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Charities to the rescue: filling gaps left by changing services

By Marcus Watson

Our new Conservative government is not beating about the bush. In the last few months, we’ve seen George Osborne instruct unprotected government departments to model savings of between 25-40%, and a Welfare Bill passed that will squeeze the relief given to those most in need. George is not mucking about when he talks about reducing the deficit, so how do these real and potential changes impact the social sector?

Well, on the face of things, pretty badly. Many charities and social enterprises rely on being commissioned by government to provide services, and if these budget reductions come into force these services may well change dramatically, or even disappear

Never fear, however. All is most certainly not lost. This dwindling of government funds opens up a space. The social sector is perfectly poised to fill some of these gaps by continuing to provide the services they have extensive experience in, and expanding what they do to meet our changing environment. To achieve this, charities in particular will have to change strategically, and that’s where brand can kick into action.

By showing people the value of the work they are doing, the pieces they are putting back together, charities will have an entirely new avenue for fundraising. Volunteering organisations are prime candidates for such a change, using trained but unpaid individuals driven by a desire to make a difference to deliver much needed support services. Volunteering Matters, formerly CSV, have changed their name and their outlook to fit this new environment. Their call to action, to take volunteering seriously and to lead on policy and practice, reflects a new form of charity that actively seeks to make the best of this new world.

Nowhere do cuts make a bigger splash than in healthcare. With NHS budgets getting sifted through with a fine-tooth comb, there are a number of fringe services that are losing their funding. This is where health charities can step up to the plate. Working alongside the NHS, they can help deliver some of the softer, personal services in local communities. This leverages the great strength of charities, local knowledge, and pairs their skills with the clinical expertise of the NHS. The challenge for these charities though is convincing people to trust their brand as much as the NHS services they’re working alongside. This is no mean feat. By buying into the values of the health service, and clearly communicating a dedication to patient focused care, charities can help build the same loyalty and respect as the iconic brand whose playground they’re playing in.

None of this will come to much though if there isn’t some cash flying around.  And what better way to use your money in an age of austerity than to invest in helping others, all without costing you a penny? Organisations like Charity Bank, Triodos, and CAF look after your money, earn you interest on your savings, whilst loaning it intelligently to projects that can transform local communities.  Alternatively, Big Society Capital invest through intermediaries to fund social projects across the UK. Uniquely, all these investments make money that is then plied back into supporting more life changing projects, it’s a simple idea on a massive scale. 

The task of brand is to make the work of these amazing organisations stand out and make their ambitions become tangible. It’s not just talking about what you do, it’s about showing your organisation to the world in a way that will best achieve your objectives. By positioning yourselves as a leader in your sector, helping to make up the shortfall as the State slims down, you can draw credibility and support to your doorstep. Then, you just have to deliver.