An article in Third Sector on 05 December gave me pause for thought . It talks about how nearly half of local authorities have made disproportionate cuts to the voluntary sector. What is particularly frustrating for charities/nfp’s in this position is that in September of last year the DCLG published best practice guidance on just this issue, advising that any cuts to be made should take account of overall value delivered by the voluntary sector
One can be almost certain that there will be many charities facing these cuts who are delivering essential front-line services that are delivering fantastic value for money in terms of outputs and outcomes, so there may be a different factor at play here; demonstration/perception of value. Unlike other sectors, it can be difficult to ‘prove’ that a charity is running efficiently when we are looking at service users and not profit margins. Looking online I found it difficult to find any kind of ‘kitemark’ or other way of identifying a charity that was either demonstrating or was being perceived to deliver value for money.
I want to be clear here that I do not think value is defined only by money spent with the lowest spend equaling the highest efficiency; those who work in charities should and must be paid appropriate wages to recruit the best candidates who have the skills and passion to deliver outcomes. The cost of delivering any project involves overheads and I do not intend to get into semantics about whether these are core, Full or other costs; that’s a separate debate. They exist and must be paid for howsoever they are apportioned. The assessment of value though must include some judgement on how the money is spent and whether appropriate measures are being taken to obtain best value with money. The ways to do this are many and varied but could include evidence of tendering for services (facilities, cleaning, stationery, merchant card processing fees, accountancy, software, IT etc) as well as evidence that the Charity is looking to be compliant with the Charity Commission and other regulatory bodies.
It would be great to have a collective of charities, think tanks, funders, donors and any other interested parties come together to look at this issue and try to explore a way forward. The brush off ”it’s too difficult…..value can’t be measured…it’s been tried before and failed…” is clearly not going to help the voluntary sector retain funding going forward based on anecdotal and recorded evidence. So we’ll be bold here; we will host a Round Table, provide drinks and refreshments to keep you going and even a Covent Garden location. You bring the expertise and your open mind.