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Planning Your Project – Part 7

planningThat’s all folks! In this week’s e-bulletin we bring to a close our tips and hints on how to plan your projects. We trust you have found this series of e-bulletin articles useful.

FINALLY: Start applying for funding!
Once you have fully thought through and planned your project then you will be in a good position to start sourcing funding.

When making funding applications it’s always a good idea to read the guidelines that each funder produces.

Planning Checklist:
• Remember always to keep your focus on your target audience – think about the differences you want to make that will improve their lives.
• Identify how you will do this: what activities and services will you provide to best help you achieve these differences?
• Involve participants in the planning – they are the best people to tell you what they need
• Think about how your project fits with and complements any services that are already running in your area that might be addressing the same need
• Think about the resources you will need – such as staff time, equipment and materials
• Plan the timing of the project – how much time will it take to plan, prepare for and carry out what you need to do?
• Think about who will be responsible for the running of the project and the individual activities within it. This is the basis of your plan
• Think about how you will monitor whether your project is making the difference you set out to achieve
• Carefully cost your budget
• Read funders’ guidelines before applying for funding

Planning Your Project – Part 6

planning3Continuing on from last week’s e-bulletin here is your next two tips to planning your project.

Write your project budget
One of the last stages of planning is to work out your budget. It is only once you have decided all the resources you require and for how long you need them, that you’ll be able to write down an accurate budget. We’ve provided some tips below:

• Be as accurate as you can with your costings.
• If you’re going to need equipment, research the costs and look around for the best deals.
• For salary costs, remember to include related costs such as National Insurance.

Tip: Involve your treasurer or finance officer in the financial planning. They can also be present if a funder has indicated they will be calling you to help you answer budget and finance questions, if you think that would be helpful.

10. Don’t forget about monitoring your project
Think about what signs (sometimes called ‘indicators’) will show that you are making those differences. What changes in the participants behaviour, attitude, relationships or environment will you look for to show you are making progress towards or are achieving the differences that you set out to?

Think about what tools or methods you will use to collect information to show whether the difference is being made. You don’t have to design a new set of tools, learn new methods or purchase a sophisticated measurement system. Often, you may simply need to add some focused questions about these differences to tools you are already planning to use, such as staff observation sheets or one-to-one interviews with attendees.

It’s important to start measuring the difference you are making as soon as your project begins, and take time to reflect regularly on the information you collect. This will help you understand how far along, and what changes may be needed as you go along to improve the difference you make.

Tip: Remember, if your project is already running, whether funded by us previously or by another funder, then you should have been able to measure its success so far and be able to tell us what difference it has made to the children and young people using the project. We have a question on our form which gives you the chance to provide this information.

Come back next week to the last Planning Your Project tips and hints article.

Planning Your Project – Part 5

planning6Continuing on from last week’s e-bulletin here is your next two tips to planning your project.

Plan what skills and resources you need

You also need to be sure that your organisation has the necessary skills and resources to carry out the project.

Tip: Organisations have told us that one of the most common reasons that projects fail is poorly planned resources. Don’t let that happen to your project.

Once you have planned the activities and services that you want to provide, you need to work out what resources you are going to need to be able to make them happen. These are things like:

• Staffing (voluntary or paid)
• Equipment
• Premises
• Support costs e.g. management and administration

Think about the staff you need to manage or supervise the project as well as deliver it. If you’re a small organisation this may be the same person.

You may already be providing similar services, in which case you can use your experience to work out what you will need.

If this is a new service or activity, you might need to do some background research and draw on the experience of others about what resources you will need. You may have existing resources that you can use, or be able to source ‘in kind’ help from other organisations, your local authority.

Tip: Remember funders want to fund your project to succeed and so is looking for a realistic budget that has been properly costed. They understand that something that is value for money is not always the same thing as the cheapest.

Think about timing
Consider how much time will be needed to prepare and run the activity or service that you are going to provide and think about the issues below:

• It is unusual to be able to launch straight into a project – there will usually need to be some preparation time first.
• As well as running the project and working directly with children and young people, you will probably need to build in enough time for things like administration, monitoring and evaluating how well your project is doing.
• How often an activity should run and how long each session might last depends on what you are trying to achieve. Some projects will only need to meet for an hour each fortnight, others might want to provide their service much more frequently or for longer periods of time. Some projects will run for weeks, others for months or years.

Remember to come back for the two e-bulletins for the last two articles in the series on Planning Your Project.

Planning Your Project – Part 4

top tips light bulbContinuing on from last week’s e-bulletin here is your next two tips to planning your project.

5. Target your project
You need to ensure that those participating as part of your project are those who need the project the most.

It might help you to think about the following questions:

• How will you advertise or promote your project to reach your target group: where can you best place information so that it gets to them? Will you use other organisations or agencies such as schools or health visitors to distribute information?
• Will you look for referrals from other voluntary organisations, such as schools, community groups or youth clubs?
• Are you planning to use a venue which your target group can easily get to?
• Are you planning to run the project at the best and most suitable time for the people you want to reach?
• If you are charging fees, are they affordable?
• Have you done all that’s possible to ensure that disabled individuals can access your project?
• How will you ensure that the individuals who could benefit from your project have the opportunity to attend?
6. Involvement of children and young people.

Have you consulted with the target audience themselves?

It is a very good idea to get them involved in the planning – ask them what they need, what kind of services they want to see, when they would like them to run, which kinds of equipment would be most used and valued.

Wherever possible, you should also involve participants in the running, development and management of projects. In this way you will be able to plan a project that your target audience want and will be likely to feel ownership of. This will increase its effectiveness.

Remember SCVO is here to help, so why not give us a call on 0121 525 1127 to find out how we can support your organisation.

Planning Your Project – Part 3

PlanContinuing on from last week’s e-bulletin here is your next two tips to planning your project. How are you getting on?

3. Decide what your project will do
Once you are clear what differences you are trying to make, then you will be able to plan what your project actually needs to do to achieve them.

Think about the specific activities, services or facilities, that you can provide for the target audience that will lead to the differences you identified. These could be things like: running a drop-in youth cafe or an outdoor activities course; providing a trained counsellor; building a new playground and so on. In the example provided in last week’s e-bulletin, the organisation decided that in order to increase the young people’s self esteem and expectations, they would set up a mentoring service.

You should be able to relate each activity or service back to the differences that you want to make.

4. Ask difficult questions! Is this the right project?
You need to be as sure as you can be that your project is the best way to address the need that you’ve identified and make the differences that you want to achieve.

If you don’t already know what’s on offer around your area, do the research so that you know that your project fills a gap that is not currently being addressed and complements existing services rather than duplicating them.

Funders will not fund projects that should be paid for by statutory bodies. For example, if you are applying as a pre-school, your request will only be eligible if it clearly falls outside the free entitlement for three and four year olds. If you are applying as a school, it needs to be for work outside of statutory requirements, so applications for school buildings, playgrounds, equipments, or staff etc. would not be suitable.

Planning Your Project – Part 2

top-tipsContinuing on from last week’s e-bulletin here is your second tip to planning your project.

Identify the differences (“outcomes”) you want to achieve
What do you want the ‘after picture’ to look like for the people participating/attending your project. This will help you pin down the differences you want to achieve in their lives. Think about how these differences contribute to improving their lives. Making these differences will be the reason you are running your project. This is the aspect of your application that interests funders the most.

Note: many funders talk about “outcomes” – this is another way of saying the differences that will happen as a result of your work.

It is important to make a distinction between the differences (outcomes) that a project is aiming to make for those participating and the activities and services it is providing.

For Example:
• A project is set up for young people who are having difficulties at school, due to a range of factors.
• The people who set up the project want to increase the young people’s self esteem and show them that there are opportunities in training and further education which could be open to them.
• To do this they set up a project to provide training for 12 volunteer mentors to work with the young people.
The difference or outcome in this example is not the training for volunteer mentors, but the changes that will happen in the lives of the young people as a result of the mentoring i.e. increased self esteem.
You will need to tell the funder the three most important differences you think your project will make that will improve participants lives. If you are awarded a grant you will be asked to report back on these in detail.
• For each of your differences, be succinct and talk about a single, significant change only. Do not provide a list of differences or changes.
• The difference will occur in the time you are in contact with the participants you support. It can be a small change or a lasting change.
• Use the language of change in your descriptions, e.g., improving life skills, increasing self-esteem, reducing distress.

Remember to come back to look at the next five e-bulletins to get all the tips and hints on how to plan your projects more effectively.

Top Ten Tips for a Perfect Project Plan

top tips boardA project plan is an essential supporting document for funding applications. Here are 10 top-tips to make sure yours ticks all the right boxes!

1. Use the template provided by the funder to help you! Click here for an example.

2. Read the template headings carefully and make sure the information you include gives the right information; be specific and state target numbers/audiences wherever possible.

3. Put activities in chronological order.

4. Break down each activity and consider how you are going to plan it from beginning to end, and then include each stage in your project plan.

5. Make sure the project plan, application and budget are all aligned and consistent. During assessment they will be closely scrutinised so don’t include any surprises! Make sure every activity you mention can be linked to your application and, where appropriate, your budget.

6. Have a critical friend look over it. It needs to have enough detail so that if your project lead leaves, someone who doesn’t know your project would be able to deliver it confidently after reading your project plan – would they know exactly what to do and the order they need to do it? We understand that this document may change slightly over the duration of your project, but still include as many details as you can.

7. Make sure you think of practicalities and logistics rather than just end events; recruitment, planning meetings and evaluation all need to be considered where applicable.

8. Tie each activity back to the funders outcomes wherever possible, the ‘What will you achieve’ column is the best place to do this.

9. Tie each activity into a partnership agreement (if you are providing one). Or, consider providing letters of support demonstrating any external assistance.

10. The length of a project plan will depend entirely upon the nature of your activities and the grant requested – there is no ideal length! Just ensure that you are including all the relevant information.

Free Guide for Talking to Trustees About Communications Published

charity-commsCharityComms has published a new guide to help improve the relationship between charity communications professionals and the board.

The representative group for charity communications professionals published its latest best practice guide, How to talk to your trustees about comms, today to help comms professionals understand how to speak to the board and urges trustees to be more involved.

Vicky Browning, director of CharityComms, said: “In the new context for charities, with an increased emphasis on risk management and protecting reputations, trustees need to understand the value of communications to their organisations.

“Many trustee duties relate closely to core comms responsibilities around, for example, impact reporting, awareness-raising, accuracy of information, reputation management and transparency. Ultimately, a strategic approach to communications can help trustees deliver on virtually every organisational aim.
“But comms professionals aren’t always the best at speaking the language of the board.”

Ten questions for trustees
The guide also highlights ten questions for trustees to ask their comms teams, these are:
1. What can you bring to the development of our organisational strategy?
2. How do your comms strategy and activities progress the strategic aims and objectives of the charity?
3. What can you do to protect our reputation and mitigate risks?
4. Can you provide us with a daily/weekly/monthly briefing about internal and external issues and how these could impact on the organisation?
5. Will you coach us as needed – in social media, press interviews, crisis communications etc?
6. What oversight can you offer to other departments to help us ensure quality control of information flowing within the organisation and to outside audiences?
7. How can comms help us ensure transparency and integrity in the dealings of the organisation?
8. How can comms help us ensure the charity acts out its stated values?
9. How is comms working together with fundraising to ensure donor communications meet changes in the fundraising environment?
10. How can comms help us to demonstrate our impact, service quality and value for money?

From: Civil

Planning Your Project – Part 1

Governance - Business Team PlanningGood planning is one of the most effective factors in being able to make a strong and convincing application. However, in our experience we have often found that a common weakness in applications is caused by people writing their applications before fully planning their project. The following tips and hints are an overview to outline what thinking should have taken place before an application is made.

You don’t have to do it all yourself. It is a very good idea to involve more than one person in planning your project. Different members of your committee or board and members of staff will have different skills and experience that they can bring to the process.

It is also important that before you start, you make sure that everyone involved in your project is in agreement about what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to do it.

1. Identify the need you want to address
Who are the people you will be working with and in what ways are they disadvantaged? How does this disadvantage affect their lives? A good understanding of the target audience and their needs will help you decide what differences you want to achieve for them.

Tip: We know that new projects cannot always be precise as they may not yet know the individual who will attend. What funders are looking for from new projects is a good understanding of the target audience the project is aimed at and how they are going to get these people involved.

You may know what the need is from experience if you are an existing organisation already working in the area. You can also research the need you want to address by doing things like:

• Having consultations with for example children and young people, the local community and/or partner organisations.
• Running a pilot project.
• Using research from your own or other organisations.

Come back next week to see the next Planning Your Project tips!

Remember SCVO is here to help so why not give us a call on 0121 525 1127 to see how we can help your organisation.

Top 5 tips for a tip-top event! – Part 4

Top TipsWell folks here’s your last five top tips to help you with your event planning. I hope you’ve picked up some top tips for when you are planning your community event. Remember if you would like support or advice SCVO is always happy to help. Just give us a call on 0121 525 1127.

• If you are sending an event press release, make sure you send it to your funder(s) or partners at least a week before you want it to go out so they can look over it for you!

• Are you having an official photographer of the event? Make sure they are briefed in advance if so, and ensure also that guests are aware that photos will be taken – some guests, including those with children – may not be happy for photos to be used. Depending on the size and scale of your event, you may wish to consider producing photograph consent forms.

• Make sure your volunteers/team/partners understand what is happening on the day. This includes knowing both their roles and the responsibilities of others in the group/team. Everyone on the group/team should know the key facts about the event i.e. what it’s about, why it is happening, as anyone from your organisation could be asked a question by a guest, a VIP or even a journalist.

• Evaluate! Project events can be a perfect chance to get feedback from your stakeholders and the public about your project, and the event itself. You can then use this in your evaluation report for Funders, and to learn from for any future events – so why not give out evaluation forms?

• Spread the word! Social media means that you can reach a wide audience of your followers and the public to show them the highlights of your event.

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