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NCVO and Big Lottery Fund launch £6m Assist programme

Scheme will permit 1,400 infrastructure organisations in England to apply for financial assistance

Dharmendra Kanani and Sir Stuart Etherington
Dharmendra Kanani and Sir Stuart Etherington

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Big Lottery Fund have officially launched the £6m Assist programme to support infrastructure organisations.

The NCVO is running the scheme on behalf of the BLF over the next three years. An estimated 1,400 organisations in England will be eligible to apply for financial assistance, which will take the form of vouchers to pay for training, consultancy and other development support.

Awards are expected to range between £2,000 and £7,000. They will be given out in categories including strategy and planning, financial sustainability and developing strategic relationships.

Infrastructure organisations will be able to register and apply for support on the Assist website from next Monday.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, jointly launched the programme with Dharmendra Kanani, England director at the BLF, yesterday.

Etherington said: "Infrastructure organisations are the backbone of the voluntary sector – providing crucial guidance and resources to thousands of front-line charities to help them deliver their aims."

"Strengthening these key organisations will strengthen the whole sector. This innovative new programme will help organisations develop the resilience that testing times require and will prepare them to take full advantage of future opportunities."

The programme will give organisations the power to determine their own needs and choose the training and consultancy providers they feel are right for them, he added.

Kanani said: "BLF has ambitious plans for how it can further support the voluntary and community sector organisations we fund in England.

"This means giving front-line organisations greater flexibility and choice to decide upon the kind of infrastructure support they need. This in turn requires intelligent investment in infrastructure bodies so they are best placed to respond to those demands."

Assist will also provide help through a range of networking events, visits and mentoring. Organisations will be able to provide each other with support and share experiences through its website.

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