Our mission: do good business and create social value
Last year we reported that it had been difficult times, after years of austerity and the ending of core contracts that had previously run for many years. As a mitigation strategy during that year, we had been developing our investment readiness credentials supporting organisations to strengthen across all parts of their business models, typically this work included:
- Analysing and developing appropriate financial management systems,
- Developing robust financial projections based on the market needs
- Undertaking market analysis
- Developing marketing strategies
- Increasing awareness of and ability to manage and monitor social impact
- Strengthening governance of organisations including supporting director recruitment
- Developing their business plans
During this year, as predicted, our investment readiness work took off and we have worked with five organisations across the Midlands on significant investment readiness projects. In addition to this new strand of work, we undertook individual commissions in social impact measurement, evaluation, strategy and planning with four organisations in our local area. The outcome of this work is that we have supported organisations to secure £850,000 in blended finance to help them grow.
We have continued to work with a range of partners providing expertise, for example, on the Midlands School for Social Entrepreneurs action learning programme working directly with over 40 individuals starting on their social enterprise journeys.
We have continued to support the strategic development of the sector in our local area (Solihull) working with a range of voluntary sector and public sector partners through our role on the Voluntary and Community Sector Reference Group.
This year we are unfortunately reporting a significant loss (-£12,732). In the lead up to the end of the year we expected to break-even on the year having successfully transitioned from the delivery of long-term contracts to short term, but intensive, investment readiness consultancies and individual commissions. However, as readers will know, the Covid 19 Virus took hold and our work ground to a halt with lockdown measures.
We therefore enter the new financial year with reasonable reserves but little short-term prospects of new work being commissioned. We are though confident that once the unprecedented restrictions on our ability to do business is lifted that we will bounce back and continue to be successful and continue in our work developing the local VCSE sector whilst helping them strengthen and improve the support they provide to mostly vulnerable people.
In the previous year we saw a growth of around 20% with additional contracts and consultancies for charities and social enterprises. However, the market and climate is still a very difficult one for our type of work and this current year we saw a drop in turnover of around 17%. As a lean organisation our costs have also been reduced so our operating profit was at a similar level to last year.
We renewed our credentials as approved providers for Bright Ideas and The Cooperative Hive and this year have been working to develop our investment readiness consultancy work with a number of social investment organisations. This follows our successes attracting repayable finance for Chelmund’s Community Enterprise in the previous year. We expect this area of work to develop and increase over the coming years.
Our main work in this period has been the delivery of the final year of Solihull’s Community Enterprise for Success support programme for VCSEs, alongside commissioned work to support the development of consortia and strengthen the sector’s ability to tender for upcoming contracts.
In December 2018 we undertook a mini evaluation of the CEFS project which showed that the project had been highly valued and successful with:
- the overall targets (2.5 years) being met
- 200 plus individual enquiries
- 50 plus organisations receiving one to one and one to many support
- 36 business assists being achieved
- 90 plus individuals in the sector having been trained through attendance of various developmental workshops ranging from good governance and leadership to good bookkeeping, writing better tenders, impact measurement and marketing.
- those organisations assisted in the programme grew over the year with an increase of staff and reported income of £422k. (Although this shows a growth in income it is important to note that about half of this growth was from one off sources).
The work on consortia development and tender readiness has also been successful helping the local sector secure some £2m of contracts for adult and social care services in January 2019.
Project delivery and quality has been high with 100% of those supported in one to one rating the quality high and 100% attendees of the CEFS workshops rating the content and trainer’s subject knowledge as good or excellent. Negative comments were received in relation to some venues, refreshments and the availability of parking which has informed our use of venues for future work.
In addition, we supported a cohort of 6 start-up social enterprise working alongside the Social Enterprise Development Foundation and Power to Change Seed fund which provided added value with start-up grants.
We’ve continued to provide individuals (with low incomes) aiming to set up or start a social enterprise with pro bono advice working with 5 individuals over the course of the year free of charge. We also continue to work with the school for social entrepreneurs (Midlands) providing expert sessions for their cohort of learners.
In terms of our buy social policies this year 67% of our administrative expenses was spent within the public or charitable sector (an increase of 10% on last year) and 15% of staff costs has been spent with sole traders.
We have met our principles on payment terms paying all invoices to sole traders, social enterprises and charities with 14 days and other invoices within 30 days.
In 2017/18 our staff donated time on projects to SEDF enabling us to donate £1,750. to the charity.
In addition we supported 6 new social enterprise start up organisations with pro-bono advice and guidance which (at our normal prices) would cost £4,200.
- 62% of our administrative spend was with not for personal profit making organisations.
- 32% of our staff costs was spent on sole traders.
Community Chip Shop Chelmund’s Fish and Chips
2017/18 saw the launch of Chelmund’s Community Enterprises, which is a special purpose vehicle. We worked with the local groups (The Churches on Chelmnd’s Cross, Three Trees Community Centre and the Olive Branch Kitchen) over two years to develop a robust business plan.
The business plan helped us to secure a lease in a brand new shop unit in Chelmund’s Cross and more than £90,000 of social (repayable) investment.
Our work was completed pro-bono and at risk and amounts to more than £10,000 worth of consultancy support. We believed in the idea so much we became partners and have loaned (interest free) £5,000 to the enterprise too.
Chelmund’s Fish and Chips is believed to be the first fish and chip shop in the country to be set up as a community enterprise and was featured on the BBC One Show on 7th March 2018.
Community Enterprise for Success
We continue to run the Community Enterprise for Success programme of support in Solihull which strengthens the voluntary and community sector by developing trading activities.
In 2016/2017 more than 150 individuals have attended our free at point of use training programmes and workshops and 33 organisations are receiving tailored one to one support. A preliminary evaluation shows more than 60 new jobs created and increases in turnover of £240,000. for organisations who have received support.
As well as being a social enterprise that supports new and existing social enterprises, we Buy Social wherever possible. This includes hiring training rooms, networking and meeting spaces and of course the refreshements and lunches at our networking events. We activiely seek other social enterprises when purchasing other things too e.g. marketing materials and cleaning. We monitor our spend and aim to see increased (in percentage terms) purchases from social enterprises and charities year on year. Hoepfully one day, we’ll be able to source all our supplies from a social enterprise or charity!
Older things for those who like to know more
- This year has been a year of change with contracts ending and new contracts starting. We were successful in this transitional period to gain approved provider status for two national initiatives (Cooperative Hive and Bright Ideas). Both funds are aimed at supporting social enterprises and community businesses either in their start-up and feasibility stage or their growth stage and provide funded consultancy support. This year we have supported 4 organisations – two start-ups and two growth.
- Our pro bono (free) consultancy to try to achieve greater impact, to this end in this financial year we have supported a number of initiatives and organisations with free consultancy. This year this has been 6 days to Castle Pool Community Partnership, 3 days to Moseley Road Baths Action Group, 2 days to the Firs and Bromford Big Local group, 8 days to Chelmund’s Community Enterprises, 2 days to Changes UK, 3 days to Caterpillars Play Group and 4 days to Wildside Activity Centre. Totaling 28 days pro bono support worth £11,200 at our normal charges. In addition two individuals (young people) have been provided with ongoing mentor support on an ad hoc basis.
- We have worked with Castle Vale Tenants and Residents Alliance (now Spitfire Advice and Support Services) with local sustainability funded consultancy. This has been a major transformation project working with the organisation at all levels including their trading subsidiary. The support has helped them develop skills and enhance their governance whilst re-aligning, re-branding and developing a host of new community and income generating services including a community cinema which has given them the foundations for sustainable community enterprise.
- Toward the latter part of the year we were successful in gaining a new Community Enterprise for Success contract with Solihull Council to support the local VCSE improve their skills, become more resilient and sustainable through trading activity. During the period this report covers more than 50 community enterprises have been supported with one to one support or one to many (workshops and training programmes). The project activities range from providing board level strategic guidance through to grass roots communications and beneficiary engagement strategies. It is a little too early to measure the impact of this at the time of writing, but the signs of increased employment, increased volunteers and increased income are evident from initial feedback. This contract runs for two years so we will be able to provide further impact reporting in our next annual report.
- In addition we continue to work with the School for Social Entrepreneurs by providing expert session on structures and governance and have worked with Walsall Council through Fircroft College to provide neighbourhood managers with training around structures, governance and finances for voluntary and community groups to help them support local voluntary sector in their areas.
Projects and programmes
- In 2015-16 we successfully worked with more than 30 organisations in Solihull to ensure they were tender reaady. Each attending a range of specifically developed workshops and seminars over the course of a year. In addition we undertook a large scale change management consultancy funded by the Local Sustainability Fund. Inadditon we worked on 2 Bright Ideas projects, 2 Cooperative Hive projects and a range of individual commisions from local charities.
- 2014-15 we ran the CEFS project for a 3rd year supporting more than 100 organisations with 63 third sector employees attending our workshops and training programmes, 8 groups benefit from our Social Value Action Learning programme and 12 full business assists were achieved. in addition through our social mission we supported more than 10 start up enterprises completely free of charge amounting to around (£14,000) worth of support at our normal rates.
- 30 full business assists were achieved in the CEFS (2012-2015) programme with 20% responding to our impact survey. Our support helped these groups achieve an additional £398,000 income; create 22 jobs and six volunteer placements. Rolling this up to the full 30 organisations would suggest an increased income of nearly £2m and 110 new jobs.
- Within the Big Assist programme we have now completed 23 consultancy projects supporting voluntary sector infrastructure organisations to sustain their services through developing enterprise and traded activity. During these projects we have maintained a quality rating of 4.7/5.
- See our case studies here