Project Type: Strategy
Region: Midlands & East of England
Business input from the commercial director of a national corporation has rejuvenated the strategy of the National Association of Child Contact Centres and boosted its potential to secure funding.

Elizabeth Coe is Chief Executive of the NACCC, the supporting membership body for about 350 child contact centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which exist to keep children in touch with parents following separation. She says that when she joined the charity in January 2013 it lacked a good business plan that was “forward looking and would attract funders”. She identified a skills gap in the organisation. “We’ve got a great board of trustees with a good range of skills, from financial to legal, and social workers who understand all about safeguarding children,” she says. “But what was missing was a strong business mind.”

Finding the right support

Cranfield Trust Project Manager, Hayley Cartwright, met Elizabeth to gain a full understanding of her requirements. Hayley then matched her with volunteer Paul Corcoran, Commercial Director for DeltaRail, a software provider for the transport industry, where he is responsible for the company’s commercial strategy, bids and procurement.

Hayley said, “It is my role to ensure that a project meets a charity’s needs and that the volunteer and charity feel supported and enjoy working together.  Elizabeth and Paul got on from the start.  They stayed focused on the objectives, kept up momentum throughout the project and achieved a great result!”

Working together

Together, Elizabeth and Paul embarked on a two day planning meeting with the board to focus on the charity’s strategic objectives, and then involved all the staff in their delivery.

“As a social worker, I’ve managed budgets for years, but there are some things I’m not so good at,” says Elizabeth. “Getting help from someone who was more focused and strategic was wonderful. “

Photo of volunteer Paul CororanElizabeth says she felt that the NACCC was not good at trumpeting its strengths. Paul helped the charity to be more specific and to tailor bids to the required criteria, with a clear story spelling out why it was applying and why it needed to secure funding. He advised the charity to make personal contact with potential funders, rather than just sending an application. “If you know someone, you read the application differently than you would a cold application, and that helps if you have not quite got the message right on the page.”

Through his work with the NACCC, Paul says he has come to see the similarities between the private and third sectors. “The challenges faced by charities in getting funding are much the same as those faced by private organisations,” he says. “They both exist in competitive environments, and they need to know their strengths and weaknesses and look at where funding is coming from in order to adapt their plans. For both, it is important to differentiate yourself in the competitive environment and focus on unique selling points.”

He adds: “In an organisation that is providing a service, it’s easy to get stuck in to dealing with the next issue and do a lot of fire-fighting. But it’s important to revisit the organisation’s strategy to be clear about which areas to focus on, so that we can develop objectives and new services and identify what is needed in the long term to make the organisation more sustainable.”

Bid Success!

Paul says it’s essential to get the objectives right; these can then guide day-to-day decisions and help the organisation to be more focused on securing funding. Indeed, since adopting these new practices, the NACCC has been successful in a number of bids, securing funding from, among others, the City Bridge Trust and Cafcass, and £382,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions in January this year.

Furthermore, Paul enjoyed working with the charity so much that he has recently joined its board of trustees, and he continues to advise on its business plan, marketing strategy, online presence and funding bids.  

Good advice from a charity CEO

As Elizabeth says: “It’s important to take any help you can if you want the health of the organisation to continue. No one has got all the skills needed to run an organisation. We’d have been foolish not to get someone in with business knowledge – and we’re not letting him go!”


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