Here to help: NCVO’s practical support for 2017/18

NCVO promises in our five year strategy to strengthen voluntary organisations. And in our annual member survey our members consistently tell us the most important thing we can do for them is provide them with high quality and relevant practical help and support. In response we’ve made increased knowledge, skills and confidence in running voluntary organisations a key priority for 2017/18.

We currently do this through multiple channels and formats – both free and paid-for, and for members and non-members – but are making improvements to increase the quality and sustainability of our offer.

Like many organisations, we’ve been through quite a bit of change adjusting our business model these past years – undertaking mergers, a marked reduction in grant-funded projects, a greater reliance on earned income and the impact of technology. One of the consequences for our practical support has meant much of our traditional support like training, consultancy and publications has to now be delivered on a full-cost basis (at the very least) and preferably making a contribution to unrestricted income to subsidise other activities. It also meant we invested in digital products and services that are free or low cost.

So, we’ve set some priorities for the year ahead to make our practical support for the sector accessible, sustainable and the best it can be.

Get straight to the point – an improved online user journey

It is clear a large proportion of you only call or email us because you haven’t found what you were looking for online. We will be doing more user research to make it easier for you to find what you need from our websites.

We took on our main knowledge base site Knowhow Nonprofit six years ago. It was an impressive resource, encyclopaedic in scale. In retrospect, we struggled to maintain the breadth. You’ve also told us what you want is less discursive content and more summaries, checklists, templates and tools that get to the point and save you time.

So, we’re onto it. Knowhow Nonprofit is being edited down and knocked in to shape. Focusing on core content for running a charity including:

  • Updated sections on funding and income, governance, impact and communications. In the pipeline are campaigning, finance, leadership, strategic planning, HR and managing volunteers. Much of this content is aimed at smaller charities where staff and volunteers wear multiple hats.
  • An additional tools and resources section for members that we’ll be expanding with guided templates, model polices and other goodies to make running a charity easier. And it’s worth remembering that more than two thirds of charities are eligible for free membership with us.
  • We’re continuing to help organisations find much needed funding by providing Funding Central; where your organisation can search for grants, contracts and loan finance opportunities. We’re committed to Funding Central and keeping the cost of access as low as possible – in fact it’s free for organisations with an income under £100K a year.

Better and more accessible training

Our training is held in high regard. To secure this reputation we are improving and diversifying our offer through:

  • updating our short Studyzone training videos (free for members)
  • introducing low-cost online training sessions covering our most popular face-to-face training topics
  • delivering free webinars on hot topics
  • our trainers will be on the road, getting out of London and able to deliver at a venue of your choice.

Making it easier to demonstrate your quality and impact

We know that many voluntary organisations provide high quality services but sometimes struggle to demonstrate this in a more structured or accredited fashion for funders and other stakeholders.

  • We’re making our PQASSO quality standard more accessible with a new online tool to make it easier to collect evidence and be assessed against the standard (launching in June).
  • We’re also piloting a light touch version for organisations to self-assess, identify areas for improvement and increase links to resources and support.

These are a few of our top level plans to improve our practical support to you. We’ve got much more on our list to improve our offer and keep it sustainable. If you’d like more detail or have some feedback then please contact me, our training or our PQASSO teams to find out more.

We’re also creating a group of members willing to test our website and feedback on new products and services. If you’d like to help us make our offer more relevant then email our membership team for more information.


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Avatar photo Myles currently leads on NCVO’s practical support offer and was previously an NCVO governance consultant. He has spent most of his career in the UK and Australian voluntary sectors. Myles is a former chief executive of both a local law centre and the Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia. He is also an experienced trustee and chair of various frontline organisations and umbrella bodies in the legal aid, human rights and health sub-sectors.

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