Big Lottery Fund launches free online 'strength checker' tool for charities

The tool, which has been developed with the Cabinet Office, will be available from 1 February

VCSE StrengthChecker tool
VCSE StrengthChecker tool

The Big Lottery Fund has launched a new website that can be used by charities, community groups and social enterprises to receive free personalised reports on how to improve their performance and sustainability.

The VCSE StrengthChecker, which will be launched on 1 February, was developed by the BLF in partnership with the Cabinet Office and is mainly aimed at small to medium-sized organisations.

It has been programmed to diagnose the resilience of organisations by asking questions such as "Have you taken any cost saving measures over the last 24 months?", "Which of the following best describes the experience of your most senior member of staff?" and "What is the competition like for the product(s) or service(s) you offer?"

There are five sections of questions, dedicated respectively to finding out about organisations’ financial history, staff numbers and investment; how they manage their finances; the people in their organisation; their programmes, partnerships and plans for the future; and how they carry out their work.

The website will automatically generate personalised reports once organisations have completed all the questions. Reports highlight an organisation’s key strengths and areas to help them become more effective, including sustainability, marketing, strategy and planning, track record, quality and impact. They could be helpful to organisations in terms of planning funding bids to trusts and foundations, the BLF said.

Organisations will also be signposted to other sources of support and funding, including social investment.

Joe Ferns, UK knowledge and portfolio director at the BLF, said in a statement: "The UK VCSE sector is already seeing the benefits of online capability support like diagnostic tools. They help organisations understand their strengths and areas for improvement so they can make the best of their funding. This is a fast-evolving area and we will be listening to organisations so that we can learn what works for them – and what doesn’t. This means we, other funders and the sector as a whole can constantly adapt to meet the needs of organisations today and in the future."

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, said the website would strengthen the sector by helping small and medium-sized organisations adapt and access the resources they need.

The BLF is offering additional support to third sector organisations in Northern Ireland and Scotland. It has awarded the Northern Ireland chief executives body CO3 and the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations a £360,000 grant to run a new project called Path to Impact, which will work with 100 organisations in Northern Ireland and Scotland to help them better understand and strengthen their capacity.

The project will use a 146-question online survey called the Core Capacity Assessment Tool to help groups understand their strengths and weaknesses, allow support providers and funders to deliver more targeted support, and provide a comparative dataset on the capacity of the Northern Irish and Scottish third sectors for the first time.

Organisations based in Scotland or Northern Ireland that are interested in taking part can register their interest here

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