and communities of interest, The larger organisations can help the smaller organisations with some economies of scale (e.g. group insurances, processes for DBS checks, etc. ) as well as with research into efficacious methods, appropriate training about new approaches, and more. It is bad enough that the VCS is expected to compete with the private sector (who should stay out of public services altogether in my view) but that we have large voluntary organisations competing with smaller ones is truly appalling when the smaller ones are better, but create more work for the local authority so they prefer to package things up, perhaps reducing monitoring time but contributing nothing to empowerment and civic development.