The funding situation is changing rapidly in Northern Ireland with a move from grants to contracts. Whilst the funding settlement for Northern Ireland was better than many hoped for - the expectation is that funding for charities will come under increasing pressure. European funding has been much reduced, increasing the competition for the remaining funds. As a result infra-structure organisations are gearing up to meet the challenge.
Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) are a capacity building organisation with a membership across Ireland. “This is the first time that we have run a fundraising course here.” said Pauline Leeson, CEO. “We decided to do so because we realised that there would be benefits not only for our members but that improving bids, leads to better and more cost effective services for children. We also thought the course would be a good vehicle for increased partnership working – our funders are saying they want joined up integrated bids.”
Organisations with statutory funding
13 Children’s organisations attended with some coming from as far afield as Dublin. Organisations invited to attend were those that already benefited from statutory funding. Most delegates were experienced bidders though some were new staff that were taking on statutory funding roles for the first time. “We didn’t want a traditional course that focused on the technicalities of bidding but a capacity building course that would really gear people up for challenging times and would inspire them” said Marie Cavanagh Director of Gingerbread and Chair of CiNI.
Children in Northern Ireland commissioned Leapfrog consultancy to deliver their first two day course to members in late January. They chose Derek Smith, the
trainer as he has a broad background as a trustee, service manager fundraiser and commissioner.
The course's contents
The course covered: building value for money; writing skills, research, partnership working, marketing and contract management. “I am increasingly finding that organisations want courses that include a service delivery and contract management aspect” said Derek. “They realise that it is difficult to make major changes to a service or to reduce unit costs within the short timescale of a bid.”
One exercise looked at modelling a service in terms of the likelihood of securing future funding and improving value for beneficiaries and funders. When
organisations secure funding their services have a high likelihood of repeat funding and it can be presumed have provided good value for money. However over time a service can easily slip to the point when it’s no longer likely to be fundable. This can happen for many reasons including changes to the beneficiary group or preferred delivery model.
Cecilia Milburn of CLIC Sargent feedback on their ‘Better by Design programme’ which is reducing central and other costs and focusing resources at the front line with service users. There was also a lot of interest when she described how CLIC Sargent is co-ordinating fundraising, human resources, communication and human resources to deliver a consistent external message. Derek pointed out that a bid is a direct communication but that organisations need to pay attention to their all their communication channels to ensure a consistent message. “The starting point is to define at the organisational and service level the messages and then transmit a consistent message.”
One of the eureka moments on the course said Pauline was when Derek said the job of the service manager is far more than meeting the funder’s outputs. It also has to be about ensuring the service is funded again and the funder does not move to a competitor. It obviously doesn’t make sense to just appraise service managers on their ability to meet existing outputs if you then lose your grant or contract! That’s where infra-structure organisations like ours can play a major role in developing capacity and delivering better value for beneficiaries as well funders.
“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with participants satisfied and motivated to submit bids, it’s created a real buzz.” As a result they are seeking
funding to run additional bidding for statutory grants and contracts courses. “We are also looking at additional courses such as marketing and communication but for now we want to focus on securing more funding for the existing course as funding is the central concern.”
Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) is the regional umbrella organisation for the children’s sector in Northern Ireland. It provides training, policy, information, and participation support services to member organisations.
Derek Smith is the Director of Leapfrog consultancy. This provides support to not-for-profit organisations to enable them market services, retain and win statutory funding and improve their external communications.