In June 2014 the Chief Executive took early retirement. I was asked to take on the role of Chief Officer and gladly accepted. Erewash Voluntary Action had been in operation for many years and as usually happens things just tick along and sometimes directions change due to funding being available.
The issues we faced
Erewash Voluntary Action was formed over 30 years ago, we are an Infrastructure Organisation offering both CVS and Volunteer Centre functions. When I took over as Chief Officer I felt it was time to take a look at the services we offer and revisit our aims and objectives helping us make firm decisions on the future direction of travel. For this we felt that areas we needed to look at were:
- Strategic plan and business plan way out of date
- Assessing our value to the sector we work with
- Having tools to be able to measure our impact.
- Staff unclear on their roles within the organisation (due to changes in job roles)
- Were there any areas we could develop as an income generator?
The actions we took
In the shifting times of funding cuts and funding reviews we felt it was important to have a new vision and business plan along with some clear tools on how we could measure the impact we have on our clients/groups.
BIG Assist was identified as a possible source for funding for this piece of work. Completing the self assessment was a great start as it started making me think of work we needed to do.
Vouchers were awarded from BIG Assist which helped us to bring in Peter Stone from Peter Stone Consulting and he helped us to gain:
- A clearer understanding of our strategic priorities
- A clear business plan that enables staff to focus more on organisational projects
- An increased knowledge of the development/income generation opportunities available
- A better way to collect evidence to be able to communicate our impact to the sector
Together we set up focus groups, staff and board sessions to bring people together to tell us how they felt we should develop over the next five years (funding permitting of course). Once the new Business Plan was developed we asked all our stakeholders for feedback.
The support we received really helped with our vision and our message to stakeholders about who we are and what we offer.
Peter also helped us to develop some additional reporting for our finances, developing a budget spreadsheet which broke finances down on a project by project basis and which also gave us a one sheet overview. Something that would have taken me months to do.
We have also developed a good relationship with the local CCG in Erewash who are a Vanguard site. We have always had a good relationship with the CCG but this work has helped to firm up our relationship. They have now asked us to be the voluntary sector lead on the work they are doing. This was something that would not have happened over two years ago.
We had further vouchers to help us to look at charged for services and this piece of work has given us some clear areas we may wish to develop that may not have been traditional for a CVS including venue hire for weddings etc.
We have also been commissioned by Erewash Clinical Commissioning group to deliver a Quality assurance system for the voluntary sector called “Quality for Health” - this is a Calderdale model looking at the quality of health provided services by the voluntary and community sector. This will be with groups they fund and then potentially who they might fund in the future.
The only negative for us really was the lack of time to invest even more time in this process. Also losing Peter’s invaluable knowledge once the project ended.
Taking the time out to look at what we do and then finding out how well we actually do this was very rewarding for the whole team.
Developing a ‘Life in the Year’ of report that does not give an audited view but rather describes the real difference we make has also been rewarding.
Having a whole team approach means everyone is on board and behind the projects we deliver.
We will be making time each year to have a day out of our work schedule to ensure we can continue to develop and become stronger and more efficient.