What is it all about?

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations make a vital contribution to society, often providing support for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities.

We know though that many struggle to plan effectively for development and growth, which can jeopardise their long-term future.    

We aim to help these organisations become more resilient so that they can continue to support their beneficiaries in future years.

As part of that, we are offering all VCSEs in the UK an opportunity to analyse their organisation and identify areas that could be developed to improve organisational strength through this diagnostic tool. It is not linked to any funding programmes and it is completely free to use.

If you are applying for funding, or intend to apply for funding, whether this is for a Big Lottery Fund grant, government grant or through a trust or foundation, it may be useful to complete the VCSE Strength Checker and build its findings into your application.

Please note that completing the VCSE Strength Checker will not give you any direct advantage when applying for funding either from the Big Lottery Fund or any other funder. 

This is because it is not linked to any specific funding programme and hence is not part of the requirements of funding. However, indirectly, the benefits could be significant in helping your organisation understand where it must focus to become “investment ready”.

Who is it for?

Predominantly small-to-medium sized organisations but could be useful for larger VCSEs too.

How does it work?

The VCSE Strength Checker will ask you a range of questions about your organisation.

It would be best to fill it out as a management team. It may also be useful to involve an external “critical friend” to challenge your thinking.

At the end, you will receive a personalised report highlighting your organisation’s strengths, and areas to develop to build core effectiveness.

These will be reported under the following headings:

  • Sustainability
  • Marketing and opportunities
  • Strategy and planning
  • Track record and capability
  • Quality and impact

This feedback could be used as a guide to any work that you undertake to strengthen your organisation.

Social Investment

Unlike grants and donations, social investment is finance offered to VCSE organisations with the expectation that the investors get their money back, often with interest, and that the investment enables social change.

Social investment is increasingly desirable as a financing option to fill financing gaps for innovation and growth and for sustainability and autonomy.

If you are a VCSE based and operating in the UK and thinking about how social investment could support your organisation’s journey towards sustainability, then you may wish to consider a Big Lottery Fund grant programme called Big Potential.

Big Potential is a £20 million programme delivered by the Social Investment Business Foundation (SIB) in partnership with Charity Bank, Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), Locality, and the University of Northampton. It offers grants and support to improve the sustainability, capacity and scale of VCSE organisations to deliver greater social impact and have greater appeal to social investors and to win contracts.

Big Potential offers its own online diagnostic on its website along with a range of other useful tools including a handy guide to social Investment. To access all the resources including the diagnostic visit the Big Potential Website and register here.

It is similar to the diagnostic on this site but we are unable to transfer data between the two and so you may wish to think about which diagnostic will suit your current needs. For some applications to Big Potential the completion of the diagnostic is mandatory.