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  • 19 Dec 2016
    On 16th December, to coincide with Local Charities Day, we released our second annual Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report. Using data from a survey of 598 local charity representatives carried out of the summer, this report provides a fascinating insight into the state of the local voluntary sector as we approach 2017. The last year has seen a continued escalation in demand for the services of local charities. Coupled with ongoing volatility in the funding landscape, this has left many groups fearful for their long term survival. The report finds that: Just 46% of local charities are confident they will be able to sustain themselves over the next five years. 67% of groups were still predicting stagnation or a downturn in their financial position over the coming year. 78% of groups predict an increase in demand over the coming year, of these groups just 18% feel that they are sufficiently resourced to meet this demand. Reductions in staff numbers pose a  serious problem, impacting on the continuity of services and affecting overall skill levels. 76% of respondents had seen a reduction of staff over the last year. 60% of respondents know of one or more local groups that have been forced to close in the last year. 77% of charities do not believe that they have the skills to run a successful fundraising campaign. Download the Full Report Here We conclude our report by laying out a number of recommendations for the coming year and beyond. We are particularly concerned about the urgent need to bring sustainable funding sources in the sector and to address the continued overreliance on under or unskilled staff. We hope that the results of this report will not only inform our own work over the coming year but also inspire other stakeholders in government, business and civil society to tackle the challenges facing the local voluntary sector.    
    4893 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 07 Dec 2016
    The local voluntary sector consists of thousands of groups with widely varying causes, missions and activities. Local Charities day, taking place on December 16th, will celebrate these amazing groups and draw attention to some of the challenges they are facing.  In this blog we look at what makes the UK’s local voluntary sector so unique and valuable - exploring the characteristics they share and the vital, yet too often overlooked, services that they provide to their communities. In 2015 we produced our first Local charity and community group sustainability Report. In this report we identified a number of characteristics that make the sector so special.   1) Knowledge of local needs Many Local charities are formed as a direct result of a specific local need or cause; be it saving a community centre, conserving a local place of interest etc.  These causes rarely fall into the remit of larger national or international charities as therefore, without these charities such issues would often go unaddressed entirely. A good example of this charity type is Downham Market & District Heritage Society - a group that exists to conserve and display objects, photographs and documents relating to Downham Market and the surrounding village Other local charities address wider societal issues (homelessness, disability advice, refugee support, LGBTQ  issues). These groups have a strong crossover with the work of well know national charities and groups. However, in most cases this crossover is complementary.  While more heavily resourced national or international groups excel at wide scale campaigning, infrastructural support etc, the value of grassroots groups lies in their acute knowledge of how these wider issues play out at a local level and how they are best addressed. HERe NI work to combat social exclusion and discrimination among the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland.  Their acute knowledge of the specific issues facing LGBT+ women in Northern Ireland enable them to provide personalised support and bespoke awarenss raising. 2) Strong Trusting Relationships As well as understanding the needs of their community, the fact that local groups are often deeply embeddedness in their local community enables them to foster strong trusting relationships with their beneficiaries.  The value of these relationships, though difficult to quantify, cannot be underestimated. One clear benefit to these close relationships is that it enables these groups to access harder to reach parts of their community. Another advantage is that people often feel a strong attachment, even sense of ownership over local groups. Many local charities are not simply service providers but a key element of the fabric and character of their communities. These informal community bonds would be impossible to replicate.  However, the difference they make to the quality of service provided by groups and the resulting benefit to their service users can be huge. 3) Flexibility and reaction time Local charities and small charities should not be treated as synonymous – for example many hospices have a local or regional remit but have medium to large turnover.  However, given that 95% of local charities have an annual income of under £1 Million there is a strong crossover. One of the benefits of being small is that these groups are often far less bureaucratic and, as a consequence, more flexible and able to react  quickly. When coupled with local charities’ acute knowledge or their local demographics and resources, this often means that local groups are able to provide support quicker, more targeted support than larger, national counterparts. One example is the Community Foundation for Calderdale’s Boxing Day 2015 Flood appeal. On Boxing Day 2016 Storm Eva caused the River Calder to burst it's banks devastating businesses and homes across Calderdale. CFFC Immediately responded – launching a fundraising appeal that received national attention. Of course,  there are numerous other reasons why the local voluntary  sector is so valuable. This is a sector that continues to amaze us with its resourcefulness, passion and innovation. On Local Charities Day (16th December) make it your mission to find a charity near you and see what you can do to support their cause.   Also keep your eyes open for our 2016 Local Charity and Community Report released on the day.  Found this blog post useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack  5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha   
    3807 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 04 Sep 2015
    It is impossible not to be moved by the tragic scenes taking place in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe – the crammed trains and boats, hauntingly reminiscent of our not-too-distant history. Images of desperate people, making treacherous journeys to escape war-torn regions. Many of us want to do our bit in this time of great human need. However, we can’t all be handing out provisions in Budapest, Kos or Calais. So, how then can we help? There are many larger charities, national and international, that have a proven track record in supporting refugees - UNHCR, Refugee Action and the  British Red Cross to name a few. These organisations provide exceptional emergency support and advocacy. However, much of the long term support required by asylum seekers and refugees is provided by small, locally-based community groups and solidarity organisations. Once in the UK, refugees and asylum seekers face multiple, complex issues – be it trauma, exploitation or social isolation. These grassroots organisations provide the essential support needed to empower refugees and enable them to fully integrate and flourish. Support local groups As a member organisation for local charities and community groups, Localgiving is proud to work with many of these amazing groups from across the country. To highlight just a few: RETAS provide education and training to refugees and asylum seekers in West Yorkshire to help them rebuild their lives in the UK Embrace, based in Stoke-on-Trent, provide a drop-in service for female asylum seekers and their children across Staffordshire who are experiencing hardship and social isolation NNRF work with and for refugees and asylum seekers across Nottinghamshire, offering practical advice, information, support and friendship CLEAR provide advice and education to both settled and developing refugee communities in Southampton Slough Immigration Aid Unit empower people by ensuring they know, and can access their legal rights under immigration law Ourmala support refugee and asylum-seeking women living in London to find strength and hope through yoga These groups all rely on their local communities – for both volunteering and financial support. To find out more about how you can get involved with groups supporting refugees and asylum seekers in your area, you can search for relevant charities here. You don’t have to be in Calais to play your part  sometimes the biggest difference you can make, even in times of international crises, is on your own doorstep.     Update (07/09/15): A huge thank you to everyone who has donated or offered  support to any of the charities above so far. I am just updating this blog to let you know about a new member of Localgiving, The Bike Project. This group receive donations of second-hand bikes, fix them up at their community workshops, and donate them to refugees and asylum seekers in London.       
    3371 Posted by Lewis Garland
  • 18 Nov 2015
    With #GivingTuesday just around the corner, there’s no better time to get your social media pages up to date and to make it simpler for your supporters to donate! One really useful recent update made by Facebook allows you to add a free “Donate Now” button to the top of your organisation’s Facebook page. By linking the button to your Localgiving donation page, you can make it easier for supporters to give. To help you benefit from this, we thought we’d give you a little advice on how to get started. Firstly, you need to make sure that your Facebook page is set up under the category “non-profit organization”. If your page is currently set up as something else, you can change its category by following this quick guide from Facebook. To add the “Donate Now” Button just follow these simple instructions: 1) Go to your Page’s cover photo and click “Create Call to Action”. 2) This will give you a list of possible “Call to Action” buttons. Scroll through these buttons and choose “Donate Now”.                3) Below this list you will see a box with the title “Website”. This is where you need to add the URL of your Localgiving page. We recommend that you add your donation page URL here. This way your donors will only be one click away from donating! To find your Donation Page URL first open your Localgiving page in a new tab and then click on the “Donate Now” button at the top right of the page.                                                                                                                                                             When you are on this page simply copy the URL in the address bar.     Then paste the URL into the box titled “Website”.   4) Once your URL is written in this box, all you need to do is click “Create” and, Voila, your “Donate Now” Button will be live!     Once your “Donate Button” is active you can even find out how many people have clicked on it. Just click on the button, hover over “view Insights” and you will see a graph showing how many people have clicked on each of the last 7 days.So, now you are fully equipped with a shiny new “Donate Now” Button – it’s time to tell your supporters. Why not encourage them to donate £5 through Facebook on December 1st as part of our #GiveMe5 match fund campaign!   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha   How to make friend with the media by Kay Parris Get your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield    
    3135 Posted by Lewis Garland
Tips & guides 2,320 views Aug 25, 2015
What are Social Impact Bonds and how can we get involved?

The likelihood is that you have heard of Social Impact Bonds (SIBS) at some time over the last couple of years. Some hail SIBs as an innovative, even revolutionary way to bring together the distinct expertise of different sectors - improving government efficiency while better addressing complex social issues. Others are more cautious, highlighting the potential risks of giving financial incentives to investors for achieving public goods. As is often the case with these things, the majority of us quickly become mired in jargon and leave it for later.

The reality is that, wherever you stand, SIBS are a rapidly growing source of funding for not-for-profits. For this reason we felt it would be useful for you to have an outline of SIBs, enabling you (small, local charities and community groups) to decide whether, and if so how, you may be able to participate.

What exactly are Social Impact Bonds?

Social Impact Bonds are Pay-by-Performance contracts in which the financial risks (and potential profits) lie entirely with private investors, rather than with the government or civil society.

A private investor initially pays for a commissioned project (Commissioners are public sector organisation’s such as local authorities or government departments). The investor then works alongside their chosen partner civil society organisations to achieve specific, measurable outcomes that are agreed upon at the start of the bond.

The investors are only repaid by the commissioner if the outcomes are attained. If the agreed outcomes are achieved the investors are repaid by the commissioner and are also given a return for the financial risks they took.

 



What is the idea behind SIBS?

The idea is to bring in private investment to tackle complex and expensive social challenges. The theory is that well-funded early intervention will prevent greater long-term problems and will, ultimately, reduce the public sector’s costs. For example, the first ever SIB, The Peterborough Social Impact Bond, was intended to reduce reoffending. Another ongoing SIB commissioned by Manchester Council is aimed at supporting young people transitioning between residential care to foster care (young people in Residential Care are statistically more likely to have low school attendance, substance abuse problems,  enter the criminal justice system and  become NEET- Not in Education, Employment or Training)

Accountability and transparency - SIBs have clearly defined outcomes that must be achieved if investors are to ensure a return on their investment. Consequently, it is in the interests of all parties to ensure that the impact of the project is accurately monitored and evaluated. In the long term, this would mean a shift towards a more evidence based approach to government spending.

How do SIBS work in practice?

SIBS are still in their infancy and as a result there are relatively few case studies to draw upon. Moreover, those that do exist differ considerably in structure and practice.  The most frequently cited case study is the Peterborough Pilot.

  • The Peterborough SIB, launched in March 2010, was aimed at reducing reoffending by prisoners released from Peterborough prison. Re-offending is an area where prevention has been proven to save the taxpayer money.

  • The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) worked in collaboration with 17 investors - mostly charitable trusts and foundations. As this was a “proof of concept” pilot,  this contract was not put out for competitive tender. However, competitive tendering is expected to become the norm for SIBs.  

  • Service providers, together known as the One Service included: St Giles Trust; Ormiston Children and Families Trust (Ormiston); SOVA; YMCA, Peterborough and Fenland Mind (Mind)

  • The contract agreed that the MOJ would make payments to investors if re-offending was reduced by at least 7.5%.  The greater the drop in reoffending beyond this threshold, the more the investors would receive

  • The SIB offered support to 3,000 prisoners both inside prison and after release. The One Service offered a range of support including help with accommodation, low-level mental health needs and training and employment opportunities.

  • In August 2014 the results for the first group of 1,000 prisoners on the Peterborough  SIB were announced - these showed an 8.4% reduction in reconviction rates relative to the national baseline.

  • Peterborough SIB was cut short due after the MoJ announced they would be restructuring the probation service in April 2014.

Are small/local charities  able to become service providers in Social Impact bonds?

Unlike other pay-by-performance contracts, small charities are more likely to be able to participate in SIBS because the financial risk does not lie with them but with the investor. The government have been keen to highlight this point, claiming that SIBs enable service providers with a ‘deep understanding of the target group that they are trying to support and expertise in the types of intervention that are effective’ but that ‘lack both working capital and evaluation expertise’ to participate in interventions.

Strictly speaking, any charity or social enterprise with a proven track record of delivering high social impact  is eligible to become a service provider - plenty of small, local charities meet this definition. However, since investors are carrying the initial financial burden, they are unlikely to be willing to take big risks when choosing which civil society organisations to work with. In practice, most service providers have been working with recognised,  medium to large, charities. Service providers involved in SIBS at present include: Action for children, Thames Reach, St Mungo’s and YMCA. For smaller charities considering participating in a SIB, one potential option would be to work collaboratively with a larger, lead charity.

Flexibility, Monitoring and Evaluation

One key point for smaller charities to consider when looking at whether they want to become involved in SIBs is whether they have (or see themselves as being able to gain) the capacity for wide scale data-collection and the flexibility to change their methods if goals are not being met.

In order for investors to ensure a return on their investment they must provide solid evidence that they have achieved their outcomes. This involves rigorously monitoring and evaluating their programmes. A lot of the feedback  from charities involved in SIBS so far has directly referenced the high volume of data-collection required. For example, Teens and Toddlers, who have recently been supported by a SIB to deliver an educational and social training programme for 14-15 year olds in Manchester, have stated:

“We had to be ready for the data demands that come weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly…This can be tough. I report monthly to our board of investors. Every bit of data is reported on and scrutinised, and although our investors are a great bunch, I still get a tad nervous. A bit like first night nerves on a monthly basis!

Whilst monitoring and evaluation demands are particularly high for SIBS, in truth this is reflective of a general trend towards demanding accountability for funds. For some charities, involvement with a SIB may give them the impetus and resources to better survive in this new era of funding conditionality.

Publicity

As SIBS are still a relatively new initiative they continue to attract a comparatively high level of media attention. If involved in a SIB, this attention may be used to increase public awareness of your charity and cause, potentially driving up demand for services and even bringing in opportunities for further investment. Teens and Toddlers claimed that they gained “fantastic media coverage” that has “ensured (their) name is recognised much more widely”. Of course, increased attention will always come with reputational risks as well as rewards.

Can charities propose SIBS themselves?

Theoretically anyone, be it a commissioner, investor, politician or service provider can propose a SIB. There is nothing preventing charities and community organisations developing SIB proposals. In fact, in many cases local charities are likely to have the best understanding of both the needs of their communities and the type of intervention that may be required to address them.

However, the difficulty for smaller charities, with limited resources –  or, importantly, contacts – may come in approaching other actors (potential commissioners and investors) about implementation. For smaller charities interested in developing a SIB proposal, the best option would almost certainly be to work in partnership with other potential service providers and sound-out potential investors (using the contacts they have in businesses, trusts or foundations)as early as possible.

To find out more about Social Impact Bonds you can visit: