Alice Singleton, Chief Executive of DIAL Solihull, joined the user-led disability advice charity three years ago and quickly discovered that a comprehensive review of governance, services, systems and policies was needed if the organisation was to become ‘commissioning ready’ and meet the growing needs of disabled people and their carers in the Borough.
It was shortly after the new board of trustees completed a full service review that DIAL identified the need for external help to implement some of the changes necessary to position the organisation for key contracts. After mixed success in sourcing support, Alice came across the Solihull Community Enterprise for Success programme.
“I learnt about the support on offer through the SUSTAiN alert, which immediately gave me a sense of reassurance knowing the programme was designed for organisations like ours, and it was right on our doorstep,” says Alice.
DIAL was able to access a menu of business support services delivered by professional business advisers and trainers who understand the challenges and demands faced by many frontline VCS organisations whose services are under increasing pressure during these austere times.
Business Support and Development Workshops
“Over a period of six months we attended practical workshops which were very relevant and timely for our business support needs. The first session on business planning helped me to recognise my strengths and equipped me to work with one of my trustees on drafting DIAL’s business plan – without feeling out of my depth!”
The flexibility of the programme also enabled Alice and her team to access tailored support to review and update a wide range of policies from working with volunteers to IT. “We had business support in helping to prepare and issue a new fit for purpose employee handbook, which will accommodate our needs as we start to grow and extend our services in the future.
“The full cost recovery session was a real eye opener as it guided us through the process of calculating the true cost of our services, rather than using a ‘finger in the air’ approach when writing bids. The session on partnership working made us realise that although we’re a small charity, we have specialist knowledge and expertise which is of great value to others.
“Tasters on social media and social impact have confirmed that we must make better use of these tools, and the networking opportunities and business support afforded by the programme have been an unexpected bonus. We’re certainly better prepared for commissioning and have no hesitation in recommending the support to other charities and VCOs in Solihull.”