Charities lose out on contracts because they don't consider partnerships, says Navca report

Assessment of the infrastructure body's own tender support project highlights problems with identifying potential partners and the complexity of the bidding process

Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca
Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca

Local voluntary organisations and community groups are missing out on contracting opportunities because they are not considering working in partnership with others, according to a new Navca report.

The local infrastructure organisation carried out an assessment of its tender support project, which says the £70,000 scheme helped 148 organisations to win contracts worth more than £1.6m.

The report identifies a number of barriers that prevent voluntary organisations and community groups from bidding for contracts from public sector bodies.

It says the consultants working on the project expressed "universal agreement" that organisations "were not thinking enough about working with partners to deliver contracts and were missing out on opportunities as a consequence".

Some difficulties in partnership working were identified. "As one consultant commented, it is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation," the report says.

"Organisations do not know who would be the best partners for a contract until they have seen the service specification, which then often leaves a very short timescale in which to identify partners and form a robust delivery partnership."

Other difficulties in winning contracts included low levels of confidence in voluntary sector organisations because the bidding process seemed too daunting, a lack of understanding of the difference between a grant-funding approach and a contract-purchasing approach and a lack of capacity among smaller organisations.

Problems identified on the commissioning side included poor communication about how procurement works and short timescales.

Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, said the project proved that local charities could be helped to win contracts with a relatively small investment.

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