FINANCE NEWS: Groups to share support services

BASSAC, the membership network for "multi-purpose" community organisations, is to develop a pilot shared services project which it believes could be rolled out nationally.

The "sharing without merging" project will set up a "management service structure" covering areas such as human resources, finance, fundraising, IT and building and asset management for members of BASSAC in the London Borough of Southwark.

A total of 14 community organisations, including the Time and Talents Association, Salmon Youth Centre and the Wickway Community Centre Association, have signed up to the scheme which is funded by a £15,000 grant from the Baring Foundation.

BASSAC chief executive Ben Hughes said he was in discussion with other "community and enterprise" networks about extending the scope of the project.

"We are keen to roll it out into a more ambitious programme," said Hughes.

"It has fundamental national significance. There is no reason why it can't be replicated nationwide."

The "sharing without merging" project has a financial dimension with plans to pool investments and set up a separate trading organisation for members.

Hughes said the project could find a role both in generating income by providing services for the local authority and also in influencing policy.

Discussions will soon be taking place with the Active Community Unit about how the unit can support the project's development.

"It has implications for the Treasury's cross-cutting review (on voluntary organisations and public services)," said Hughes. "It's part of developing a better local infrastructure enabling organisations to work in strategic partnerships."

Consultant John Pepin, who is advising BASSAC on the project, said charities were following the private sector in realising the benefits of shared services.

"If you look at the Fortune 500, 40 per cent use shared shares. If companies can do it, why not charities? You get better expertise and it enhances the images of organisations because there is not so much duplication."

Clusters of organisations are working on specific elements of the project and the management service structure should be in place by March.

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