Sunday 29 June 2008

Asking for the Money – the second workshop

Four projects made it through the programme. Four months ago, in March, we brought 4 organisations representing 5 innovative projects together to transform their fundraising efforts from cap-in-hand to sustainable funding.
Since then, one organisation (the one with 2 projects) suffered 6 weeks staff sickness and had to drop out, and another stepped forward. Expert commissioners from six organisations (three local authorities, two well-known charitable funds and a healthcare commissioner) came forward to hear the presentations and offer advice, and I gave one to one coaching each month to each of them.
I think we all came to the second workshop, the one where innovative projects had to present their cases based on what they’d learnt, and where the expert commissioners were to offer advice, with trepidation. I didn’t sleep the week before.
The projects spent the morning sharing what they’d learnt and other tips for approaching funders. In the first half of the afternoon the projects presented their cases, and the panel didn’t stint in their criticism and suggestions for improvement. For the second half the projects went to one room to consider the process and what they’d learnt, and the panel went to another to summarise their advice. A very instructive day!

What would I do better another time?
  • Give the projects time as individual teams to consider what they’d learnt before sharing it (this worked really well in the first workshop in March)
  • Introduce the panel of expert commissioners at lunchtime and before the presentations, which would have made it less formal and more personal.
  • The projects were all selected as “hard to fund” – I think the panel were expecting ‘bread and butter’ proposals presented in a ‘bread and butter’ way, whereas gathering and presenting the evidence is difficult for real innovation. I hadn’t made this clear.
Going forward
  • Right now we’re preparing a written report to help innovative proposals who weren’t able to attend this programme. I’d like to run more programmes because it delivered so much value to the projects

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Bringing home the money

Don't be embarassed to ask for money!

Time and time again I talk to charities and public sector workers who can't ask for the money they need to deliver the service people deserve. Money isn't dirty. Money isn't evil. Even the love of money isn't evil. Money is like energy - you use it for good, or you use it for bad, and the more that passes via you the more you can achieve.

On Monday I gave a workshop on Evaluating Innovation at the "New Ways of Working in Health and Social Care" conference in Manchester. My theme helped innovation make the leap from prospective funding (looks like a good idea, here's something to get you started) to sustainable long-term funding (fantastic - we get all this and you only need this much per user to run the service). I picked on measurement, because it's often the weakest part of many proposals - how can you show that you are making a difference?

The points are these:
  • commissioners are people too: they will put money into innovation that looks likely to succeed - and you can show that you have already succeeded by showing the results you achieve (and show you mean business by submitting to evaluation)
  • there is a finite amount of money - but it is enormous (health for example has £100billion to spend). If you can show that your idea will deliver more 'bang per buck' in the things that matter - care, outcomes, patient satisfaction, value for money (and not even all of these: if we wanted to save money on health we'd still be spending £42billion not £100billion), and raise it up the priorities list above competing projects, then you will get funded - provided you can generate enough confidence that you can succeed
Get a sponsor/ mentor. Do a great thing. Dare to dream. And be quite open and honest about the resources you need!
strategic process for business case

Good luck! Hugo

Monday 2 June 2008

A good bottle of wine

I looked at some typical templates for preparing business cases the other day - filling them in is like riding an intellectual roller coaster:
1 - your name (easy)
2 - contact details of the person proposing (yup, can do that)
3 - write 200 words describing the service (wow, launch straight into it and try to get your brain in gear)
4 - have you done a risk assessment? (tick yes or no)
and so on - demanding one moment, the next pedestrian.

So how to tackle this?
Identify the demanding bits (why is this service needed, what difference will it make, bottle of fine wine and a glasstimescales, summary) and get yourself into the right frame of mind for completing them - may I suggest an evening in front of a nice coal fire with a good bottle of wine (or a bottle of good wine - wine anyway).
Identify the easy bits - save these for completing the following morning when you need something straightforward to do
The same demanding bits turn up time after time:
What would happen if you didn't make the change (also known as Need, Reason for this project, Background, etc). If the situation will go away by itself then you hardly need to make a case for change, do you?
What is the change (typically one sentence saying what you are going to do - actually this doesn't come up very often, a lot of business cases consist of 4 pages of how terrible it is now, and 6 pages of how wonderful it will be if the business case is approved, with very little on what you are going to do!)
What difference will it make (the basis of this whole BLOG - how to evaluate and report the benefits of the change)
When, how much you need, what cash flow pattern, major milestones (absolutely vital. So many innovative projects are only just starting out when 12 months in someone says "how's it going - can't see much going on" and pulls the money for the next 'good idea'. Most health and care innovation takes 18 months before you can see any benefits, so say so and put in some milestones (such as 8 months = job advert) to show progress.

Have lots of fun, and keep it down to 1 bottle (and one side of A4)