Finance: Outlook - Finance at the hub of good services

Simon Hebditch

Two-year plan is set to improve the quality of charities' provision.

The Government is keen that charities and voluntary bodies provide increased services to individuals and communities in need. With the best will in the world, it is recognised that governments cannot provide everything that is required. There must be a partnership between charities, voluntary organisations, the Government (centrally and locally) and the business world.

If charities are to increase their involvement in service provision, then the sector's capacity must be enhanced. It is the job of government to set the fiscal, legal and regulatory environment within which non-profit bodies can flourish, and also to ensure that national resources are directed towards constantly improving the performance level of the charity sector.

The Home Office has, therefore, embarked on a comprehensive programme designed to help frontline organisations - those offering services to people on the ground - improve their delivery, focus on outcomes and illustrate their impact on the people with whom they work. The programme, ChangeUp, consists of a range of national hubs - centres of excellence that will offer a range of capacity-building resources to such frontline groups.

The hubs cover the encouragement of volunteering, effective financ-ing of voluntary and community organisations, performance-improvement strategies, development opportunities for the workforce and effective governance.

Charities Aid Foundation is involved with the finance hub, chairing the 18-organisation consortium, which has drawn up a detailed business plan for a two-year period starting in the spring. One of the principles of any hub must be to build on existing good practice rather than fall prey to the usual temptation to reinvent the wheel. The finance hub will focus on increasing the access of voluntary groups to high-quality information and support, and using the learning from this to influence the policy and practice of funders.

The work of the finance hub will include offering a website that will be a comprehensive signposting service to help people resolve their financial problems, a support service for the networks of funding advisers working locally and an intelligence 'alert' relating to changes in funding regimes.

But what will the website actually contain? There will be lists of funding sources, fundraising information, financial literacy and financial management items, income generation through trading and information on access to specific finance, including loan, equity and quasi-equity sources.

I hope the detailed business plan for the finance hub will be published very soon, and that all those involved will welcome comments and suggestions.

Simon Hebditch is director of external affairs at Charities Aid Foundation

KEY POINTS

- Government is keen that charities increase involve-ment in service provision

- Home Office's ChangeUp programme helps frontline organisations improve service delivery

- ChangeUp's finance hub to focus on increasing access by voluntary organisations to information and support.

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