From supply led to demand driven: responding to a changing environment forinfrastructure support services
FUNDING – where it comes from• 2004/5 – income £1m• 2010/11 – income £3.2m• Predominantly public sector funding but not over-reliant on one funder• Joys and challenges of working in a 2 – tier local government system
FUNDING – the strategy to date• Deliberate focus on securing funding for discrete projects not increasing core funding.• Pitching ideas to the public sector not competing with other voluntary organisations through tenders – “you could better support volunteers and voluntary organisations if you funded us to…..”• Leading local partnerships where appropriate – Local Area Agreement, BASIS 1, BASIS 2, LINks, Working Neighbourhoods Fund, Safer Communities.• Not wasting resources for limited return – ChangeUp• Combining clear strategic approach with opportunism.
SO WHY DID WE NEED TO DIVERSIFY?• Massive change agenda been coming for the voluntary sector for number of years. Nothing we’re seeing should be surprise.• Speed of change – public sector funding cuts, different models, increased focus on personalisation, localism without the resources, public service reform bringing added challenges, increased focus on payment by results.• Big Lottery consultation “Building Capabilities” part of that changing landscape• Shopping list – collaboration, sharing services or merger.• Recognition that we wouldn’t be immune from funding reductions.• In this scenario have had long-term strategy to reduce own reliance on public sector-funding.
DIVERSIFYING OUR FUNDING• Historic ad hoc approach to providing CRB service and payroll.• Willingness by trustees and SMT to accept the need to diversify our sources of income – understanding the risks of change but also the risks of not taking action.• Appointment of first Business Development Manager (2006) – brief to explore range of income generation activities.• Trading to be the focus of activity.
FIRST STEPS• Purchased business (not company) of established local HR and training company.• Set up separate company owned by Voluntary Norfolk.• Took over staff and contracts – focus on business continuity, reducing costs and duplication and integrating within existing Voluntary Norfolk activities but essentially low key approach.
CHALLENGES AND DISTRACTIONS• Implementing the income diversification programme took longer than planned – Changes of staff – Development of Hub and spoke model for Voluntary Norfolk meant consolidation of number of offices and move to new resource centre – Failed merger/takeover of another local infrastructure organisation – Managing growth (£3.2m income, 100 staff)
A FRESH START• Developing a distinctive “offer” to the sector which built upon strengths of Voluntary Norfolk.• Getting the right people in place – Enterprise and Funding Development team.• Getting external support – brand development and marketing plan, support from Business Link, Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Anglia Ruskin University.• Constructing partnerships with small number of private sector companies to develop WIN-WIN-WIN proposition – needs to be trust and shared values e.g. HR Support and Employment Law Service.• Launch of Charity BackRoom in 2011 – single point of access for back office services
NEXT STEPS• Ensuring the “offer” is relevant and affordable for voluntary groups – listening to what groups say they need but realistic about the challenges ahead.• Personal service – one stop shop not a call centre, flexible services, providing value for money, focus on benefits not features, develop brand loyalty.• Additional services e.g. new health & safety service.• Champions within staff and trustees of Voluntary Norfolk and amongst the wider voluntary sector – developing snowball effect.• Collaboration with voluntary sector groups and networks beyond Norfolk – looking for mutual benefit.
IMPLICATIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT WORK• Funding cuts – funders want numbers helped. Need to make most effective use of limited resources.• Changing focus for development work – Helpdesk (telephone & email support), surgeries, workshops, events, training NOT in depth support for limited number of groups.• Charging for services – managing projects on behalf, consultancy, part of funding bids.• Work in progress.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT? WHAT ADVICE WOULD WE GIVE?• Do not underestimate the time, energy and resources required to invest in a new trading venture – it’s not just about start-up funding. New trading ventures often don’t make profit in early days. Managing growth.• Be clear about the services/products that you are going to deliver. Can you develop a niche? Are you confident that the quality of these is/will be on a par with or better than your potential competitors? Do you know who your potential competition is?• Do your homework – just because the sector like what you offered when it was free doesn’t mean they will or can pay for it now. Is there a market for your service(s)?
• Understanding different kinds of partnerships: partnerships which facilitate access to services and markets (e.g. agreement with Community Matters) & partnerships for delivery (e.g. Health & safety, employment law). They must offer WIN – WIN.• Developing the right partnerships for you – don’t accept the offer if it isn’t one that adds value to what you do. Importance of trust and shared values.• Don’t be afraid of change e.g. changed insurance supplier & jobs partner.• What’s uncertain? – the potential size of the market & how quickly it might develop, how willing is the sector to change/changing attitudes, how much risk can we afford to take, impact of further funding cuts on group’s ability to pay.• Before you start the journey be clear about why you’re wanting to do this before considering the what and the how.