VCSE strengthchecker – summary of the site and user journey

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations make a vital contribution to society. We know though that many  value structured support to plan effectively, when it comes to prioritising the strengths they need to build on most for their development and growth.

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

As part of that, The National Lottery Community Fund are offering all VCSEs in the UK an opportunity to analyse their organisational strengths and postion and to identify areas that could be developed to improve organisational strength through this diagnostic tool, the VCSE Strengthchecker. It is not linked to any National Lottery Community Fund funding programmes and it is completely free to use.

If organisations are applying for funding, or intend to apply for funding, whether this is for a National Lottery Community Fund grant, government grant or through a trust or foundation, it may be useful for them to complete the VCSE Strength Checker to assure themselves that they are also building the costs of any important organisational development into their bids or income strategy, as part of good practice in full cost recovery and continuous improvement.

Please note that completing the VCSE Strength Checker will not give any organisation a direct advantage when applying for funding either from the National Lottery Community 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 organisations understand where it must focus to become more resiliently “intervention and 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 a range of questions about your organisation.

It would be best to fill it out as a management team, having drawn on the perspectives of your stakeholders (trustees, service users and other organisations) as relevant. It may also be useful to involve a facilitator to bring together those perspectives or 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.  It does this by running analytics across your answers to the questions, which have been designed to get below the surface of individual answers to produce a deeper and more holistic review of the things that matter and can help you prioritise the next steps in your organisation’s development.  

  • These strength insights 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.

HOW TO COMPLETE THE VCSE STRENGTHCHECKER

  • Register to access the VCSE strengthchecker
  • Complete registration with a valid email address
  • Complete the questions – answers can be saved and returned to at a later time with login details
  • Users receive a personalised report highlighting your organisation’s strengths, and areas to develop.

Data entered into the VCSE strengthchecker can be extracted, anonymised and shared with third parties such as evaluators and other funders to inform the National Lottery Community Fund’s approach to sector support and in order to influence policy and practice to improve support for the VCSE sector.

In order to use the Strength Checker you will need to register on the site. This requires a valid email address to complete registration.

It takes about 40 minutes to complete (answers can be saved for users to return to them at a later date) and can be used by any type or size of VSCE organisation.

To get the most out of this review, organisations are asked to:

  • Respond openly and honestly to the questions.
  • Consider completing the questions as a management team. Working through these questions will take a little longer if you discuss it with colleagues, but you will learn more about your organisation and what others think.
  • Think about using an external “critical friend” to help you really challenge yourself.

Organisations are asked to make sure you have the following documentation to hand:

  • Most recent audited accounts
  • Most recent
  • Staff Structure
  • Next year’s
  • Fundraising/income generation information and breakdowns 

Some tips on how to use the Strength Checker

  • You can skip a question and return to it later
  • You can amend your answers at any time.
  • Some questions have sliders to allow you to record your answers. Position the slider where you think it best fits your organisation according to the descriptions given. If you think you are in between two descriptions, you can move the slider to an appropriate position between them.
  • Don't worry too much about the precise positioning of a slider. A little nudge will not affect things greatly - thinking about what the question means and how you can improve is much more important.

SUPPORT

If you have any problems with registration or the use of the VCSE Strength Checker, please visit our Support FAQ where you can find answers to all of the most common issues. If your question is not answered in our FAQ you can get in touch with our support team using the webform provided.