If there is one thing that has become clear over the last 18 months, it’s the importance and strength of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in supporting our local communities. While it has been challenging for everyone, charities and community groups have been particularly stretched; however, they have continued to make huge efforts to support their clients and service-users. Many of them increased or adapted their services to make sure that local residents had everything they needed to survive the pandemic.
Voluntary Action Arun & Chichester (VAAC) have been supporting their members throughout the last year and a half, and are now doing all they can to help them to grow back even stronger. By providing support – such as Funding Advice, help with Policies & Procedures, and Support with Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, as well as providing training and events – VAAC have created a productive and charitable community network where groups can come together and share their concerns and ideas. VAAC are working to ensure that the groups that provided so much to our communities during the pandemic are now able to look to a strong and sustainable future themselves.
Since March 2020, VAAC has been listening to their member organisations and monitoring the health and strength of the local VCS. They have been focusing their work on the areas that have been identified as most essential. For example, one of the themes that was identified through their research was that of ‘sustainability’, which is a big issue for organisations. Financial instability, decreasing availability of funding opportunities, and complications with keeping staff and volunteers safe have shown it is crucial that we adapt our services and embrace new ways of working. To address these concerns, VAAC provides opportunities for organisations to come together to share ideas and discuss solutions; researches and promotes funding opportunities and available grants; supports and encourages the adoption of new technologies; and helps organisations to devise strategies to allow them to plan for a stronger future.
Jenny Garthwright, Digital Content and Communications Officer at VAAC, says, “The response of the VCS to the pandemic has been incredible, with the adaptability and responsiveness of organisations allowing them to continue – and in some cases increase – their services, despite the challenges they faced. We have tried to support them as best we could throughout this time of crisis, and we are now looking to the future, and to how we can strengthen our support offer to help organisations to navigate the challenges and opportunities they face, not only to survive but to rebuild even stronger.”
VAAC support is available for all charities, community groups and Community Interest Companies that provide services in Arun and/or Chichester. There is no charge to become a member, so make sure you get in touch if your organisation would like some support. More information on their services can be found on their website – www.vaac.org.uk, or you can email email@example.com to find out more.
Organisational health check
One of the services that VAAC offers to its members is an Organisational Health Check, to help organisations assess their strength and resilience. The simple online form will allow the VAAC Development Team to identify any gaps in an organisation’s policies & procedures, governance, and strategies – covering all areas of running a non-profit organisation, including Fundraising, Volunteering, Finance and Marketing. They will then be able to work with the group on a one-to-one basis to help them develop and strengthen the areas where weaknesses are exposed.
If you want to start thinking about the strength of your organisation, why not consider the following questions:
- Has the governing document of the organisation been recently reviewed?
- Do you have all the relevant policies in place, including a Volunteer Policy, Health & Safety, Data Protection, Safeguarding, Equality & Diversity, etc.?
- Do you have strategic plans in place, covering things such as organisational plans, fundraising, and communication strategies?
- Do you create and follow budgets and provide regular financial reports for your Trustees?
- How do you measure and communicate the impact of your work?
These questions are a good starting point, but if you would like to explore any of these areas further, or would like to speak to a member of the VAAC development team about how you can address any of your concerns, fill in the online Health Check form at https://www.vaac.org.uk/group-support/organisation-health-check-form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.