Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations will have the ability to improve their performance and sustainability, thanks to two new online tools supported by the Big Lottery Fund. Learning from both will be evaluated to share with the sector.

The first has been developed with the Cabinet Office following the success of the VCSE diagnostic tool used for the Local Sustainability Fund, administered by the Big Lottery Fund. From 1 February, the VCSE Strength Checker can be used for free by organisations across the UK wishing to develop and improve their resilience.

It will produce a personalised report highlighting an organisation’s key strengths and areas to help them become more effective, including sustainability, marketing, strategy and planning, track record, quality and impact. The Big Lottery Fund will continue to work with the Cabinet Office to promote the tool and look for opportunities for development.

Organisations will also be sign posted to other sources of support and funding including social investment. Information generated through the report could also help organisations in planning funding bids to trusts and foundations. It is expected that it will be predominantly used by small-to-medium organisations but can also be used by larger VCSEs.

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said: “This new tool will strengthen the sector by helping small and medium sized VCSEs adapt and access the resources they need, helping us build a stronger society with compassion at its heart.”

There will also be in-depth support specifically for third sector organisations in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Chief Officers Third Sector (CO3) and Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO) have received a grant of £358,810 for a new project that will work with 100 third sector organisations in Northern Ireland and Scotland to help them better understand and strengthen their capacity.

Joe Ferns, Big Lottery Fund UK Knowledge and Portfolio Director said: “The UK VCSE sector is already seeing the benefits of online capability support like diagnostic tools. They help organisations understand their strengths and areas for improvement so they can make the best of their funding. This is a fast-evolving area and we will be listening to organisations so that we can learn what works for them, and what doesn’t. This means we, other funders and the sector as a whole can constantly adapt to meet the needs of organisations today and in the future.”

The Path to Impact project will use the online diagnostic Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT) to help the groups to better understand their strengths and areas for development, allow support providers and funders to deliver more targeted support, and provide a comparative dataset on the capacity of the NI and Scotland VCSE sectors for the first time.

The project will also run workshops and one to one support for the groups that take part to help them understand and address the findings of the assessment, and share learning within the sector.

Nora Smith, Chief Executive CO3 said: “The third sector broadly understood as the vast array of charities, voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises is undergoing a huge transformative process. Part of the challenge is understanding the capacity needs of their organisations, their areas of strength, and what support the leaders and their organisations need. We want to ensure that through the CCAT assessment third sector organisations will be better informed and gain a clear understanding of the forces at play to help them become more sustainable in the future.”

Pat Armstrong, CEO ACOSVO said: “Path to Impact offers an exciting opportunity for third sector leaders to increase the effectiveness of their own organisations and make a valuable contribution to developing the capacity and sustainability of the sector as a whole.”

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