PQASSO Quality Mark – the basics

ANNOUNCEMENT: assessments against PQASSO 3rd Edition will discontinue after September 2017. Find out more about how this affects your organisation.

How to achieve the PQASSO Quality Mark

It is important that organisations can prove they have attained a recognised level of quality. We believe that self-assessment is essential for learning and development – but we know that external recognition can also be vital for some organisations, which is why we developed the PQASSO Quality Mark.

What is the PQASSO Quality Mark?

The PQASSO Quality Mark is the externally assessed award for PQASSO users which demonstrates achievement of the PQASSO standards. This nationally recognised award offers both users and funders/commissioners external verification of the quality and credibility of an organisation.

The PQASSO Quality Mark remains the only sectoral quality mark that covers the work of charities and other organisations; no other award addresses all the essential areas necessary for the effective management and governance of a charity or other third sector organisation.

The PQASSO Quality Mark is widely recognised as providing a comprehensive framework for running an effective organisation. An organisation that has the PQASSO Quality Mark offers a guarantee of being fit for purpose in all areas essential to commissioners.

Who can apply for the PQASSO Quality Mark?

The PQASSO Quality Mark is for any organisation that has carried out their self-assessment against the PQASSO standards and wishes to show that their achievement has been externally verified.

The benefits of the PQASSO Quality Mark

Achieving the PQASSO Quality Mark will give your organisation the following benefits:

  • external verification of your achievement of the PQASSO standards
  • greater recognition and credibility from statutory and independent funders, users and other stakeholders
  • increased motivation for staff, trustees and volunteers
  • confirmation that your organisation has reached a recognised quality standard
  • enhanced organisational learning through the assessment process

The PQASSO Quality Mark is an optional 'add on' to support quality improvements within your organisation. If preferred, PQASSO can still be used purely as a self-assessment tool without external accreditation.

How will we be assessed?

To achieve the PQASSO Quality Mark, your organisation will undergo an external assessment which involves gathering evidence, reviewing documentation and interviewing staff, Board members and volunteers.

The external assessment will be carried out by PQASSO Quality Mark peer reviewers – members of the voluntary and community sector who are specially trained and supported by NCVO to carry out reviews of organisations against the PQASSO standards.

What is the process?

There are seven steps to achieving the PQASSO Quality Mark:

  1. Implement PQASSO – purchase the PQASSO workpack and complete the self-assessment
  2. Apply to be reviewed – complete and submit the PQASSO Quality Mark application form
  3. Planning the review – an assessor, known as a peer reviewer, will contact you to agree dates for the desktop review and site visit
  4. Desktop review – you will submit specific documents to the peer reviewer(s) for them to assess
  5. Site visit – the peer reviewer(s) will visit your organisation to conduct interviews and gather evidence
  6. Reporting – the peer reviewer(s) will provide a detailed report of their findings to you and NCVO
  7. Receiving the award – if you are successful you will receive the PQASSO Quality Mark.

How long will it take?

Before applying for the PQASSO Quality Mark you must implement PQASSO through self-assessment. This can take anything from two months to over a year. From the point of submitting your PQASSO Quality Mark application, the site visit will usually take place within 10 to 12 weeks.

You will be informed of the findings of the review at the end of the site visit. Formal reporting and the issuing of the award can take a further four weeks. If improvement actions are required, you will be given eight weeks to implement these actions.

The site visit itself usually takes two days. However, for small organisations with one to five staff, applying for the PQASSO Quality Mark at level 1, the site visit will only take one day. For larger organisations with more than 49 staff, the site visit may take three days or more.

To get an idea of how long each step takes, you can download our flowchart (PDF, 111KB).

How much will it cost?

The cost of a PQASSO Quality Mark review depends on the size of your organisation, the number of sites you operate across, and the PQASSO level at which you are reviewed.

These prices are based on organisations with one site or office and do not include expenses – 'expenses' relates to reasonable travel and subsistence expenses for your peer reviewer(s).

'Full-time equivalent staff' should include all paid staff and excludes volunteers.

Full time equivalent
members of staff

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

0 to 5

£1,500

£2,250

£3,300

6 to 15

£1,750

£2,500

£3,575

16 to 25

£2,250

£3,000

£4,125

26 to 49

£2,600

£3,575

£4,900

50 to 100

£2,925

£3,900

£5,250

101 to 200

£3,250

£4,225

£5,600

201 or more

Contact NCVO

Contact NCVO

Contact NCVO

VAT will be applied to PQASSO Quality Mark fees for organisations.

NCVO member discount

If you are a member of NCVO you will get a 10% discount off the cost of your PQASSO Quality Mark fees. In order to take advantage of the discount, once you submit your online application to us please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know and we will apply the discount to your invoice.

If you are interested in becoming a member of NCVO to take advantage of this discount, as well as a number of other benefits for your organisation, take a look at our membership page.

Request a quote

If you operate from more than one site or office or you have more than 200 staff , please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You will need to provide details on the number of staff and the number of sites you operate across.

Can we get our money back if we don’t complete the process?

As part of the application procedure, you must sign a declaration to say your organisation has met the PQASSO standards and has completed the Peer Review Workbook at the required level of PQASSO. This should make sure that you are ready to apply and have all the evidence you need.

If your application is successful but your organisation is found to be missing key evidence, this will be picked up at the desktop review stage and the review may be terminated. Under these circumstances, you will receive a refund of the fee minus the costs already incurred in the review process.

If you proceed to the site visit stage and gaps in evidence are found, you will be given a further eight weeks to implement an improvement action plan. If your organisation does not complete the improvement actions successfully, there will be no refund of the fee.

Can we get our money back if we change our mind?

The refund you will receive if you change your mind and decide not to proceed with your PQASSO Quality Mark peer review will depend on the stage you are at and the costs that have already been incurred.

Read the terms and conditions for further information.

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