Charities cannot expect commissioners of services to take the main responsibility for making their relationships effective, according to Orli Gorenski, head of Acevo's full cost recovery programme.
Gorenski believes that developing good relationships between charities and commissioners is crucial. "But commissioners need to know what local people want in order to be able to draw up contracts that meet those needs," she says.
"Many third sector organisations are delivering amazing services, but if you aren't telling people about those services and the effect of having them, then you can't blame the commissioners for not knowing what people do," she says.
"It's the responsibility of third sector groups to educate commissioners as well."
Her remarks come after the publication by the chief executives body last week of four new briefings on successful procurement, focusing on negotiation, tendering, VAT and impact reporting techniques (Third Sector Online, 3 April). She says the aim was to standardise the advice available to charities.
"Before we did our research, a very mixed bag of information was available and there was no set guidance on the commissioning process," Gorenski says.
"It's true that the picture varies between regions, but there is best practice that can be carried through all the local authorities."
A recent NCVO report warned charities against claiming they offer 'added value' because it implies that they can deliver more than other sectors. It advised that they should focus instead on 'full value', the wider social value of their activities (Third Sector, 19 March). Gorenski says charities should emphasise 'soft outcomes', such as the social and environmental benefits they provide.
"For instance, it's not only the number of volunteers that an organisation is employing, but also the type - if some of the volunteers are people with mental health problems, then this is helping to take the pressure off another local service," she says.
The guides, which are available online, are the result of a six-month Acevo research project funded by the Finance Hub. The briefings were updated before publication with feedback from UK commissioners and third sector contractors.