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Is your Organisation Fund-ready?

Like all companies and organisations during the #Covid-19 lockdown period, we have been exploring new ways to enhance how we engage with our existing client base as well as others across key sectors we work in i.e. the Community & Voluntary (Third Sector) and Public Sector.

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Like all companies and organisations during the #Covid-19 lockdown period, we have been exploring new ways to enhance how we engage with our existing client base as well as others across key sectors we work in i.e. the Community & Voluntary (Third Sector) and Public Sector. For us, we felt a good place to start would be sharing some more of our teams’ thoughts, experiences, and expertise.

Part of this reflection has led to the decision to organise and deliver an exciting virtual event (launching this week!) and we are delighted to have secured the involvement of a range of key #funders, partner companies and established local figures on this. During planning for this event, we shared new terminology that we feel, better represents the concept of “state of readiness” when discussing #funding or investment.

State of readiness (shovel ready is another variation of this) has long been a phrase used to describe the state that an organisation or project needs to achieve in order to be in a position to secure public funding and, in most cases, it relates to capital projects. For example, an organisation has secured ownership or a suitable term lease on a site, has clearly defined the need for the project, has planning and any other regulatory approval secured, has suitable governance arrangements in place and has a business plan / economic appraisal completed for the project.

We feel that this process is good practice and we actively support our clients to progress towards a state of readiness. By undertaking a robust process, not only does in increase the potential to secure funding for any project, but our experience is that the organisation and representatives within it are much clearer about what they want to achieve and ultimately the project delivers better outcomes for local communities.

So, our challenge as a company is, how do we support organisations to embed this practice across all aspects of their work and not just for large capital or long term projects? From here we have developed the concept of being “fund-ready”.

What is being #fundready? Here are some key elements:

Firstly, being fund-ready is not about satisfying the needs of a funder, nor is it about applying for funding for the sake of it just because an opportunity exists. In fact, it often means understanding when not to bid for funds because they don’t align with the needs of your community.

Step 1 – Being fund-ready is understanding the needs of the community(ies) you represent – it’s important to consult with your community, members, service users, beneficiaries regularly. If you don’t, you can’t really be fund-ready. The more your work is aligned to the needs of the people and communities you serve (and the more evidence you have of this), the more effective your organisation will be and the more funding / resources you will secure to “do more good!”. Our advice – have conversations, circulate a survey, phone partner organisations, host a meeting virtually or put a post for feedback on social media. There are lots of ways of doing this, but it is a vital part of being fund-ready!!

Step 2 – Being fund-ready is understanding the capacity of your organisation to respond to those needs – consult internally within staff teams, committees, volunteers etc on a regular basis. What challenges are you facing in delivering effective services? What solutions do you have to meet the needs of the community? what is the capacity of the organisation to grow / develop and do more? Are you the best placed to tackle a local need or do you need support?

Step 3 – Being fund-ready is having a plan in place– it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be a long detailed document and it doesn’t have to be visionary but you do need a plan. You need to be clear in what problem you are trying to solve and what change you are trying to create. Sometimes the simpler the better. In essence the plan needs to contain a number of key priorities to work towards (e.g. relating to governance, services, activities and areas of development), write down what resources and funding are required to achieve these priorities and note what the organisation wants to achieve as a result. The most important thing is that it needs to reflect step 1 and 2! Anyone can write a plan, the good ones have a strong process underpinning them. The good ones will be delivered!

Follow these steps and repeat regularly (annually is our advice!) and your organisation will be fund-ready. Equipped with knowledge about the needs of your community, your organisational capacity and your plan, funders will be clear about 1. what you want them to invest in and why, 2. The reasons why you are the right organisation to invest in, and 3. what difference this investment will make to people lives.

In our experience, being fund-ready alongside proactively engaging and communicating with funders as part of funding applications & proposals = funding success.

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Prior to taking up my role with S3 Solutions, I worked as a journalist in all six counties in Northern Ireland. Since returning home from the University of Stirling in 2011, I worked for several weekly newspapers, two radio stations and provided PR and media support to a range of organisations.

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