CVS (Council for Voluntary Services) Brent provides capacity-building to Brent’s voluntary sector, enabling local voluntary and community organisations to deliver their services effectively and efficiently to Brent’s diverse communities. Its work includes advice on issues such as governance, fundraising and organisational development, as well as running networking events, offering training and representing the needs of voluntary organisations at strategic level.
CVS Brent’s request for assistance from Cranfield Trust came in the context of Brent Council’s planned cuts in its core funding for the charity, from £160,000 to £80,000 over a period of 2 years, whilst the Council developed proposals for a new model for working with and supporting the voluntary and community sector. As a small organisation with just 7 staff, the halving of their core funding, representing a loss of almost 25% of total income, would inevitably have a big impact on their ability to maintain their services. The CEO asked for a volunteer to help her evaluate alternative models for future service delivery and put together a 2-year business plan.
Following an initial meeting and follow-up phone calls with Cranfield Trust Project Manager, Sue Elder, it became clear that the future operating model for CVS Brent would be very much dependent upon the outcome of the Council’s consultation with the sector, which was still ongoing. Therefore, a more short-term solution was needed, and it was agreed that the Trust volunteer would focus on helping Anju Bhatt, the charity’s CEO to re-evaluate the short-term business plan and assess how best to optimise service delivery whilst balancing the budget.
Volunteer Neil Marshall, a consultant specialising in strategy and entrepreneurship, held meetings with Anju and the charity’s Chair to discuss their options and decide upon the immediate actions they could take to protect services, managing the present situation whilst preparing for the future.
Anju said that “both the project leader and the consultant fully understood our situation and helped us to develop a strategy for the future.”
The discussions with Neil helped the CEO and Board to focus their minds on what was most important to protect the future of the organisation and maintain its services, ensuring that CVS Brent continued to meet its strategic objectives. This led them to take some tough decisions to restructure the organisation, reduce staffing hours, relocate to a more cost-effective office space, and develop a new fundraising plan. Anju felt that working with The Cranfield Trust had significantly strengthened the leadership and strategic direction of the organisation, saying:
“Neil fully understood our needs and his advice enabled us to prepare an options paper for the Board for 2020/21. This enabled the Board to make informed decisions and implement these, with the CEO and Chair working together to ensure that CVS Brent survives the cuts in funding and has a fund-raising plan in place for the next financial year. Working with the Cranfield Trust enabled our trustees to have clear view of the future and to make some hard decisions that will contribute to the sustainability of our organisation.”