Why we need to deliver angrily

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This blog is about why we as a sector need to be angry. It sets out my thoughts on why we need to deliver angrily and starts to think about how we might communicate our anger. The blog was inspired by the latest CCVS research.

Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian that

“For the first time since the welfare state was created, it is the food bank, not social security, that is now our safety net, and charity, not universal credit, that is our last line of defence.”

Foodbanks have become the norm, so much so that we have seen politicians visiting, opening, and congratulating them on their work.

We are helping set up warm hubs because people can’t heat their homes.

More people are losing their homes as they find rent, mortgage or energy costs spiralling.

Everyone working in the sector will have their own story. They have told us how demand has increased. How the people they help have more complex needs as they cannot get access to services.

Yet as a sector we quite rightly try to do that bit more, raise that bit of extra funding, ask those volunteers to do that one extra shift. The sector quite rightly doubles down and keeps delivering. that is how it should be. that is what you do.

But if our research has shown anything it is not a bottomless pot of capacity, organisations and individuals are stretched. We know staff have left; volunteers not returned after the pandemic. We know that money is harder to come by but still we keep delivering, right up to the point where we can’t anymore.

Gordon Brown goes on to say

“Just as need rises, our country’s voluntary sector finds itself as beleaguered as the people it is helping. Compassion is not running out but cash is. Donors who have a little and generously give to those who have nothing will soon be unable to give at all. Gifts left on supermarket trolleys are declining. Many charities, like a local welfare fund I know, are flat broke. Even churches, which have selflessly offered their heated halls to help elderly people stay warm, fear they will now struggle to pay their own fuel bills.”

So, what are we, what are you going to do about it?

I suggest that you start to deliver angrily.

That is not to direct anger at those you work with, for them you will be the helpful, approachable, non-judgemental professionals you have always been.

  • Reserve that anger for the people who have put us and more importantly those we work with in this position.
  • Reserve your anger for those that spread the myths of the striver and the shirker.
  • Reserve your anger for those that blame the people in need and t those who make decisions that are about preserving their power or their fortune.
  • Reserve your anger for those that deny there is a problem or offer too little too late

Those people need to hear the roar of the small charity and the community group.

Too often the voices of our larger cousins in the charitable world are lost or are just one side of a balanced news item or are dismissed as fake news.

But when the thousands of small charities raise their voices how powerful could that become.

I ask you to tell your stories and those of the people you work with

I ask that you make more opportunities to explain why you have to exist and what you are dealing with

I ask you to call out the consequences of decision makers at all levels.

I ask you tell people what needs to change so that your services are no longer needed, however unlikely that is to be the case.

I ask you to join together with other local voices to amplify your message.

Your organisations should not be the safety net, they should be the support that helps people get off the net once you have landed on it or the harness that ensures people do not fall onto the net.

It is no longer enough to just be brilliant at what you do. I am asking you to shout. To stamp your feet, to demand change.

I am asking you to deliver angrily

6 essential tips when thinking about charity monitoring and evaluation.

No one (or at least almost no one) goes into working or volunteering for a charity or community group to do evaluation, because they love data, or they like filling in forms. But the reality is that as soon as you start delivering a service or an activity you should be thinking about how you will understand the difference it is making and how successful it is.
The chances are that if you are receiving funding it is likely that whoever gave you the money will ask for a report. If you have trustees or a committee they need to know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and will need to see the ‘proof’. Monitoring and evaluation should not just be a chore that you have to do to get funding, it should be something built into the very bones of your organisation or group.
This blog gives our 6 essential tips, but if you want to know more check out the CCVS training or that offered by other local and national support bodies.

1 - It has to be useful to you not just a chore imposed by others

If monitoring and evaluation is simply something you do because others have ‘forced’ you then it is only ever going to be a chore and you will have missed out on important learning.

Look for ways that allow you to meet the needs of lots of different stakeholders at the same time. But also make sure the process is working for the organisation. It is your opportunity to get information that helps tell your story and to promote your successes. How much better to say that we helped groups gain £10 million in income rather than that 50 people came to our fundraising training.

2 - You have to think about this at the start of the project

If you get to the end of a project and only then think about the evaluation and monitoring it will be much harder or impossible to do.

You need to start thinking about this aspect of the project as you are planning the project. Start thinking about what you are trying to change, how you might measure this and how you will capture the data you need. If the monitoring and evaluation takes place throughout the project then there are opportunities to change how you do things to improve what you offer. Also by making sure you are taking the time to collect data as you go it will give you more to work with when you have to report.

There is also a chance that collecting feedback and data as you go will give you useful quotes etc to help tell your story, and also help you to raise additional funding by helping to answer those questions about need, about clients informing your work as well as about the difference you make. Never under estimate the value of a good quote from someone who has used your services, and more importantly never feel shy about using it at every possible opportunity.

3 - It does not have to be complicated, but there is some jargon

There are some common words that you will need to get your head around so that you can be sure you are doing what will be most useful and informative for you and other stakeholders.

You will need to get your head around the inputs and outputs, the outcomes and impacts, qualitative and quantitative. A good place to start is the NCVO website or the NPC website or sign up to one of our training sessions.

Once you have mastered some of the language, what you are monitoring and how you evaluate it does not have to be complicated. It is important that what you do reflects the size of the project you are doing, and that it enables you to answer the questions you need answering and show the difference you are making. For a small project it may simply be about collecting numbers of attendees and where they are from, but if you can add some feedback in the form of quotes or produce a case study this will help add depth to your report.

4 - There are lots of ways to collect data - be creative

Sometimes it will not be possible to measure what you want to know about. Sometimes there will not be an obvious way to look at the difference you make. This does not mean you can’t evaluate your work and monitor things.

You may have to think about proxy indicators that allow you to show your difference with your time scale and budget. If you work with young people you can’t tell if your project has kept them out of prison, but you may be able to get feedback about how positive they are about their life following your activity.

Also think about how you can be creative in getting feedback in a way that is suitable for your audience. This could involve using technology or art but it does not always have to be a happy sheet or an interview. There are loads of resources on this as well as how to be more creative about how you use data.

NPC https://www.thinknpc.org/resource-hub/the-cycle-of-good-impact-practice-creative-methods/ and from Catalyst https://www.thecatalyst.org.uk/resource-articles/using-data-better-charity#

5 - How you present your findings is important

If your data is not understandable, then there is no point having it. If it is not presented in an engaging way no one will read it.

Loads of people have written about this and there are example blogs from the US and from Just Giving.

You have to find ways to engage people and to tell a compelling story. At the same time, you may want to think about what platforms you will be sharing on and ensure that any reports or slides etc are able to work for you across different platforms and with different audiences.

6 - Learn from the feedback don't just ignore it.

It may seem obvious but how many reports are produced and then simply put on a shelf and ignored.

If you have gone to the effort of doing the monitoring and evaluation make sure you use it. This is about shouting about the difference you make. It is about looking at ways that you can improve and build on the work you are doing. It is about using what you find to demonstrate need if you want to look for extra or continuation funding. The chances are that once you have the data then it will be useful in producing your annual report and review. It will be useful to trustees to enable them to see that the charity is doing what it should. Think about how you can make the information you have work as hard as possible for you.

This is part of telling your story and all charities should be looking at how they do that. Tips on this from CAF and Charity Digital. Also keep an eye out for the CCVS training on telling stories.

Quote from Melissa Steginus "Review is essential to evaluation, which is essential to progress."

Evaluation has to be linked to everything you do. Done well

  • you will be able to find solutions that will address the needs of many different stakeholders.
  • it will tell your story and prove your worth.
  • you will clearly see what was good, not so good and what was excellent and you will be able to deliver better and better projects.

The NPC website has some brilliant resources https://www.thinknpc.org/starting-to-measure-your-impact/ as does NCVO https://www.ncvo.org.uk/help-and-guidance/strategy-and-impact/impact-evaluation/#/  

Free entry to Wimpole Hall for Community Groups

Wimpole Estate have launched an exciting new initiative offering local community groups free admission to the estate and its facilities.

This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage creativity and connection with nature in a perfect setting to promote happiness, health, and wellbeing and also provide much needed respite for your beneficiaries, their families, and carers.   

Polly Ingham-Watts, the General Manager of Wimpole Hall, is passionate that everyone can enjoy all that Wimpole has to offer and recognises that National Trust membership or the standard admission charges are not accessible to everyone. Each pass they issue under this initiative would provide free access for up to 16 people. 

Passes may be used on any day except on bank holidays and the weekends preceding bank holidays.  Those intending to use the pass are asked to email Wimpole Hall. or call the estate before coming, stating the name of your group, the number of people and approximate time of arrival.  Where practical, community groups are encouraged to visit during weekdays as Wimpole can get very busy at weekends when there may be less scope to cater for additional needs.  

If your group would be interested in receiving free admission passes, please return the application form via email. If you’d like to speak to someone, please ring: 01223 206000 and state the best phone number and time for them to call you back.  

Wimpole Estate consists of a historic mansion, beautiful gardens, a show farm and extensive parkland, there is plenty of free parking for cars and minibuses, a visitor reception centre, electric buggies to assist people with limited mobility, as well as cafes and shops.  See website for more information.. 

Wimpole look forward to providing a Wimple Welcome through the Community Group Admission Pass and hope that visits may be life-enhancing, as they have been for the many who love this special place.  

The Supported Volunteering Project and beyond

Hello! My name is Ellie and for those who don’t know me, I worked at the Supported Volunteering Project (SVP) for 6 years.

I recently came back from maternity leave and found many changes to the sector, and to my role, so I often feel I am starting a new job altogether.  From the tools we use, to the ways we communicate – working from home rather than at the hub in Arbury Court, to the needs of the community, and a new inspiring willingness for the voluntary sector to work together.

The SVP was set up in 2012 by Cambridge and District Volunteer Centre (CDVC) to help those needing extra support to get involved in volunteering. When the CDVC closed, CambridgeCVS recognised the need for the support and took over the project.

It has been a beautiful journey so far enabling me to witness people from all backgrounds, putting their hearts into new challenges and helping create a more just and balanced community. I’ve had many opportunities to grow and learn, both personally, and professionally.

What I particularly enjoyed in my role was the ability to listen to people and their stories, being inspired by them and working out how to best utilise their lived experiences, their skills (that often they did not even identify as skills) and their passions. Working together with professionals enabled us to discover as a team, that the prospective volunteer often had the best answers themselves all along, and encouragement and guidance was all they needed to reach their potential and in turn to encourage and teach others to do the same.

Being passionate about community and people, I am full of admiration for the projects and people I meet every day. Cambridge is a melting pot of cultures and skills and people can, with the right support, achieve incredible results once they connect with their community.

During my years at the SVP, people came to us, to some degree, in waves, responding to events in the community, or in their own lives, that made them feel increasingly isolated or unable to connect with others. I have worked with people struggling with poor mental health, those who were new to Cambridge and the country and people who had been unemployed long term, as well as people with disabilities, stay at home parents, carers, and young people considering a gap year.

When the pandemic hit, I was on maternity leave and trying to get along like everyone else during such an upsetting time. But I was amazed by the community response to the emergency, and my heart was full of hope and wonder how people just got on and helped each other, getting to know their neighbours and community in time of need.

For some, it was the first opportunity to volunteer. I interviewed several residents and found that people who had never volunteered before, did so during lockdown, as “a way to keep mentally healthy and feel useful”. Others, who had volunteered before, found their role had changed as had the needs of their clients, some just started helping neighbours and built connections, albeit socially distanced, that they “should have made years before.”

At CCVS, we realised we need to rethink and reshape our volunteering support, to respond to needs and changes that the pandemic unearthed. Volunteering is for all: everybody can volunteer, and everybody needs the voluntary sector and its army of volunteers. It is our intention, as a community development organisation, to work towards accessible and barrier free volunteering opportunities for all.

It is very exciting for me to be back at work with a strong and caring team of colleagues, who, like me, believe in community and its potential.  We aim to support long, mutually beneficial, meaningful relationships with local community groups and volunteers.

For now, we have restarted 1:1 support by phone, email and online. We have begun a new activity: “Walk and Talk about Volunteering” which is a chance for people (potential volunteers, volunteers and voluntary organisations) to meet, walk, and chat about all things volunteering – such as opportunities, projects and application processes.

We already deliver training, currently online, and facilitate volunteer manager forums. We give advice to those in support or caring roles who would like to become volunteers. We work with organisations and offer guidance with volunteer recruitment and management and encourage recruitment from all parts of the community. We plan to restart group presentations and participation in events promoting volunteering. Finally, we encourage the care and kindness that our sector best represents and push for change where needed to empower everybody to become the volunteer they want to be.

If you would like to know more please get in touch with me ellie@cambridgecvs.org.uk or call 07840989719.

Adult Education – A chance for charities to take part in commissioning

The Adult Education Budget for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is moving to the Combined Authority (CA) from next April. They have now started the process about how provision will be procured and if you want a slice of the pie don’t drink too much over New Year as you will need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed on 2nd January to start looking at making your application.

We here at CCVS are still getting our heads round how all this will work having attended a recent workshop, but fair to say it is not only us with the new CA admitting that they have been on a steep learning curve over the last eight months. There are a couple of sets of slides from the recent workshop that we will make available if we get them, and anyone who is thinking of bidding will need to get to grips with the CA skills strategy which is yet to be published, but more info on the priorities etc can be found here. http://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/about-us/programmes/adult-education-budget/

UPDATE. This page now contains copies of the slides from the presentations as well as a summary of the questions and answers from both workshops.

The timetable for this is, in the words of the CA

“We now intend to publish our SSQ and ITT on Wednesday 2 January 2019, following which will be a 38-day tendering period, closing on Friday 8 February 2019.

Evaluation of all SSQ’s and ITT’s will take place in February/March with contracts being awarded in early April.

Second Market Engagement Workshop – Early December 2018

Standard Selection Questionnaire and Invitation to Tender issued – Early January 2019

SSQ and ITT deadline submission date – Early February 2019

Evaluation of tender submission – February/March 2019

Contract award date – Early April 2019

Full AEB devolution – August 2019″

The budget for 2019-20 will be around £12.1 million. Of this around £9 million will go to the main provides, predominantly the big colleges. This leaves around £3 million for more local provision. That will be what this procurement round will be for. We think there may also be some small grants as a tender to run a programme was released but this is not guaranteed, we will keep you updated on this as we can.

What we gleaned from our workshop, this was what we heard and will need to be clarified if you want to bid.

  • There will be about £3 million available to tender for
  • There will be no minimum or maximum contract size (update there will be a £50K minimum now)
  • The process will involve formal online tendering
  • Although you will be bidding for 1 year this will decide the delivery partners for the next 3 years. If you don’t get in now there will not be another window for at least 3 years.
  • There will be an emphasis on accredited training, but if what you do is pre accreditation level or you use successful unaccredited training to move people on then there will be some weight given to this – but not lots from what we heard
  • The new team want to hear from you if you have any questions or comments. Importantly if you do apply and are unsure ring them do not make assumptions.
  • The process will be by the book, do exactly what they ask and do not try and simply bend the application to fit your work, it will not score well.
  • They are open to consortia bids, but please talk to them first. This is partly because they are putting a 20% cap on what can be outsourced.
  • There are likely to be separate priorities for Cambridge, Peterborough and the rural bits in-between.
  • The funding criteria and I assume cost per learner are not set by the CA, they are using national guidelines.
  • This will be quite an onerous application process so if you going to do it start early, there will be no extensions.
  • If you are successful you will be subject to the audit rules for this funding, this will include recording information on the Individual Learner Record (ILR), make sure you think about admin within any budgets.

One of the advantages of this move to the CA is that it may well have allowed additional money to be drawn into the area and this money will not be clawed back if there is a year 1 underspend. That said they are still looking at how they deal with possible underspends.

The other key advantage is that they appear to be starting from scratch, and the long tail of old providers have to join the party anew. This means that we should be able to address the fact that many local providers were not able to get a foot in the door. That said those who were at my event included people from Suffolk, from Boston, a national org based in Hemel Hempstead, from People Plus formally A4E and a number of other national providers.

My one concern was about the weight given to social value and the Social Value Act. I felt that the answer to my question on how this would be taken into account was vague with a reply that there was a question about it in the ITT but no idea on weighting. I have not been impressed about how any of the local commissioning has addressed social value, but we will have to wait to see if it would score extra to be a local provider using local people to deliver locally etc. We will be pushing the CA to give due consideration to the Social Value Act so that local non profit providers are given the extra makes for all the added value they bring.

We are not the experts on this but we are happy to have a conversation with anyone with any questions. That said the CA stressed how approachable they are so maybe go directly to them.