£6m to strengthen ‘backbone’ of voluntary sector

A new £6m programme to strengthen the organisations that underpin the voluntary sector’s work was launched formally yesterday (Monday 29 October) by NCVO Chief Executive Sir Stuart Etherington and Big Lottery Fund England Director, Dharmendra Kanani.

The BIG Assist programme will support infrastructure organisations – local and specialist charities who work to support other charities, such as local community service organisations, volunteer centres and rural community councils – to be more sustainable and adapt to changing environments.

The programme comes as issues including reduced funding and new technological developments are creating both challenges and opportunities for such organisations. An estimated 1,400 infrastructure organisations in England will be eligible to apply for financial assistance in the form of vouchers to pay for training, consultancy, and other development support. These will be awarded in categories including strategy and planning, financial sustainability, and developing strategic relationships.

Typical awards are expected to be in the region of £2,000 – £ 7,000.

BIG Assist will also provide support through a large peer-to-peer programme including a wide range of networking events, visits and mentoring. Organisations will also be able to provide each other with support and share experiences through the programme website, www.bigassist.org.uk

Delivered by NCVO under contract to the Big Lottery Fund, the programme will run for an initial period of three years.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

“Infrastructure organisations are the backbone of the voluntary sector – providing crucial guidance and resources to thousands of frontline charities to help them deliver their aims. Strengthening these key organisations will strengthen the whole sector. This innovative new programme will help organisations to develop the resilience that testing times require and will prepare them to take full advantage of future opportunities.

"Crucially, rather than delivering one-size-fits-all packages, BIG Assist gives organisations power to determine where their own needs and opportunities lie, and to choose the training and consultancy providers they feel are right for their organisation.”

Dharmendra Kanani, BIG’s England Director said:

“BIG has ambitious plans for how it can further support the VCS organisations we fund in England. This means giving front-line organisations greater flexibility and choice to decide upon the kind of infrastructure support they need. This in turn requires intelligent investment in infrastructure bodies so they are best placed to respond to those demands.

"The Assist initiative is key to delivering against those ambitions. It will help infrastructure support providers build their capabilities so, in turn, they are better placed to provide high quality support to VCS organisations.

"Increasingly we need to work together, to collaborate and share knowledge, so I am particularly excited by the peer to peer support Big Assist offers. It is vital that infrastructure organisations are able to help each other so that they are in a better position to help the projects we all support.”

For more information contact Aidan Warner in NCVO’s media office on 020 7520 2413, or BIG Lottery Fund press office on 020 7211 1888.

Notes

Sir Stuart Etherington and Dharmendra Kanani formally launched the programme at an event at NCVO’s offices in London on Monday 29th October.

Infrastructure organisations will be able to register on the BIG Assist website from Monday 5 November. Programme features, including the opening of applications for support, will be released over the following weeks.

BIG Assist will offer support in the following areas:

  • Strategy, planning and managing change
  • Financial sustainability Innovation, new products and ways of working
  • Marketing and building strategic relationships
  • Supporting and developing people & organisational culture

NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with 8,500 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations. Alongside our sister councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we make sure the voluntary sector can do what it does best.

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