The business case for attending to quality in the voluntary sector

Improving how you do things makes good business sense. Has your organisation thought about using a quality management system? You may have been put off doing this because of the investment needed and the cost of acquiring a quality mark.

History often costs

By this, I mean that often things are done in a particular way in an organisation because that’s how they’ve always been done, or that’s how they were done back in the early days. Your organisation may well have grown in size, or perhaps it’s become smaller, but have you stopped recently to really consider if there are any better or different ways you could do things?

  • Do your premises suit your current and likely future needs?
  • Do you know that what you’re delivering is the best way to meet the needs of service users?

It’s tough to stop and think about these things, especially as it’s likely to mean that something will need to change.

How fear of change can hamper our creative business sense

Does this fear of change,  whether spoken of or lurking in the background, prevent you from being open to reviewing your organisation’s practice? Sometimes people don’t like to ‘rock the boat’ or it’s easier to let things carry on as they are.

However there may be a compelling business case to look under every stone (or at least some of them), to see if by changing something you could improve performance or save money. Don’t you have a moral obligation to do this,  ensure that public funds or donations are used in the best possible way?

Whether you’re a large or small charity, or another type of not-for-profit organisation; at its most basic, effective management is about ensuring the best use of all available resources in order to achieve stated aims.

How quality management can improve business performance

Recent examples of business benefits that have come about by using a quality management system include one medium size organisation that reviewed its environmental performance and how it was using electricity across its premises and activities. It identified savings of around £4000 a year that could be made by reducing usage and changing things like lightbulbs and sensor lighting.

Another organisation realised that the building it was in and its location were unsuitable, in terms of not working for the end beneficiaries. The staff liked it but it was not fully accessible and not easy for others to get to. Moving premises enabled them to demonstrate they really understood the needs of their users and how best to respond to them. This example of effective planning led to increased impact and therefore a stronger likelihood of attracting future funding or contracts.

How do you get started?

Firstly you have to think about how you’re going to raise the issue within the organisation. Getting trustees and staff on board and feeling they can all contribute and have a say is important.

Using a quality management system such as PQASSO gives you a tried and tested framework to structure a thorough review. It will take you through step-by-step, helping you to review and identify possible improvements to every aspect of the organisation and its work.

In terms of where to start, be guided by your key risk areas or where you already know improvements are needed. PQASSO will enable you to identify key risks across all aspects of your work, whether systems could be tweaked or redesigned to be more efficient or cost less, and how money and resources might be used more effectively.

One small step…

Find out about how a quality management system could help you make a stronger business case and help future sustainability. Thinking about quality is not just a good thing to do for its own sake – it’s about being more effective, more efficient and ultimately, better meeting the needs of the end users or beneficiaries.

Read more about PQASSO and the PQASSO Quality Mark or email


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Caroline Cook is the PQASSO programme manager at NCVO, Caroline was previously a consultant for many years working with a variety of boards around governance review, strategy and sustainability.

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