Sunday, April 30, 2006

70 charities that count

Check out the New Philanthropy Capital website via this blog -

The Charity Blogger: 70 charities that count

Northants Childminding Association workshop feedback

With thanks to the team from NCA for being such a great team to work with, and for a very enjoyable and productive workshop on Friday when we facilitated a session on 'Working with people' looking at a range of communication and negotiation skills.

This is the second workshop of this type which we've run recently in supporting people working in service delivery to brush up on their inter-personal skills and in particular developing techniques to deal with difficult situations in a positive way.

For details of these workshops just email

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sustainability - the challenge facing trustees

This article by director, Tony Gibbs, was published in the Spring 2006 edition of Charities Management magazine.

You can either post your feedback to the points raised in this article here, or email with your views.

Ask any board of trustees to rank in order of priority the most important strategic issues facing their organisation over the next three years and the chances are that sustainability will feature prominently – sustainable funding, sustainable service delivery, sustainable contracts, sustainable governance and management… yet, for many organisations, sustainability at any level, is in most cases directly (or indirectly) influenced by external factors.

A recent snapshot reveals a number of external drivers that are contributing to a rapidly changing environment that trustees at least have to acknowledge, if not build in to their strategic plans – for example, will the new Charities Bill have any impact on the organisation? Have we reviewed our financial monitoring and evaluation processes to take into account SORP 2005? If reliant on contract income, have we engaged with government initiatives such as Local Area Agreements?

The list of government and sector led initiatives goes on – Futurebuilders, the civil renewal agenda, the Compact, Change Up, and then there’s the hubs; the Leadership Hub, Workforce Hub, IT Hub and so on. A trustee could be forgiven for asking just who is in the driving seat? Is it our board of trustees or other stakeholders, regulators, funders, or central government?

When considering sustainability, inevitably thoughts turn to financial sustainability, and one area of government initiatives in particular is worthy of discussion by many trustee boards – to what extent does the voluntary sector now need to engage with public service delivery initiatives in order to achieve a sustainable future?

According to the Under Secretary of State, Paul Goggins, who addressed the acevo conference in June 2005, he announced that his task was to ensure that ‘government policy supports the voluntary sector in achieving it’s full potential: as a voice for people at the edge of our society, as an inspiration for new ideas, and as a provider of mainstream services.’ Interestingly, Mr Goggins’ conference presentation was followed by a Treasury backed cross-cutting review of the voluntary and community sector in service delivery in September 2005.

The key recommendations of this review were –

1. To involve the Voluntary and Community Sector in planning as well as delivery of public services
2. To forge long term strategic partnerships with the sector
3. To build capacity of the sector
4. To get funding relationships right including issues such as full cost recovery
5. To implement the Compact at all levels

Clearly government is keen to support the Voluntary and Community Sector, and through Change Up, has publicly stated that ‘by 2014, the Voluntary and Community Sector infrastructure available nationwide will be structured for maximum efficiency, offering excellent provision, accessibility to all, while reflecting and promoting diversity, and is sustainabily funded.’

In making statements like this, central government acknowledges the importance of sustainability, but from the perspective of many charities, especially the smaller ones, how does this play out when preparing their strategic plans?

Do those charities involved in public service delivery, fully appreciate the importance of trends that could have a direct impact on their funding and services over the next few years? Is there any truth in the perception (voiced at a recent Voluntary and Community Sector conference in Essex) that central government comes up with good ideas, but then expects the Voluntary and Community Sector to deliver?

As part of it’s Public Service Delivery agenda, central government has identified four key strands in support of what have been dubbed Local Area Agreements. Those strands are Safer Stronger Communities, Children and Young People, Healthy Communities and Older People, and Economic Development and Enterprise.

For most charities, these initiatives create lots of opportunities for charities to be involved in the local delivery of public services (subject to successfully tendering for contracts), but without partnerships (with other organisations) the process of tendering for contracts and grants may in itself be difficult or impossible to realise – especially for those smaller organisations whose focus to date has been on beneficiary support, maybe to the detriment of developing more ‘business-like’ processes and behaviours.

There is no doubt that all organisations increasingly need to recognise the significance of becoming more business-like, and if your organisation is reliant on public service delivery contracts, then might it be just possible that the sustainability of your services is being driven by others, in particular central government? Failure to equip yourselves to engage with these issues, and in particular to develop the necessary competencies required to successfully build partnerships and win contracts, may ultimately prove to be the biggest issues that some trustees need to address when thinking about sustainability.

When looking at broader sustainability issues, inevitably attention homes in on sustainable funding, and with this is the recognition that there is a shift from a reliance on voluntary giving and grants, to a greater emphasis on a contract culture, income generation, and service level agreements – whether in support of public service delivery contracts or not.

With many organisations dependent on short term project funding, there are inevitable limitations when considering sustainability beyond the life of the project (or contract) funding cycle. According to NCVO, this is leading to a move towards a social enterprise economy with organisations developing skills to support trading activities that enable them to reconnect with beneficiaries, and seeking to develop sustainable income streams that support genuinely independent planning. In other words, what can the organisation do to take control of its own destiny and prepare plans that will lead to a sustainable future of its own making rather than having to respond to what others are doing?

It is estimated that the Voluntary and Community Sector has over 500,000 paid employees, creates relationships with over 3 million volunteers, and has income in excess of £20 billion (source: NCVO September 2005).

But against the backdrop of public service reform – largely driven by central government - what does this mean for the independence of the sector? It means that Voluntary and Community Organisations need to embrace change, and quickly: changes in accountability, changes in funding, and changes in the skills required to remain in public service delivery, developing the skills that support a more ‘business-like’ management approach that will enable the organisation to win and deliver contracts.

But what about those organisations not involved in public service delivery? Where will their funding come from? Will we see more organisations suffering from ‘mission drift’ simply to secure contract funding? Might smaller charities continue to be vulnerable if reliant on just one or two contracts? Whether the future is linked to public service delivery or not, sustainability and in particular sustainable income streams, will only be achieved by those organisations with the skills and competencies to engage with what is an ever changing and complex environment.

Fundamentally, sustainable organisations will be those who fully understand their costs in order to set contract prices that enable full cost recovery. Without this basic understanding of costing to pricing models, many organisations will never be capable of achieving a sustainable position.

There is already a need for improved skills in contract negotiation and the management and monitoring of service contracts. There is greater emphasis than ever before on the need for organisations of all sizes to develop the governance, leadership and management skills and competences required to develop and maintain sustainable plans.

Sustainability will not happen as a result of past successes. Sustainability can only be achieved be responding to the wider environment and in so doing, taking stock of the skills already within the organisation, those new skills required, and in turn meeting the skills gaps that will inevitably make a difference.

Training and development budgets are often those most readily targeted for cuts when the annual budget planning cycle starts – ironically, our sector is at a stage in its development when this is the very time when many organisations need to invest more than ever before to support the development of individuals within the organisation that will lead to a sustainable future.

If your organisation has yet to agree it’s training and development plans for the year ahead, maybe this is a good time to start.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is NLP and what can it do for you?

The use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a powerful approach that will help you in four essential areas in how you communicate, motivate, and manage others (and yourself) in your work - as well as being of invaluable help to you in your personal life.

The four pillars of NLP are building rapport, using your sensory awareness, developing well-formed outcomes, and behavioural flexibility.

All four pillars of NLP are guaranteed to supplement your existing management and leadership skills.

How you establish and build a relationship with others – and yourself – is called ‘rapport’.

Rapport is not just about mimicking people, nor is it about always agreeing with other people. Once you are in rapport, you will find that it makes an important difference in how you get on with others as well as how they perceive you. You will always have more positive relationships when you are in rapport with others.

There are a number of guiding principles in building rapport as well as techniques that work every time. Have you ever noticed what you take in when you go into a strange office or someone else’s home for the first time? Do you notice the colours, the sounds, the smells? What impression do they create?

How you use your sensory awareness – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell – will make your world a richer place and make you more aware of your interaction with others and their surroundings – and vice versa!

When you start talking to someone about NLP, you’ll hear lots of references to ‘outcomes’.

What this means is that NLP techniques will help you to focus on what you want from life rather than what you don’t want, as well as giving you a set of tools to work out for yourself how to achieve your outcomes. The principles of an outcome focus will also help you develop options and decide on the best way forward for you, whether it’s a project at work, a social get-together, or deciding on your game plan for the rest of your career. Outcome techniques are incredibly powerful and will give you an edge in how you plan ahead as well as equip you with all you need to know to achieve your goals at work and in life.

The final pillar is this – if you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. In other words, being flexible in your behaviour is the key to achieving what you need. With a flexible approach to how you behave with other people, you and your teams will be able to adapt and lead change more effectively than ever before – guaranteed!

Who motivates the motivator? The power of music

If you're studying for a qualification, or just need to kick start your day, have you ever thought about how the music in your life can make a difference?

Don’t knock it!

Have you ever said to someone that certain music ‘puts you in the mood’ or found yourself singing along in the car to a well known song on the radio?

Music is a great way to help you get in the mood for just about any occasion - true or false?

The only way to find out is to experiment a bit. Don’t just stick with what you know. Be adventurous, listen to things that you wouldn’t usually hear. Change the rhythm from predictable sounds, to unfamiliar ones to stimulate your creative side.

What about the lyrics? Words can distract if you’re trying to get into a particular frame of mind. Try listening to instrumentals as an aid to relaxation. Music you like can make you feel good. Music you don’t like, won’t.

Trust your instincts and turn off music that leaves you feeling flat – instead go with what you like and helps you get off to a flying start. When you feel good in the morning, it will set you up for the rest of the day.

Give it a try – instead of the usual news channels, listen to some uplifting music. If you’re inspired, just imagine how much better you’ll be able to inspire others - and yourself!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Grant-making - free book available online

At our recent Super Saturday for BTEC distance learners, we were fortunate to have Peter Grant from Cass Business School present a grant-making Masterclass. Among the many highlights of Peter's lecture were the references he made to a book which can be downloaded free of charge that examines a number of issues facing the grant-making economy.

'The Grantmaking Tango' is a report from Julia Unwin, policy adviser to the Baring Foundation. It is based on her experience over ten years in advising trusts and foundations. It challenges grantmakers to think more clearly about how and why they fund and offers some simple frameworks to aid this; such as ‘giving’, ‘shopping’ and ‘investing’.

As well as describing the impact of funding mechanisms, it also looks at:

• The ethics of grant-making
• Different ways of ascribing and calculating added value
• The contrasting experiences of funders and applicants
• The pressures on the funding environment

The report is jointly financed by the Baring Foundation, Bridge House Trust, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Lloyds TSB Foundations.

The new Monday charities lottery

For news about the new 'monday' lottery see The Lottery-Guy Blog

Why small charities suffer

Article posted at The Charity Blogger

Web 2.0 and the Voluntary Sector in the UK

Check out this blog for further voluntary sector technology news -

Web 2.0 and the Voluntary Sector in the UK

Technology in the voluntary sector

Looking back at last week there was a common theme emerging from two workshops we ran for our BTEC learners - the use of technology within the voluntary sector.

At the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) we were discussing Marketing and Fundraising, and in doing so ended up spending a lot of time considering the potential of the internet, and in particular, the use of activity-specific web sites and blogs. Later in the week, we held a Super Saturday workshop for BTEC distance learners at Cass Business School which featured a fascinating lecture on grant making by Peter Grant from Cass.

As Peter explained, among the issues facing all of us in the sector, there are no common standards which apply to grant makers, which means that many trusts are often not transparent about their processes, nor do they always make it easy for applicants to submit applications for funding. Could these processes be simplified by more consistency in the design of application forms, as well as better use of technology? Probably.

After all, if a grant maker wants to know more about an applicant, their first port of call will often be the charity's own web site, or the Guidestar site.

This all got me thinking about a major research project I carried out in 2000/2001 when I evaluated the potential of the internet for UK charities. My research included evaluating hundreds of charity web sites and the findings were that very few organisations appeared to have a coherent internet strategy. Many web sites at that time were either promotional sites, or seemed to be trying to utilise the technology as part of a fundraising strategy. Some charities used their web sites for information provision, often in support of their aims and objectives, while others presented very complicated paths around their sites. Interestingly, at that time, a lot of charities did not even include their contact details on the home page, which made something as simple as making an enquiry, a rather time-consuming business in some cases.

So what has changed since then? Well, we have seen the advent of the 'blog' and as we are demonstrating here at, we are attempting to utilise this blog as part of our strategy to encourage interaction with our stakeholders. It's also great to see that NODA are also enthusiastically embracing the potential of blogs as part of their service delivery plans.

At the same time, designing and running supplementary web sites does provide opportunities to focus in on a particular service or activity, which again is being considered by NODA. Good on them! I wonder though to what extent they are the exception? Is the prospect of running more than one web site viewed as a real opportunity, or just more work by a charity?

As we discussed during our recent grant making workshop, many organisations still do not appear to be using technology to improve their processes and so I wonder just how far away we are from seeing the sector really embrace the potential of the internet? Sure, most of us are using email, but there is a lot more to the internet than email.

Looking now at a (small) and random selection of charity web sites, not a lot seems to have changed from my research project over five years ago. Maybe I need to look a bit harder for signs of innovation. On the other hand, maybe charities have still yet to fully embrace the potential of the internet?

Tony Gibbs

By the way, our own web site is currently being completely re-designed to move it from a promotional web site to a more functional site providing greater support for our learners - call back every now and then for updates, but we expect to launch the new site by September 2006.

Friday, April 21, 2006

New management qualification for voluntary sector

BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management launched in UK to support the personal development needs of charity managers and trustees throughout Europe.

This new management qualification is accredited by Edexcel and is available exclusively through, the Peterborough based specialists in voluntary sector training courses and professional development programmes, have launched a new management qualification designed to meet the needs of the UK and European voluntary sector. The BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management, accredited by Edexcel, is a Level 4 qualification which fills a gap in the market for a specialist charity management qualification.

Until now, charity workers have had limited choice in gaining a recognised qualification at this level. The BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management is a recognised qualification that includes topics specific to the sector and can be studied while working full-time. This new Level 4 qualification provides learners with the knowledge to integrate theory with practical outcomes that will be of benefit in their job roles and can be studied on a distance learning basis. Tony Gibbs, founder of and author of ‘How to make it as a charity manager’, explains, “We have spent over a year researching the needs of the market and working closely with Edexcel to develop this new qualification. There’s a real need within the voluntary sector for the further development of professional management and leadership, with all charities recognising the need for increased accountability to their donors and beneficiaries alike.

The BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management is an initiative that will support capacity and skills development in the not-for-profit sector. The days of charities being run by people without core management competencies will soon be a thing of the past. Our new qualification will play a part in the development of these essential skills.” Learners can register now with through their web site to begin studying for the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management on a distance learning basis, combining flexible one-to-one tutor support, online forums and study weekends.

For additional information about the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management, visit

Thursday, April 20, 2006 background is a trading style of Volsector Limited, established as an online information resource for charity managers by Tony Gibbs in 1999. Volsector publishes a range of charity management books and workbooks including 'How to make it as a charity manager' and the workbooks which support learners in their studies for the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management. was established in 2004 to meet the needs of charity managers and trustees with a range of specialist training courses and workshops designed and delivered by people who really understand the voluntary sector. Our vision is a successful and sustainable voluntary sector that provides meaningful careers for people at all levels, and our mission is to provide a range of high quality training programmes to support people in their personal development and as well as provide organisations with efficiency improvements.

Click here to find out more about

Friday, April 14, 2006

BTEC update - Humberside

The group of learners based in various voluntary organisations on Humberside are nearing the end of their BTEC course. With just one workshop remaining, Anne, Gail, Helen, Jan, Joel, John, Lesley, Paul will soon become the first people in the country to have completed their studies and receive the new BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management.

A full report will follow after the final workshop next month.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Age Concern BTEC pilot launched in Greater Manchester

The implementation of a National Training Strategy to fulfil the training needs identified across the Age Concern federation is now underway, thanks to a unique collaborative pilot project established between Age Concern Training (ACT) and

Following the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) carried out across the Age Concern federation in 2003/2004 to determine the training needs of Age Concern Groups and Organisations, ACT published ‘Training for Excellence – a National Training Strategy for Age Concern, the federation’ in October 2005 which identified key areas for action.

It confirmed the need to formulate a strategic response that can capitalise on the strengths of Age Concern and be pro-active in making and grasping opportunities in workforce development.
It was acknowledged that Age Concern Members have a crucial role to play in promoting continuous improvement in quality standards, through appropriate and effective training and professional development of Trustees, Volunteers and Staff. This led ACT to research training currently available in the sector and identified a new management training programme which over a 12 month period results in a recognised qualification, the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management with a pilot group now established to support the personal development needs of people working for several Age Concerns across the Greater Manchester area (see picture above).

In the meantime, Paul Hemingway of Age Concern North Lincolnshire is one of the first people in the country to begin studying for the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management after joining an open group on Humberside made up of learners from different charities throughout the region. Having reached the half way point in the course, Paul reflects on what he has got out of his studies so far –

“The course is challenging, but enjoyable too”, says Paul, “There is a lot to take in, and some of it is new to me, but with a consistently high standard of presentation, the tutors - who are all enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the sector - are able to support the group in their studies.

This training has a practical link to what we’re doing at Age Concern in Scunthorpe and I am looking forward to continuing the course and achieving my qualification.”

For information about the BTEC Professional Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management, visit

Sunday, April 09, 2006 blog update

Following the success of the blog pilot, we are now inviting anyone interested in voluntary sector issues to check in here on a regular basis for details about learning and development initiatives in the UK.

Visit our main web site at as well as bookmark this blog for regular news about how to update your skills.