Funding your future event at The Gathering

Hall Aitken receent ran a presentation and discussion at SCVO's annual event for the volutanry sector, The Gathering.

The Gathering is an annual event organised by SCVO that takes places over two days (22nd and 23rd) in February at the SEC in Glasgow. There are many stands run by Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises as well as some public-sector bodies. There is also a full programme of workshops and seminars that are delivered in various seminar suites across the SEC. Over 3000 people attend the event and it is one of, if not the, largest event of its kind outside London.

We organised and delivered a one-hour presentation on day two of the event. This was entitled Funding your Future. We were delighted that over 130 people had signed up for this event and join us to "walk the talk of change" - a 60-minute conversation with friends and colleagues. This Hall Aitken event was over-subscribed. However, many who had intended to come were stuck in a snow-drift since the bad weather hit at just the wrong time!

Our aim was to highlight that grant income for the sector was dropping and that more contract income was available to VCSEs. However, to diversify income streams and bid for contracts we have identified that many organisations need to make significant changes.

For all those who attended there was a stimulating presentation and a full discussion with positive contributions from delegates who identified the barriers they faced and the drivers for change.

Our session captured these political and business drivers for change. These included:

  • Increased competition for finite resources
  • Need to reduce costs and lower overhead
  • Need to improve your organisations' effectiveness, reduce duplication, benefit from increased purchasing power and make better use of resources. This could include sharing back office services.
  • Increasing the reach of services: So, you can reach a wider number and range of beneficiaries.
  • Having an improved commercial capacity and capability (potentially in areas around sponsorship, membership, data, licencing or merchandising).
  • Requirement for stronger campaigning, lobbying and public awareness: You can speak with greater authority, access a wider supporter base, increase public awareness and improve credibility with decision makers, e.g. joint anti-poverty campaigns.
  • Building partnership working (including value-in-kind partnership contribution) as a way of getting better value for money, and many small grant funders offer funding to allow charities explore the possibility of working together or merging.
  • Improving learning and skills: You can share experiences and learn new and better ways of working.
  • Need for quality badges and accreditations, and
  • Realising the benefits from scale so forcing organisations to consider mergers and collaboration.

We outlined approaches that had been taken by VCSEs across England to develop their capabilities and capacity, merge with similar organisations across a region or improve their ability to report on the impact they make and the value they deliver.

We highlighted how we had helped on Leeds-based organisation develop a theory of change to inform strategic planning and evaluation, evidence and report strategic impact, and we built capacity within the organisation to seek further investment through bidding for contracts.

We developed our Social Value tool to be used by VISTA, a sight loss charity and its partners to make a case for funding. It will do this in two ways. Firstly, it will track individuals who are part of existing interventions to show how their journey leads to cost savings to the public purse. This will significantly strengthen the evidence base for the effectiveness of a variety of interventions. Secondly it can be used in predictive manner to allow organisations to show the likely impact of interventions and therefore the likely cost savings they will generate.

These examples gave the audience food for thought and stimulated them to consider how they may need to change. We went on to show people how to make their organisations more viable and sustainable in the longer term. We referred the group to our 7-Step Transition model. This model identifies key themes and outlines what must be in place to ensure that an organisation will be able to survive and thrive. More detail is included at