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Building Effectiveness in the Hertfordshire Voluntary Sector

When I planned my High Sheriff year I was very keen to use this as an opportunity to build the capacity of local charitable organisations to help them sustain the important work they do in the county. I approached Hertfordshire Community Foundation (HCF) about my ideas because, alongside their grant programmes, HCF also provide training courses and development advice via HCF Training and Development. Building Effectiveness is the programme that evolved out of our discussions. We are right in the midst of the first year, all finding it hard work and challenging as well as very rewarding. My vision is that we should find a way of keeping this going into the future to help as many groups as possible. Here is an update from the Project Manager, Sarah Elliott, about how it's going so far.

Discussions with Will about his ideas started over a year ago. At the time HCF was developing its “Stronger Communities” initiative. Volunteering is key to this, but we decided that we could have the greatest impact on strengthening organisations by focusing on Trustee boards and senior management. We successfully secured funding, initially for two years, from the Garfield Weston Foundation, together with a contribution from Will’s own fund. We also established a key partnership with the Cranfield Trust who have a national network of senior business professionals experienced in sharing their business skills with charities.

When designing the Building Effectiveness programme we looked at the various initiatives available around the country. We retained some of the key components but also introduced some of our own new ideas which we think make the package pretty innovative:

  • Participating organisations initially work with one of HCF’s experienced advisors to undertake a comprehensive baseline assessment

  • This entails using our own online tool – DevelApp to analyse all key functions

  • The advisor also supports them to produce their Development Action Plan – identifying their own tailored improvement programme for the next 9 months

  • Each organisation is assigned a business mentor – with the right specialist skills to advise and support their key strategic area for development

  • Participating organisations attend a programme of workshops hosted by Will and supported by me and Dawn Harrison Wallace, the Cranfield Trust Project Manager. These provide a great opportunity to come together and explore specific issues around leadership and change management.

  • The HCF advisors maintain regular contact as well to ensure that everyone is on track with their plans and respond to any questions/issues if necessary

  • They will revisit the organisations at the end of the programme to conduct a follow-up analysis. There will be High Sheriff awards for those with the best development journeys

Full details of the programme are on the HCF Training and Development Website.

The 2017 Building Effectiveness Programme was advertised in December 2016. Organisations were invited to attend information sessions to find out more prior to the application deadline in January 2017. There was great interest – with over 30 organisations attending the information sessions. In the end 18 applied, and we already have quite a list of those interested for 2018. Our selection panel undertook a rigorous scoring procedure to select the 10 participants for 2017. These are:

Crossroads Care Hertfordshire North

CVS Broxbourne and East Herts

Grove Cottage Bishops Stortford Mencap


Headway Hertfordshire

Herts Inclusive Theatre

Herts Young Homeless

Home-Start Watford and Three Rivers

Rennie Grove Hospice Care

Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust

They all completed their baseline assessments and finalised their Development Action Plans by early April. All are now meeting regularly with their assigned mentors. Five of these are from the Cranfield Trust, the other five are experienced local business people from HCF and Will’s network of contacts. We appreciate enormously the time and effort that the mentors are putting in to support these organisations.

We have had some good feedback so far:

“In our situation a broad approach to the strengths/weaknesses of the organisation was the only way to get clarity of the key issues and scale of the problems we need to resolve.”

“Found DevelApp very useful and the report produced was excellent”

“The process has been useful in focussing the Trustees of our organisation.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the Building Effectiveness Programme. It is providing me with a great opportunity to take some time away from the day to day work, review where we are at as an organisation and learn from some other wonderful charities.”

“We are very pleased with Super Steve - all going well; we are very focused”.

Henry Holland Hibbert has inspired Home-start Watford and Three Rivers to improve the visibility and impact of their marketing. Here he is with mascot Home-start Henry!

Group working was involved in the baseline assessment process. CVS Broxbourne and East Herts involved trustees, staff and volunteers.

Members of the team at Herts Inclusive Theatre.

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