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£6 million Assist gives backing for sector support

Big Lottery Fund and NCVO have teamed up for a new £6 million initiative. The Assist programme will help voluntary sector support and development organisations adapt to the changing needs of the frontline.

Assist is the first stage of Big Lottery Fund’s Building Capabilities for Impact and Legacy approach. It is a radical departure from previous capacity–building investments, as the majority of funding will go directly to local support and development organisations. These organisations will then be able to choose what support they need in order to adapt their services to changing needs, funding and expectations of frontline organisations.

The programme will work closely with support and development organisations to understand the areas where they can improve the services they offer to the frontline. Organisations will then be able to choose from a menu of support services to get help from leading experts as well as have the opportunity to take part in a peer to peer support programme to help each other to improve the quality of their services.

Participants in the programme will be given the opportunity to publicly rate the support they are given by the leading experts – enabling other organisations to make an informed choice about the support they receive and driving up standards across the board. Evaluation will be built into this initiative from day one, so that BIG and NCVO can learn about how this kind of demand-led approach can work most effectively.

Dharmendra Kanani, BIG’s England Director said:

“We know that investing in the strength, capability and stability of organisations who access BIG’s funding helps them to meet the needs of people and communities most in need more effectively and become more resilient in tough times. In the past we funded capacity building through intermediary bodies. In the future, we are giving organisations the power to choose support from a range of options and providers best suited to meet their individual needs. Our aim is to respond to the current environment by learning from the past.

"The Assist initiative is only the first but crucial step in turning this new approach into action, and a vital investment in creating the conditions for this new approach to thrive. Our ambition for Assist is that it will help improve the legacy and impact of BIG funding. NCVO have demonstrated that they have the trust, partners and track record and most importantly have been able to re-imagine the possibility of doing things differently to better effect."

NCVO’s Chief Executive Sir Stuart Etherington said:

"We’re delighted to be leading this ground breaking programme. It will give targeted support to infrastructure organisations as they look to make the changes they need to become more efficient, effective and sustainable.

"Putting both the money and the choice in the hands of the people who understand how infrastructure works, and how it needs to change, will better equip the sector as a whole to adapt to the current and future operating environment.

"Supporting the frontline is more important than ever, as charities look to respond to increased demand for services, rising cost and an unprecedented fall in income."

The responses to BIG’s discussion paper on Building Capabilities earlier this year showed support for the principle of giving greater choice and control to frontline voluntary organisations. Many support and development organisations told BIG that they will need assistance to adapt their services to respond to changing needs, funding and expectations - Assist is responding to that need.

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