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In February 2017 three learning events were run as part of the LSF programme evaluation.

They were held in Manchester, Birmingham and London with over 100 people attending in
total. The attendees were mainly grant holders, but also included advisors, staff from Big
Lottery Fund and Office for Civil Society. The objectives of the events were for grant holders:

to learn about the latest findings from the evaluation;

to learn from other grant holders about the successes and challenges they have faced;
to have the opportunity to raise issues that are important to them and help to inform
the development of LSF (and grant programmes like it) in the future.

This bulletin outlines the

topics discussed and
summarises the learning that
was identified by grant

As a document of what was

said across the three events,
the bulletin occasionally offers
contradictory insights and
often raises questions for
consideration rather than
definitive analysis. This
learning will inform the
evaluation and will form the basis of the discussions at the LSF evaluation Webinar on the
4th April. Please feel free to comment on anything contained in this bulletin - whether you
attended the events or not.

The events were very much about peer learning. After a short presentation about the
evaluations findings so far, each attendee introduced themselves, explained what their
organisation does and what they were aiming to achieve with their LSF project. In the

This bulletin was written by Andy Curtis from NCVO.

Learn and share events bulletin (6h March 2017)

afternoon each attendee participated in two sessions selected from six topics. The main
discussion points and learning from these various topics are outlined below.

General reflections on LSF

Adding weight to wider evaluation findings so far, on the whole, there was a great deal of
positivity expressed about the LSF programme. People described LSF as an opportunity take
a step back from their normal work and allowed them permission to reflect on their
organisation. A running theme was the diversity of the organisations. There were different
starting points and different levels of progress so far in terms of what they were looking to
achieve through the programme.

Key learning
Enabling reflection: LSF lets organisations reflect and plan for the future, often freeing
up senior managers time to consider the bigger picture. As one attendee put it, you do
not often get funding to pause and reflect.
Facilitating change: Organisations had often realised the need for change prior to
engaging in LSF, but the programme had provided a way of making that happen.
Timescale: The time period of LSF was too short for some, as major changes can take
longer than a year.
Shifting sands: Things can change in the external environment, which can necessitate a
change in plan for LSF activities. Many had found the programme very accommodating
in this regard.
Culture change: LSF could necessitate a significant culture change in an organisation,
whether it was the founder/chief executive letting go of services, staff adapting to new
ways of working or the board buying into the change process.

Specifically, the role of leadership was seen as very important.

Catalyst for change: LSF could add momentum to a change process giving leaders
permission to do that and emphasise to the board the need for change.
Thinking strategically: Many senior managers are preoccupied with crisis management,
LSF was seen to enable them to plan strategically.
Professional development: LSF can enable skills of senior staff and/or the board to be
broadened, as well as allowing them to build networks.

At LSFs heart is sustainability. This will be reflected in the following sections, especially
around funding. The evaluation so far has shown that grant holders have different
conceptions of sustainability and that their LSF project comes at different points on their
organisational trajectory with some trying to find ways to keep the organisation going and
others confronting challenges associated with growth.

Learn and share events bulletin (6h March 2017)

Key learning

Multi-stage planning: Having short-, medium- and long- term goals. Overall, having a
clear strategy and not just existing month by month.
Diversifying income: Diversifying income is a key goal, particularly becoming less reliant
on one source of funding.
Leadership: For a sustainable organisation, it is important to invest in leadership skills.
Thinking beyond LSF: Making sure that the organisation can thrive once the programme
ends and the advisor is no longer present.
Communication: It is important to let people know what the organisation offers.
Challenging orthodoxies: Growth is not always good, it is about finding the right size for
the organisation.
Keeping service users central: Trying to deliver what they need and want as much as

There were contrasting experiences of working with advisors. Reflecting findings from the
second snapshot survey, on the whole, advisors were seen as integral to the LSF work and
having had an important role so far. There were differences in whether the advisor was
known prior to LSF and how this affected dynamics. What advisors did varied, including
whether it was just advice or more on the delivery side (or both). They could bring local links
and knowledge and provide support to a senior manager, because it is lonely at the top;
and they could bounce ideas off of each other. In some cases a job description was written
for advisors.

Key learning

Choosing an advisor: Finding a suitable advisor had not always been easy. The value
of a list of suppliers was discussed.
Changing advisors: Staff leaving the grant funded organisation sometimes meant
that new advisors were sought, as the existing relationship was no longer there, or a
new relationship had to be built with someone nominated by the contracted
Level of service: Occasionally there was dissatisfaction with the level of service of
some advisors, with the grant holders feeling locked into the contract in certain
The need for flexibility: With changing circumstances and the needs of organisations
altering over the course of LSF, flexibility in the contract with advisors was seen as
helpful. There were instances where the main advisors gave over some of their days
to other specialists.

Learn and share events bulletin (6h March 2017)

Maximising the advisors time: Using most of the advisors days too early in the
project could mean not enough days were left at the end. There were instances
where the policy was to hold over 5%-10% of the advisors days for the end of the
Single versus multiple advisors: There were instances of having a sole advisor or
multiple advisors. The relative merits were seen as mixed. Having more than one
advisor could lead to feeling passed around; whilst others had utilised different
skills sets of more than one advisor.

Business partners
Not all organisations have engaged with business partners. Some had struggled to do so due
to a lack of businesses locally. Others had built up a relationship with an organisation which
was affected when the contact person left.

Key learning

Who are business partners: Business partners were diverse, as well as those from the
private sector, there were also some from the public sector or an educational institution.
Synchronising diaries: Finding time to meet with a business partner can be challenging.
Getting it right: The relationship has to be right for both parties. It could be an intensive
mentoring relationship, with advice before key meetings sought or much more light
touch. Both were seen as valuable.
Transferable knowledge: The extent to which learning from the business sector is
applicable in the charity sector was debated with both positive and negative experiences
Changing circumstances: A potential business partner relationship could breakdown if
the main contact either from the LSF funded organisation or business had moved on.
This suggested that the links were sometimes at a personal opposed to an organisational

There were examples of new partnerships being formed, many as a direct result of the LSF
work. This included with national charities, Department for Work and Pensions, educational
institutions and NHS trusts. Some organisations had created consortia, others had joined
them. In certain cases LSF had helped forming partnerships because it had freed up senior
management time for networking. Having new database systems, part of some LSF projects,
also facilitated networking.

Key learning

It is not quick: Building successful partnerships takes time.

Mutual understanding: It is vital that all parties are clear about what the relationship is
trying achieve.

Learn and share events bulletin (6h March 2017)

Being aware of the risks: There were some instances where a potential partner
withdrew from the relationship and used the information shared in a future bid.
Being a subcontractor: There had also been some challenges working with larger
organisations who are the prime contractors in the process. There were also positive
benefits from becoming a subcontractor. A recurring theme was around establishing the
distinct role of the subcontractor.

Some grant holders had already gained new funding and, new types of funding, within the
last six months and in certain instances this was directly attributed to their LSF project.
Others were building towards this, for example identifying different types of funding, taking
a fundraising diploma or building relationships with commissioners and funders.

Key learning

Diverse income is the goal: Having different types of funding was agreed to be ideal,
with the risks lessened as there was not a dependence on one type of funding.
Keeping sight of the organisations mission: Knowing why you do something is
important to selling it. Furthermore, as organisations enter new funding arenas, they are
wary of losing sight of their mission.
Human resources: Some organisations faced challenges recruiting staff when the pay is
Being more attractive to funders: Having new systems in place, such as Investing in
People, and PQASSO, can make organisations more attractive to funders.
Taking stock: Understanding the existing funding streams and what services to
potentially drop could be a first step. LSF lets you have the space for this detailed
Take your time to put your plan together: Organisations should take time on the
analysis and to do the groundwork. Going for larger contracts takes time to prepare. It is
about understanding a crowded market place and their place within it. It also provides
senior staff time to build relationships with commissioners.
Using language of the commissioner: Learning the language a commissioner
understands is important.
The challenges of entering a new area: Starting a new activity such as fundraising can
be a steep learning curve. Sometimes it is better to start small when entering a new
market and have a pilot.
Unrestricted funding: Ideally more unrestricted funding is useful, which, for some, can
come from direct services.

Learn and share events bulletin (6h March 2017)

In terms of measuring the impact of LSF, participants were clear that the full impact will be
difficult to assess within the lifetime of the programme, it is more about where the
organisation will be in 3 to 5 years time.

Key learning

What does success in LSF look like: The starting point could be the ODT and then assess
distance travelled. Or it could be new funding types e.g. bringing in a new type of
income stream. Others suggested success would be: the organisation still existing;
change of mindset/ culture; and increased benefits for the beneficiaries.
Attributing success to LSF: Views were mixed on this. Due to expecting that the impact
of LSF would be longer term, some suggested an annual update for years. Others
suggested it would be harder to attribute impact to LSF 6 to 12 months after the
programme has finished because so many new factors could have come into play.
Monetising impact: This can be useful to convince people of the value of the work,
although there are also dangers of focusing solely on this.
Demonstrating value in different ways: Showing what would happen in the absence of
the service.
Clarity of information: Being clear what the information means and how it can be used.
Audience: Who is the impact information aimed at? Commissioners? Funders? Service

Overall, the events provided a good opportunity for grant holders to share their experiences
and learn from one another. As can be seen from this bulletin, they also generated
substantial learning for the evaluation although no single narrative emerged because
different organisations are at different points in the process, have different goals and have
adopted different approaches to LSF.

The learning from these events will inform the rest of the evaluations data collection,
including shaping the focus of the third snapshot survey, which will be around the business
partner role.