Maintaining your advocacy service and growing its funding is hard work.
Tenders are tougher than ever. Grant programmes become more competitive every month. To be successful there’s a lot of things to get right, and a lot of things you can get wrong.
But within the advocacy community there’s a lot of experience and good advice available on how to improve your funding prospects and make sure your hard work yields results. We’ve gathered some of the best of it here in the first of our ‘Ask the Community’ articles. We asked eight independent advocacy leaders:
“What’s your best advice for other advocacy organisations wanting to maintain and grow their funding?”
Here’s what they said…
1. Make friends with your funders
The people funding you now are the people who are most likely to continue funding you so look after them, talk to them. Make sure not all your contacts with them are about problems or money. They love stories photos good news celebrations too. Make sure they know the difference you make and how valued you are.
Clare Wightman, Grapevine
2. Keep your bids simple
Write simple, intelligible bids. Most funders stuggle to understand what bids are asking for. Make their lives simple and keep it simple.
Craig Dearden-Phillips, Former CEO of Speaking Up (now VoiceAbility) and Founding CEO at Stepping Out
3. Pick a bid leader
Have one person leading the bid. Good bids have a clear authorial voice and don’t sound like something produced by a committee. No, this isn’t particularly inclusive or democratic. But I don’t think people will be worried about this once the money comes in.
Craig Dearden-Phillips (again)
4. Capture your impact
Spend money on capturing and communicating it well and pay for independent evaluations. Budget for these things and don’t see them as less important than salaries.
Clare Wightman, Grapevine (again)
5. Sell the benefits of what you do
Don’t sell the process. Nobody outside advocacy cares about the process and principles we spend half our life talking about. They do care whether we make people’s lives better and if so how. Tell them this – and don’t waste time on the process.
Craig Dearden-Phillips (last one!)
6. Be honest and true
When a potential funder asks a question about you or your bid, answer their question – not the question you want to answer. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. And above all, be true to yourself, your organisation and the people who will ultimately benefit from the service.
Chris Mackie, Advocard
7. Show commissioners how you can save them money
Develop good relationships with commissioners and take a proactive business approach to identifying gaps in services and presenting the case for the money saving role that advocacy can play in facilitating improved delivery of health and social care services.
Des Robertson, Advocacy in Somerset
8. Partner with others
Consider partnerships with other organisations which bring better value to the people using the services and deliver more for the money.
Jonathan Senker, VoiceAbility
9. Create long term partnerships
Create and grow long term partnerships with your funders. To do this you’ve got to consistently deliver quality outcomes, relationships and value. Key to the delivery of this quality is a passionate, personalised, responsive, skilled and focussed team.
Roger Milthorp. Cloverleaf Advocacy
10. Be a critical friend to Commissioners
Ensure that your clients and their views are at the heart of everything you do. Help your commissioners achieve a better understanding of what service improvements are required by being their critical friend.
Roger Bishop, Tros Gynnal
11. Focus on outcomes
Keep focused on the outcome of your work; voice, choice, control. These are fundable outcomes. Show how you achieve these in your work.
12. Show the wider outcomes of your work
Show how your advocates help people to achieve positive change in their lives, but also how advocacy and the experiences of the people we work with can improve services, processes and policy.
Paul Morrish, VoiceAbility
So that’s twelve solid pieces of advice from people who are managing to develop strong partnerships, write great bids and communicate the impact of what they do. What advice would you add to this list?