What's it all about?

The VCSE Sustainability Site

It has long been accepted that Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations make a considerable contribution to providing services and support to people and communities, often with a focus on those most in need.

The VCSE Sustainability site is being run by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the Office for Civil Society. It aims to help VCSE organisations become stronger, more sustainable and more resilient, so that they can continue to support their beneficiaries in future years.

The purpose of this site is to encourage VCSE organisations to think about their long term futures. The site contains a diagnostic tool to stimulate planning and transformation and an eligibility checker for the Local Sustainability Fund (LSF). Organisations wishing to apply to the LSF should complete both the diagnostic tool and the eligibility checker. To start this process you need to create an account by clicking on the Register tab above.

VCSE Diagnostic Tool

We have found that many organisations which provide much needed services to local communities don’t always have the capacity, skills or tools to identify how they need to change and plan for the future. 

To help organisations plan we have developed a  VCSE Diagnostic tool which takes about an hour to complete. It will help you analyse key information about your organisation, and provide you with a report highlighting areas where you may wish to develop.  This report is intended to provide indicators that will help you decide on your short and long term planning strategy, and so help to ensure your long term success and relevance to your beneficiaries. 

For the diagnostic to be successful it is really important that you respond openly and honestly to the questions you are asked. You may find it best to complete the diagnostic as an organisational management team. It may also be useful to involve an external ‘critical friend’ - someone who can challenge your understanding of what you do and how you do it.

The Local Sustainability Fund

For some organisations, after expressing an interest in receiving financial support from the Local Sustainability Fund by completing the diagnostic tool and eligibility checker, there will be an opportunity to make a full application for funding. This funding will help organisations respond to the challenges identified by the diagnostic tool.

In order to decide which organisations are invited to apply for LSF funding, we will consider the information provided from the diagnostic tool. We will be looking for organisations with a strong track record of delivering services and empowering their beneficiaries, which nevertheless are experiencing some current challenges, and which, with targeted support, could secure a strong future. 

If your organisation is selected, you will be asked to complete a more detailed application, demonstrating how you would use the funding to help with your transformation work. The additional information you provide will allow us to decide which organisations should receive financial support from the Local Sustainability Fund.
It is important to note that funding can only help speed up change for the period in which it is available. We are keen that each organisation takes ownership and control of its change plans and long term transformation. This will be a key consideration when deciding which organisations are invited to apply for funding.

For more information on the Local Sustainability Fund please see our guidance brochure.

Working with an advisor

If you are invited to apply for funding, we don’t expect you to do this by yourself. You will need to work with an advisor, someone with the experience and expertise to advise and help you evaluate, plan, and deliver the change that is best for your organisation.

The advisor could be someone you have worked with before, a consultant, or someone from a similar organisation – but you must be able to explain how and why you chose them, and how they will be able to help you. You will also need to be sure you can develop an effective working relationship with them; and that they have relevant knowledge and experience.

Initially your advisor will be involved if you are invited to submit a full application. They will help diagnose the changes you want to make, work with you to produce a business change plan, and help you write your application.

If you are successful, and we offer you funding, the advisor should help you deliver the changes to your organisation. Paying the advisor is likely to be one of your key project delivery costs, although please note that we are not making funding available to pay the advisor to help develop your application and business change plan.  

If you do not know of a suitable advisor to provide support and advice, we may be able to offer you some advice on how to find one.

Working with a local business

We are aware that charities and social enterprises partnering with local businesses can be of great benefit to both parties. As such, we are keen that any organisation invited to make an application for funding from the LSF also work with a local business. We would expect applicants to be able to identify a business or businesses that could offer advice on their plans for change. We would also expect applicants to include in the steps of their change plans information on how they plan to develop volunteering opportunities with local businesses. These opportunities would form part of a plan for achieving sustainability over the medium to long-term.

How much is available?

We hope to be able to provide average grants of around £70,000 per organisation although grants will vary according to organisational need.