Organisational Reviews and the Big Lottery Fund – a positive process to engage with?

In 2014, the Big Lottery Fund introduced a Building Capabilities grant of up to £15,000 for all organisations receiving a Reaching Communities Grant. This £15,000 was an additional amount on top of the main grant (for their core activities or a project) and was to be used initially to engage an external provider. This provider conducts an organisational review to assess the strengths and weakness of the charity and make recommendations about how the organisation could develop their capacity in the future. The remaining funding could then be used to implement some of the key recommendations of the review.

The idea behind conducting a review (which to many charities can seem like a time consuming, bureaucratic exercise) is that small and medium sized charities are so busy delivering their frontline work that they have little time or resources available to review their progress, develop their organisational capacity and improve their infrastructure in order to ensure they can continue to deliver their vital services. Conducting an organisational review does take time and effort. A typical review takes around 3 months to conduct. Key staff at every level of the organisation are interviewed, often surveys are conducted with a wider group of staff and volunteers, and interviews and focus groups with Trustees form part of the process. An external provider will also review key organisational documents (e.g. accounts, business plans, and monitoring reports) and policies (e.g. Financial procedures and HR policies etc) to get a full understanding of the work, and infrastructure, of a particular charity. A full report is then produced, outlining recommendations the charity can follow to improve their policies, infrastructure and services.

We have conducted a number of organisational reviews, usually for clients we have supported to secure Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities grants. Feedback from our clients demonstrates they have found the process overwhelmingly positive, giving them the opportunity to “pause” and review what they are doing and to focus on what improvements need to be made for the future to ensure their sustainability. Justlife who work with individuals living in Unsupported Temporary Accommodation, for whom we have recently undertaken an organisational review for provided this feedback:

“Personally, I’ve found the report a fascinating read and huge credit to the work that Sarah and Jo have done – it really does describe us well. It’s not an easy task to come in and try to understand the internal workings of an organisation with all its quirks, foibles, history and multiple relationships but they’ve done a really good job. We’re already working on some of the recommendations, such as trustee recruitments and diversifying income so progress is happening too.”

Gary Bishop, CEO

Other funders are now following the Big Lottery’s lead and investing in small and medium sized charities building their capacity. For example, the Lloyds Bank Foundation provide additional funding through their Enhance programme to develop the organisational capabilities of small but vital charities. We would encourage other funders to consider how they might help charities improve their infrastructure so they can support beneficiaries in the long-term.

If you are interested in the Bright Ideas conducting an organisational review for your charity, please Contact Us.