What do you do when your lottery funding stops?

Featured

Or Is sustainability an urban myth?

There is no doubt that lottery funding has revolutionised how organisations are funded across the country, and that it has supported countless good causes. (Why not see what they have funded in your area on 360 giving). But what happens when your lottery funding runs out?

NCVO state that of the £50billion funding that comes into the sector in a year the lottery is responsible for 1% of this, so given the number of organisations that rely on this funding it is a surprisingly small amount. I have not analysed who is funded but this article concentrates on those organisations with incomes between £10K and £1million, that make up just under half the sector.

On the whole these organisations are relying on paid staff as well as volunteers to deliver predominantly local projects. Organisations work across the whole range of issues and causes that charities cover, and unfortunately NCVO research shows that these organisations have been disproportionately impacted by austerity, seeing income drop especially from statutory sources but also in other areas.

Apart from the biggest most of these organisations will not have a fundraiser, or, if they are lucky, they may have a part time fundraiser. Otherwise fundraising falls to other staff and to volunteers or trustees.

So, when these organisations get a three-year Reaching Communities grant, they breathe a sigh of relief and start concentrating on delivering services that make a difference. This funding will often cover the bulk of the programme that is being delivered. It will ensure a vital service continues and the organisation has a (by our terms) long term future. These days the money may also come with a Building Capabilities grant to improve how the organisation works and their sustainability.

But what happens when the funding starts to reach its end? How is this money replaced? What does sustainability mean?

If groups are very, very lucky they may get a second round of lottery funding, but this puts off the problem for another three years or so. But if this is not the case how do groups replace a single significant grant.

Earn your income. According to NCVO the biggest amount of money coming into the sector is from earnt income. This could be from selling services or a charity shop or from contracts. This is not long term income unless you are lucky to be able to get a contract which in the current climate is getting harder for small organisations. Couple this with the fact that many of these organisations are delivering to individuals and communities that can not afford to pay, earning significant income is not going to be a big source of new money. And to be fair the organisation was probably already maximising this to top up their lottery funding!

We have heard of groups being advised to try Social finance, but let’s get real this is a niche funding stream that the vast majority of organisations in this size range will not be able to access even if the trustees have reached the ‘we will try anything’ point to keep the organisation afloat. You can read one take on Social Impact Bonds here

Corporate sponsorship. If I had a pound for everyone that came to CCVS with the idea that this was going to solve their funding issues we could return all our grants! This is not a panacea as business does not have lots of free cash they are waiting to give to worthy causes. Building better relationships with business is extremely positive, many organisations benefit from financial and other support, but this type of fundraising takes time and energy. If you want to look at how business can help there are ways but it is more than simply sending them a well written email.

The public is the biggest external funder of the sector. But most of these organisations do not have the expertise, staff, or time to fund themselves in this way. Raising money from donations or legacies is time consuming. As technology moves on many organisations do not have the wherewithal to collect as much as they did in the past. Even in my local sandwich shop most people pay by card which means less change going into the collection tin on the counter. Fundraising from the public takes time and effort and you need to invest to make it happen. Maybe those organisations who get Building Capabilities funding should include investing in the skills and the technology to facilitate and grow this type of funding.

Statutory grants and commissions. This was a way many organisations were funded in the past but we are seeing grant levels going down, commissions getting bigger and services being taken inhouse. https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/NEF_Local_Government_Austerity_2019.pdf. The truth is they are not in the money so neither are we.

This leaves the staple for many of these organisations, grant funding! But many of these are for small amounts, often they want to fund something new and anything more than one years funding is unusual. We regularly see organisations trying to raise money this way. It didn’t take long to find a local group getting money from 45 different funders to find the £180K needed to run. The time and effort to apply and report to these is phenomenal and it has to be repeated year in year out. No wonder we are seeing burn out, organisations cutting projects and organisations closing.

What is sustainability in the real world. It is something we aspire to, something we pay lip service to because we have to, or something we can only dream about? How many of us are one funding decision away from partial or total collapse? People want our services, so do the professionals, it is not the need that is the issue it is the expectation that we will be there to deliver whatever. How much energy in the sector is wasted in getting the money and reporting and measuring? Energy that would be better used in delivering solutions and solving problems. Pretty much every organisation has the most senior person in the building not actually delivering services but filling in forms and writing reports.

What is the answer?

We need multi year grants from all providers three years minimum, 5 is better.

We need all funders to stop demanding their own reports. Organisations do financial reporting for trustees, they should also be reporting on activities and impact. Let us tell you as funders what we are already reporting and only ask for something different if you desperately need it.

We need more standardisation across how we apply for funds. This is the CV vs application form debate. If organisations have written project plans with budgets, needs analysis, outcomes etc. there should be an easy way to apply using them along with a covering letter about how you meet the funders particular priorities.

We need funding to enable small charities to catch up digitally and technologically with bigger charities in order to allow them to raise funds more effectively.

We need a long term, high profile campaign to change the narrative about charities so that the public recognise charities as the majority and not the minority of mega charities. That way they will think about smaller local organisations when they fundraise, donate or leave a legacy.

We need to reverse cuts to local government and other statutory services and ensure that they are funding local services and groups.

We need the HNS and local Clinical Commissioning groups to put their money where their mouth is about the importance of non-clinical and preventative services. We need to start to fund this to save money in the future.

We have to address inequality as a country in order to reduce its impact on people across all aspects of their lives.

Lottery funding is fantastic (if you are reading this we could do with some here at CCVS) but with it comes the inevitable cliff edge of what happens when it runs out. Fundraising is taking more time, energy, and resources away from delivering solutions. This is especially true in the smaller organisations who have been most impacted by austerity and reductions to income. We really need to address this or more organisations will be forced to close projects or simply cease to exist.

Volunteering wisdom

If you want to know why people volunteer, what keeps them volunteering and how we can get more people into volunteering you really need to ask some experts – which is exactly what we did at our celebrating volunteers event during National Volunteers’ Week (check out the web page for more info) – we were lucky enough to fill the brasserie at John Lewis & Partners in Cambridge with volunteers and people who work with them – after all there is no such thing as a free lunch!   

Our ‘experts’ were drawn from a random sample of local volunteer groups, so feedback is entirely subjective but at the same time closely reflects national research and trends as seen in the NCVO research.  The key reasons our volunteers started volunteering were: 

  • To make a difference, feel useful and help others 
  • Meet new and different people and engage in their community 
  • Use existing skills 
  • As a way of giving back because they or those they cared for had been helped.

When we look to recruit volunteers, we need to convey these messages.  For some ideas to get you started check out the CCVS Pinterest board and maybe sign up for our next workshop on recruiting & retaining volunteers.

When we asked the volunteers Why do you keep volunteering? they told us it was about: 

  • The other people they volunteer with and for, who make it worthwhile and enjoyable 
  • Being able to see they help others and make a difference 
  • Being able to use skills 

Our random sample highlighted the fact that if organisations what to attract and retain volunteers they need to understand what motivates people to volunteer.  Organisations also need to be aware that motivation changes as people develop in their volunteering roles.  To keep people turning up to volunteer they need to feel valued and gain satisfaction from their role.   

There is no one size fits all and we need to be flexible.  For some volunteers. time credits will make the difference for others it might be regular thanks and taking the trouble to keep them up to speed on what is happening with clients they have helped.    

While they were on a roll, we went on to ask our ‘experts’ the million-dollar question How do we get more people into volunteering?  

  • Highlight the difference volunteers make and tell their stories.  The enthusiasm of existing volunteers is infectious (CCVS will be running a story telling workshop early 2020 to help you tell your stories) 
  • Make it easier for people to volunteer reduce barriers, increase flexibility 
  • Show you value your volunteers.  
  • Improve promotion, use more channels to reach more people and convey strong appealing messages (CCVS have a range of free training on using social media) 

CCVS has a programme of training and support for those managing volunteers free to our members and supported by funding from Cambridge City Council. 

Struggling to recruit volunteers, it may be your fault!

Featured

If CCVS had a pound for every group we hear about who are struggling to find volunteers then we would be rich (or at least have a much lower fundraising target)!

As the local support organisation for the sector we get many calls from groups looking for new volunteers or new trustees. I covered some of the issues with trustee recruitment in a previous blog and in this blog I am looking at volunteering.

One of the scariest slides I use when talking about volunteering is from NCVO via the Third Sector Research Centre and this states that 9% of the population are responsible for just over half of formal volunteering. 9% of the Cambridgeshire population equates to 58,340 people which sounds a lot but is only 17 people per square kilometre, so this means those committed volunteers are pretty spread out. I am sure many in the sector will recognise that ‘serial volunteer’ in their community, and in fact my experience is that many who work in the sector are those serial volunteers.

The NCVO research into Volunteering, Time Well Spent, shows that 7 in 10 of us have volunteered at some time in our lives, but only 40% have done so in the last 12 months, and only 7% see volunteering as something that has consistently run through their lives. It also shows that older people are more likely to have volunteered recently, and that those in the higher social classes are more likely to volunteer.

We know we need more volunteers; we also know that people’s lives are changing. And yet are we as organisations changing our volunteering offer and what we are asking of them? All the surveys show that people do have free time, but we are competing with many new distractions and leisure opportunities that take people away from volunteering.

This gets me to the heart of what I think is the issue. I think that some of the problem, and perhaps most of the problem, with the lack of volunteers lies with us, the people looking to engage them and get them on board. I think we have to change two key things. This won’t be easy; it won’t be the same for everyone; and it may mean we have to compromise a bit on what we do.

We have to change how we ask people to volunteer.

Time well spent showed that 35% of people who had never volunteered had not been asked or had not thought about it. This is a ringing indictment of the sector. We need to be asking more people to volunteer, we need to be making this ask engaging, and we need to ensure that the ask stands out from all the other messages people receive.

There are any number of great volunteer recruitment ads doing the rounds. For me they need to concentrate on the impact the volunteer will have or the difference they will make. They need to engage and draw interest so there has to be an eye-catching photo or strapline. An advert should give the basic information about where and what the opportunity is about. There needs to be somewhere for the volunteer to go for more information – a website, the other side of the leaflet, a phone number.

Initially you need to make sure you have grabbed the attention of your audience; this means that you need to know the audience and what will grab their attention. You probably need a series of adverts and asks that appeal to different groups. You will have to invest some time and thought into this. The scout and guide movement have done this, check out some of these images.

I have collected some examples in this Pinterest board but to be honest there are probably more bad examples than good out there, and what I find engaging will not be engaging for everyone. Get creative and understand your audience.

We are not offering the right things

For too long we have had a Henry Ford approach to volunteering offers “You can have any colour as long as it is Black.” In other words organisations develop and define the volunteering opportunity they want, then try and recruit to it. Too often this does not fit with how people want to volunteer or what they are able to commit to. If we are doing this then no wonder we find recruiting hard work. People want to enjoy their volunteering, not feel guilty that they have missed a session.

I volunteer for Junior Parkrun as my youngest enjoys running it. But with young kids and a busy life we do not go every week, so we are probably at 60% of the runs. Luckily the way that Parkrun manage volunteering if I don’t turn up then the run still happens. There is a flexibility that suits me. This may mean a little extra work for those volunteers that organise the runs (and who do have to commit more), but if I had to commit to being there every week, I wouldn’t be able to and I would not volunteer at all!

What I am saying is that organisations have to think about how people want to, and are able to, volunteer and design the volunteering around that. That does not mean that volunteers can mess organisations around. If you have made a commitment it is important that you keep it, as in those weeks where I have signed up to volunteer but on waking up and seeing the rain my daughter decides she is not running – I still turn out and don’t just ‘not bother’.

I understand that in some settings it is important for clients to see people they know so volunteers have to be a bit more consistent, but there are ways of sharing a role or organising an organisations volunteering opportunities so there are a variety of roles that require different commitment levels – this is what the Parkrun model has done.

There are examples of organisations that run regular events like Parkrun but with a different volunteer team each time. Foodcycle https://www.foodcycle.org.uk/ is one, every week they put on meals using volunteers who sign on when they can and for roles they are interested in.  There are systems being developed to help manage this, one example of which comes from the museums sector.

If our volunteering opportunities do not reflect the lifestyle and availability of the potential volunteers then we will struggle to recruit. Similarly if we do not support and train our volunteers and make the activity enjoyable then we will not retain our volunteers. It is up to us to adapt to what potential volunteers want and not expect them to adapt to us. If we do not change potential volunteers will decide to re-watch Game of Thrones, or go for a run, or pop to the pub or do any one of the things people choose to do with their free time.

To Conclude

If 70% of the population have volunteered at some stage, and half of those who have never volunteered are prepared to give it a try that is a lot of potential volunteers.

We need to reach out to the lapsed volunteers and those that have never tried it. We need to ensure that volunteering is fun and flexible as well as rewarding and impactful. We need to create volunteering opportunities that fit with the lifestyles of those we are looking to attract, and adverts that make opportunities stand out.

If you want to get more information on all aspects on Recruiting and retaining volunteers then keep an eye on our training pages we also have a few tips on the website.

Volunteer management in a digital age

This blog is written by Chris one of the CCVS development workers and is one of the pieces in the CCVS May newsletter that has a volunteering theme in the run up to Volunteers Week.

If you have more than a handful of volunteers you will probably need to create a spreadsheet to record key data to help you keep on top of things.  Once you have a larger number of volunteers, especially if you are recruiting and managing several different volunteer roles and rotas, you may want to look at using software adapted to volunteer management.  The best of these systems can improve the volunteering experience, thereby aiding recruitment and retention, and can reduce the administrative burden on the volunteer coordinator.

Common Features of Volunteer Management Software (adapted from www.softwareadvice.com)

  • Recruitment
    Volunteer management systems include online volunteer applications that sync contact information into the database, diverting the time spent on manual entry to increasing the number of prospects. Customisable directories can also be added to a nonprofit’s sites so that visitors can search for opportunities, role descriptions and site locations.
  • Management
    An advanced contact management system allows users to organise contact information and history, including volunteer type, frequency, restrictions and more. This allows users to group volunteers, filter search criteria and reach out to appropriate supporters.
  • Communication
    The communication features allow users to send email campaigns to volunteers, requesting service and adding automated email reminders for upcoming service commitments they’ve volunteered for. Some advanced programs also offer recognition features that automatically award volunteers whose performance has exceeded certain criteria.
  • Volunteer portals
    Portals allow volunteers to sign into an organisation’s site, inquire about upcoming volunteer opportunities, sign up for events and update contact information. Volunteers can also change their communication preferences through portals, opting in or out of particular communications.
  • Volunteer schedules
    Nonprofit organisations can post upcoming volunteer needs with scheduling features. Prospective volunteers can then peruse opportunities and fill empty slots based on their availability.

Some organisations use their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to also manage volunteers.  For example, Charity Log and Salesforce which has the Volunteer for Salesforce (V4S) tool

There are many options and the links below are shown as examples and are not intended as recommendations.

  • Three Rings is UK based and is a volunteer run CIC.  Costs are based on turnover and the website quotes the cost for a community shop as being £150 a year and up to £600 for a large organisation.  It could be free for the smallest organisations and the same product is available regardless of payment level https://www.threerings.org.uk
  • Team Kinetic also UK based and have a free to use system through their national brokerage site  http://tryvolunteering.com/ allowing an organisation to manage one opportunity.  To manage more opportunities the ‘advanced’ product costs £62.50 per month
  • Volgistics US based, costs start at about $17pcm. The sample account demo is worth having a play with at as it is prepopulated with data giving an idea of how volunteer management systems can work  https://sample.volgistics.com/ex/login.dll/Auth
  • Better Impact is UK based and their basic version will cost about £14 pcm https://www.betterimpact.co.uk/free-trial-volunteer-impact/
  • Assemble   https://www.goassemble.com/software/ prices available on application.

There are also some free tools available for recruiting volunteers for events such as www.signup.com and https://trello.com/inspiration/event-planning

Further guidance can be found on the following links 

NCVOs Knowhow Non Profit site

Sheffield Volunteer Centre site