“Felicia was very professional and quick to respond and her report was well presented, succinct and substantial – something we can actually use. We were impressed with the way she took the time to find out about us properly, as it can be tricky to find out what an organisation is really doing.”
Carol Dunnett, Chief Officer, VASWS
Providing objectivity for an organisational review
Voluntary Action South West Surrey
Voluntary Action South West Surrey (VASWS) is an organisation that provides support and specialist advice to voluntary community and faith groups in the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley. It runs local projects to enable under-represented groups to become more active in the community, and helps people find opportunities in the volunteering sector. The organisation had received a Reaching Communities (Building Capabilities) grant from the Big Lottery Fund and wanted objective help with an organisational review.
The VASWS leadership had identified a number of areas that they wanted to concentrate on and wanted these investigated by someone impartial. These included the charity’s approach to strategy and planning, governance and measuring and communicating the impact of its work.
Action Planning’s Felicia Willow was assigned to the project and began with a desktop exercise, reviewing the charity’s documentation and assessing its activities. She followed this with a day spent interviewing staff and trustees, evaluating the charity’s strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats and conducting an in-depth analysis of the identified areas of focus. Felicia wrote up her findings and recommendations in a report, with proposals categorised under high, medium and low priority, to help the charity decide on the most important next steps.
Felicia’s report prompted the VASWS leadership into taking three important decisions: 1, to bring in outside expertise to evaluate the charity’s work; 2, to arrange more training for the trustee board; 3, to overhaul the website – particularly important, as the needs to have a simple online application facility for volunteers to make sure it doesn’t lose any potential applicants.
Charities can be distracted by the constant day-to-day demands on their time and resources. However, conducting an external, robust review of specific areas, such as governance and impact measurement, ensures that internal planning is well targeted and charitable operations are as effective and efficient as possible, bringing positive benefits to beneficiaries.