cumbrian charities

Rory convened and chaired a meeting on Friday 16th last week to champion the interests of smaller Cumbrian Charities. He brought together a cross-section of local charity representatives, third-sector umbrella organisations, and County Council representatives to discuss the challenges being faced by smaller charitable and voluntary organisations in tendering and bidding for council services. The objective was to make it easier for small charities to compete with large well-funded national charities, who often in the MP’s words “win by having too many professional grant and proposal writers in their head offices.” Local charities “may be less practiced at proposal writing but they have all the local knowledge and relationships and commitment, which are so essential.”

Attendees at the event, which was kindly hosted by Eden Mencap in Penrith’s Little Dockray, included County Councillor Oliver Pearson, Cabinet Member for Communities; Alan Ratcliffe, Assistant Director of Organisational Development at Cumbria County Council; Andy Beeforth of Cumbria Community Foundation; Jacqui Taylor of Eden Mencap; Mike Muir of Impact Housing; Pam Hutton of East Cumbria Family Support; Sheila Thompson of Hospice at Home; and Chris Mitchell of Eden Carers.

Rory, who wrote recently on the need for recognition of the incredible value that local organisations bring to their communities (read here), said that the meeting had been a success and a major step forward in thinking more flexibly around how small charities can be “engaged in the tendering process, rather than defeated by it”.

He said: “Giant ‘third-sector organisations’ are competing against our own home-grown organisations, such as Eden Mencap, East Cumbria Family Support and Chrysalis. These big national charities have strengths (professional management, economies of scale, skills and good track records) but this is not why they consistently win contracts: they generally win because they are richer and more powerful.  Instead, we need to be rewarding local knowledge and experience, rather than hyper-polished proposals. Following this extremely useful meeting we will form a small but – hopefully – effective informal steering group to take the needs of Cumbria’s network of small charities to Whitehall, and to urge Ministers to foster a sense of flexibility around procurement, look at practical measures that we can take to protect local charities, and the commitments we need that we will not lose our local providers.”

Rory will form an informal think-tank to lobby Ministers and encourage practical solutions from Whitehall.

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