Small charities need more support to demonstrate their impact, report finds

The local infrastructure body Navca concludes that many charities delivering services to hard-to-reach sections of the community do not feel it is necessary to show the effects of their work

Small charities need more support from infrastructure bodies in demonstrating the impact of their work, according to a new report from the umbrella body Navca.

In the report In sickness and in health, which is based on interviews carried out between December and February with 10 voluntary organisations delivering preventative health services, the local infrastructure body says many organisations feel confident they can demonstrate the impact and effectiveness of their work.

But many charities that are delivering services to hard-to-reach sections of society do not feel they need to demonstrate impact, because they believe they understand beneficiaries’ needs and how to address their issues, the report says. 

It says a relationship exists between the level of targeted infrastructure support and voluntary organisations’ ambition and confidence to take on new commissioning opportunities.

The report also says that infrastructure bodies are most effective in supporting commissioning when they assume a brokering role between commissioners and contractors, but that the potential for infrastructure bodies to be marginalised in specialist tendering markets was a threat to their continued existence.

Jason Pollard, director of evidence and evaluation at Think:Learn:Do, which carried out the research on Navca’s behalf, said: "This research is a timely reminder that small charities face challenges in evidencing the important work they carry out locally.

"All tendering is data driven to an extent, and infrastructure support is at its strongest when umbrella organisations help smaller organisations to demonstrate their ability, not only to deliver services efficiently, but to do so effectively by achieving outcomes.

"As health and social care commissioning processes become more specialised, so therefore does the need for an infrastructure offer that supports small charities to compete as social businesses in open tendering processes."

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of Navca, said: "This research provides further evidence of the value of local infrastructure. It shows that investing in infrastructure can help smaller charities understand and demonstrate their impact. This in turn gives commissioners and politicians the evidence they need for good decision making that provides both good outcomes and value for money."

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