Grants and Contracts – Live Blog

Here you’ll find the grants and contracts live blog. We’ve put these two in the same stream, as a lot of the issues that people are dealing with relating to grants and contracts are relevant to both types of income, and we’d like to debate the benefits and challenges of both models, and the increasingly grey area in between.

A new era for grant making?
Grants remain one of our sector’s most important sources of funding, allowing us to experiment with new ways of designing and delivering services.  At this session, funders at the vanguard of grant funding explain their approach to innovative funding design, and give you an insight into how grants are evolving to better support voluntary organisations.

Discussion of who gets the business – what differential is there between different members – what if someone gets 25% of the contract.  What are the views of the Boards of the individual members; do they they like the idea of ‘not being’ on the Consortium Board?

Dave says that everyone has to be realistic and it may be that there are capacity issues in being on lots of different consortia boards.

Nov 28 – 15.29 – briancondon

You can see a composite image – 5 pictures stitched together – of the Costing Consortia Workshop.  Concentrated and more technical discussion and questions on the viability issues connected to failing consortia members – and how you deal with that.

Nov 28 – 15.26 – briancondon

Discussing examples of how consortia can deploy resources – this can be flexible and based on demand from local need.  This does pose some challenges – what if everyone locally demands lots from one delivery partner and little from another; there will be some tough decisions there.

Nov 28 – 15.11 – briancondon

Q re ownership of consortia and the ethics of moving work between consortium partners

Dave argues that consortia are one member on vote – mentions one that has 59 members voting for 12 Board Members – 3 of whom are independents.

“Yes you get less of the pie but you get access to more pies”
Dave Packford


Nov 28 – 15.04 – briancondon

Dave is describing how the build up of trust between the consortia managers and local institutions. “Trust is an interesting word” he says.  Don’t try to save money on delivery costs – use the development of the consortium to reduce the transaction costs of the overall process. “Commissioners are buying into the model that consortia can reduce transaction costs”.

The development and management of consortia needs careful handling.  Don’t assume that the ‘hub’ always needs to be the same person/organisation to manage the ‘spokes’ – might be better to move the jobs around.  Also be flexible about who bids into what – needs a degree of maturity of approach and the willingness to sometimes compete and sometimes collaborate.

“Some of the best providers are smaller and more niche” so don’t assume that all the members need to be massive.  Also if one partner is not delivering – then if you have a big consortium then it’s easier to deal with this through ‘oversupply’.


Nov 28 – 14.57 – briancondon

Dave Packford – Barnardos

Three models:

  • Managing Agent – coordinates but does not do the delivery
  • Managing Provider – mostly management plus delivery (fill gaps by bringing in people)
  • Consortium model – SPV, hub and spoke, some kind of new organisation

He describes using the third approach in projects in NW.

Manchester case study – 54 different youth organisations.  Spending £1.2m – the ‘transaction cost’ would be about £300k.  They are moving to a 5 area model – reducing the number of people they have to deal with.  It’s about choosing the ‘best of the worst’ of the available solutions.

Nov 28 – 14.46 – briancondon

Q – tend to be two ways of forming consortia; one is voluntary and the other is “forced” as commissioners try to ‘herd’ people together

Fiona asks how many people have seen this – mixed answers from participants – some areas seeing this others not…

John describes the need for a sustainable price for services.  And looking at the project costing methodology – including full cost recovery.

Nov 28 – 14.38 – briancondon

Costing in consortia and sub-contracts

Chair: Fiona Sheil from NCVO

John O’Brien – from CA+ which is Community Accounting Plus.

Dave Packford – from Banardos in the NW – developing and setting up consortia

Fiona talks about the round table meeting they had to explore consortia and how they can work.  There is suspicion about losing independence.  And we’ve moved into an era of substantial competition – both from our own sector and from private sector organisations and outsourcers.  “Commisioners say they want consortia but their actions deny this…”

They discuss the issue of an ‘open and transparent consortium’ rather than a ‘closed group’ – which is a ‘cartel’.

How different is a consortium from a partnership bid?

John says there’s no particular rule; consortia seem to have more members and an MoU – partnerships can be much looser says Fiona.

Nov 28 – 14.30 – briancondon

How do we get the skills to convert the fact that “we are the biggest Twitterers in Lewisham” into the ability to raise money?

Tom says he advises not to scale up the people, not to get an intern but to ‘push the problem out to the network’ – and by sharing the problems you will see new ways to solve the problem.

Nov 28 – 13.02 – briancondon


What are social media monitoring tools?

They come in many forms – free tools such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite have columns.  There are tools such as Radian6 (now renamed) that come in at £4,000 per month.

How do you deal with the development of data – especially where it’s related to individuals?

He points out that Twitter and Facebook are often fully public and therefore the data can be used.  Personal data of individuals is a different matter and needs to be dealt with under the Data Protection Act – but often individuals who support a charity will be happy to provide their data.

Nov 28 – 12.58 – briancondon

Tom is describing how to build relationships with people on Twitter and other social media.  And the need to generate an idea of the “RoI” – or Return in Investment for campaigns.

He argues that the value of the people who donate is no augmented by the value of their social networks and their ability to generate new links to new donors.

Nov 28 – 12.50 – briancondon

Tom Latchford covering some of the issues to deal with – the ownership of tweets and accounts and how to manage negativity.  People react against negativity and this can be harnessed if you have the right approach.  The biggest risk is wasting time on social media when we don’t know what we’re actually getting out of it.

“People are sharing stuff that I don’t want to know about” says Tom – but sometimes when they tweet, for example, about a cause they believe in – that’s when you can find that they can be enlisted to support your charity.

He tells a story of enlisting people to help fund raise using social media – and that they can become very powerful contributors to the work of a charity; so long as their values can be aligned and they see value in it.

Nov 28 – 12.39 – briancondon

Now looking at Social Media monitoring and how useful it can be for charities and voluntary organisations.

Nov 28 – 12.31 – briancondon

Now moving to a new session:

Letting go: Managing the risk of fundraising with social media and volunteers
Chair: Ros Jenkins, Consultant Sustainable Funding & Business Development, NCVO
Tom Latchford, CEO, Raising IT

Asking the audience of their experience of using social media – one participant says that they have had very negative comment on forums. he’s commenting on the perception of risk among Board Members and Trustees.  He gives an example of the kinds of risk.

Nov 28 – 12.28 – briancondon

What does it mean says Tom – there are 2 routes in; individual grant assessments for larger grants – look at the evidence.  BLF also has a duty to look at areas where projects aren’t coming forward – this needs action by BLF through targeted strategic programme. “It works – just let people get on with it” – that’s ok but we see 1-2 young people in a case study and how can we tell that it can be scaled up to a bigger cohort.  It’s about ‘good enough evidence’ to give funders confidence.  There are lots of options for this.  But if it’s a flagship grant then we have to be able to see the evidence – and it can be done really really well.  We have the same issue with Central Government.

Alice says that Nesta has looked at what ‘useful’ evidence might be and how to deliver it.  Think about how and who delivers it being almost as important as what is being delivered.  This is always a challenge when trying to roll out a new model.  Need to use the right model at the right time.  There is scope to use the Sheltering Model to help smaller organisations – but these are under pressure given the state of the funding environment.  Finding how to engage as a large scale funder is often very difficult – all to do with the delivery and monitoring of grants – need to scale and spread

Charlotte asks the audience to vote – they have Green and Red Cards.

First we vote for Tom’s position – Charlotte says hold up your Green Card if you agree with Tom’s views; hold up Red if you don’t think he has the right approach – here’s the result:

And here are similar votes for Alice:

Charlotte reckoned that Alice had more Green votes than Tom – have a look!




Nov 28 – 12.14 – briancondon

Q re evidence-based funding – what exactly is this asks a participant – we all try to have an impact – what is new about this evidence based thing?

We also need to remember that there is a political thing going on here – the Government has nothing to talk about – look at the Work Programme announcement yesterday.  There’s tension between centralised understanding and prioritising local projects.  Better to talk about replication rather than scale.

Example form another participant – of fishing being used as a way to stop young people re-offending – this can work but the on cost of evidence is very high.  SOmetimes trust is needed.

Another comment – the two models are chalk and cheese and difficult to see how you can really decide between them.  It’s about the right funding method for the right projects – espceially for delivery at local level.

A participant says the example of offenders is a good one – but often access to the evidence is not allowed givent the status of the people involved,

The need for flexibility is emphasised by 2 more participants. Forcing projects into particular boxes may be very unhelpful.


Nov 28 – 12.04 – briancondon

Need to harness the ‘network effect’  and by using small amounts of money to harness local capability to create the types of change needed.

Nov 28 – 11.53 – briancondon

Number of unpaid hours is an issue they used as a metric for the project – and lots of work on transparency and accountability.  You can find out more about the project at Neighbourhood Challenge.

Nov 28 – 11.51 – briancondon

Number of unpaid hours is an issue they used as a metric for the project – and lots of work on transparency and accountability.  You can find out more about the project at Neighbourhood Challenge

Nov 28 – 11.50 – briancondon

Alice from Nesta – talks about the importance of community based schemes and local grant-making through a project called Neighbourhood Challenge:


Nov 28 – 11.47 – briancondon

Tom is covering the variations in programmes – effectively a way of continuous improvement (or if you make changes that have a negative impact  – changing them).  He says that charities and their funders need to be clear with one another on how to make resources go further and find compelling evidence of impact.


Nov 28 – 11.41 – briancondon

There are going to be two very different perspectives – says Charlotte; a debate and discussion and votes at the end.

Tom from BLF will start and focus on the ‘evidence base’ and high level.  Alice from Nesta will focus more on community-based grass roots approach/initiatives.

Thomas Guiney, Senior Policy and Learning Manager, Big Lottery Fund

What will grant-making look like in the future.

Central proposition is that funders of the future will focus much more on the evidence that funding makes a change, that’s measurable and can be evaluated.  He provides an example of how to reduce repeat offender rates in young people – he provides 3 scenarios of how this might be tackled.


Nov 28 – 11.31 – quitexander
  • Chair: Charlotte Gardiner, Policy Manager, NCVO (formerly BLF)
  • Thomas Guiney, Senior Policy and Learning Manager, Big Lottery Fund,
  • Alice Casey, Development Manager, NESTA
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