Every year along with our partners from Support Cambridgeshire we carry out a survey of Cambridgeshire charities and community groups, and every year this survey joins the list of surveys that land in peoples inboxes and flashes across their social media feeds. So why do we do it!
Guest blog from Mark Freeman the CCVS CEO and the question master.
Doing the annual survey was one of the first things that landed on my lap when I started at CCVS and it still seems to be there, but why do I bother. Here are my 5 reasons, they are specific to the work CCVS and Support Cambs does but are equally applicable for other charities and community groups.
- It helps us to develop our services.
As a member organisation dedicated to supporting charities and community groups it is essential that we are delivering what is needed. A big part of knowing what groups want is found out by asking them as part of the survey. These are Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘known unknows’, in other words those areas that groups identify where they need more training or support. If we aren’t delivering these services then we will not be seen as relevant and groups will go elsewhere for support.
- It is a perfect way to demonstrate need.
Funders want to know what the need is for the project you are asking them to fund. This is fare enough as they want to fund work that will solve a demonstrable issue. The survey gives us information on the needs of those we work with and allows us to develop new ways to meet those needs, it then gives us the evidence we need for the funders. Local intelligence is a real boon when answering the need question and fills in gaps that national research and information often leaves.
- It gives us invaluable insights.
As well as the support side of CCVSs work there is the championing and advocacy role we have for the wider charitable sector across Cambridgeshire. We want to be able to highlight what the sector does, how big it is and what might be stopping it making an even bigger difference. The survey gives us information on this and helps us to understand the ‘state of the sector’. When we are then talking about the sector we have facts and figures that help us make our point, combine this with stories and examples and we are able to build a stronger case and tell a clearer story.
- It gives us feedback on what we do.
We have to get people to fund us and this often means we have to demonstrate that we make a difference. For support organisations this is often difficult to measure and the survey allows us to collect valuable satisfaction data. It gives us an opportunity to (hopefully) shout about how well received our work is, it generates a number of nice recommendations and it shows that we are needed.
- It gets me through my ‘why do I bother’ patches.
OK, maybe it is only me that sometimes asks “why am I doing this”; as I write another report, try and balance another budget or try and fix the IT/phone/building problems that people seem to assume that I have an answer for.
We are really lucky that we get some fantastic comments about the team, and the work they do as part of the survey. Every so often I simply look back through these and it acts as my very own fast charger, a couple of minutes re-reading the comments gives me the energy and the enthusiasm to keep going. If we were a shiny tech company we would get these painted on office walls, or made into mouse mats or mugs, or written on the side of busses – but I don’t have time or a budget; simply reading them every so often will have to do for now!
The survey is a lot of work, it is a real team effort to try and get people to fill it in, but it gives us a valuable insight into the local charitable sector, it allows us to do our job better, and it helps with fundraising. I firmly believe that it is one of the most important pieces of work we do every year.
In return I will find some funding to get mugs and mouse mats made for the team.