Thanks for being there!

Irenaphotography161014_CVS AGM&FF0022 Karen speech AGM sq

It was great to see so many of you at our recent AGM and Funding Fair. It was an impressive turn-out, and certainly from our point of view it worked extremely well to combine these two very important events. I hope it worked well for all of you – members and other supporters of Cumbria CVS. Hopefully you will have learned something about the work we are doing. I trust you found the presentation on Crowdfunding useful – I know I did!

I suspect a very positive outcome of the AGM, as always, will have been the chance to meet up with colleagues from other organisations and swap news and information. At Cumbria CVS are committed to providing opportunities like this because we know they are really valuable in helping to provide some of the ‘glue’ that keeps our sector together and powerful.

For those of you whose particular interest was the Funding Fair, I hope it gave you what you wanted and needed, but if you have any ideas for improvement in the future, do please let us know.

November 10th – 16th is Trustees’ Week – another significant point in our calendar. It gives us an opportunity to raise the profile of Trustees and the fabulous work they do, and to focus on some of the issues that Trustees have to face in running their organisations.

We are all aware of the unprecedented change that’s happening in our sector. We have had years of declining statutory funding, alongside increasingly competitive markets in contracting and a need for many of us to refocus on non-traditional approaches to generating income through assets and trading. All of this makes survival, let alone growth, a difficult proposition.

Plan Ahead
Boards of Trustees must ensure that their members perform effectively and have the skills and experience needed. Trustees should plan ahead for the recruitment, induction and development of new Board Members. All organisations need to consider how they put this into practice. More often than not there is no policy in place to make it happen, so an ad-hoc process of Trustee recruitment happens as and when necessary.

Trustee Succession
In these times of change Trustee Boards must look to the future and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, in governance terms, to their organisation and make plans to create a Board of Trustees with the appropriate skills, experience and knowledge to guide strategic direction. This does not necessarily mean wholesale change, but a commitment from existing Board Members to making Trustee Succession Planning a priority. This can lead to the development a Board of Trustees that is capable of meeting challenges whenever change occurs.

The Trustee Recruitment Toolkit produced by NCVO remains a very useful document to inform your plan or of course you can get in touch with us here at Cumbria CVS if you would like more support.

Do get in touch if we can help.

Karen Bowen
Chief Officer

You can download the following documents here:

If you weren’t at the AGM you can read Karen Bowen’s presentation here:


In our annual review I say that this year has been full of challenge and change verging on the frantic. Interestingly, at the Voluntary Sector North West AGM yesterday, Richard Caulfield (VSNW’s Chief Executive) quoted a colleague as having said ‘I’ve never known things to change so fast and change will never be this slow again’. Only time will tell whether that is actually the case but I think it very likely that change and the challenges that accompany that change will be a feature in our lives for the foreseeable future.

But maybe that’s not all bad. Although it can be challenging – challenge and change can help with innovation, encourage new ideas and help to keep things fresh and current. When times are tough I try to hold on to that thought.

So what were these challenges we experienced over the past year. Well, not surprisingly, one of the most significant challenges was (and continues to be) securing sufficient funding to provide the services and support that you have told us you both value and need.

We have team of eminently skilled and experienced employees and trustees who are properly prepared to fulfil their roles, are keen to increase their knowledge and are open to new ideas. We also have the confidence of our beneficiaries, funders and other key stakeholders.

But, as you know, we are operating in a difficult funding environment with ongoing cuts to public sector budgets and other sources of funding. We have also seen the discontinuation of some of the funding programmes that have been integral to the development of Cumbria CVS and the services and support we are able to provide. We have been particularly hard hit by the end – in November last year – of 6 years of Big Lottery BASIS funding. BASIS was a funding programme specifically for third sector support organisations like Cumbria CVS and it’s one of those funding programmes that has been discontinued.

BASIS funding was absolutely brilliant for us. It represented around one third of our yearly income and it gave us the stability we needed to develop and grow our services. What makes the loss of BASIS funding even more difficult, is that it comes on top of a series of other funding cuts such as reductions in our CCC infrastructure contract which is now less than half of what we received when we merged in 2007 and the end of Capacity Builders funding – a 14 year government programme again specifically for third sector support organisations – that was brought to an early close in 2011.

On a more positive note, although it presents us with a significant and ongoing challenge, the cessation of BASIS funding wasn’t a surprise so we have been able to plan for this reduction in funding.

And, as you may have heard my say before, it’s not all about the money. It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not here to make money for Directors or shareholders and, in the main; we’re not here to provide jobs. Our primary purpose is (and must be) to provide the services that are needed, wanted and valued by you our beneficiaries.

As well as having the funds we need (and perhaps more importantly) it’s about staying relevant, being clear about why we exist, who our beneficiaries are and how best to serve them.

So, a further challenge in light of reduced funding has been to remain true to our mission and purpose – something that all of us at Cumbria CVS are absolutely committed to. We have a strong sense of purpose, and we’re committed to developing and delivering services that are needed and aren’t being provided elsewhere, services that exploit our skills and expertise and fit with our values and our reason for being.

Moving on to some of the Changes

In order to address these challenges it was inevitable that we would have to introduce change. It’s worth noting that when making changes we have tried to keep the impact on you our beneficiaries to a minimum and we’ve also been mindful of the importance of not compromising our mission and purpose.

With this in mind, one major change occurred on 24th September 2013 when we registered Cumbria CVS Trading Ltd as a company limited by shares with Cumbria CVS being the sole shareholder. In addition to providing services for third sector organisations at cost, Cumbria CVS Trading Ltd will also be able to generate surplus income by developing new services and extending the client base to include the public sector and private organisations. Surplus income will be transferred from Cumbria CVS Trading Ltd to Cumbria CVS and will be used to support the delivery of services that aren’t funded by other means. Our Financial Services provision is now being delivered by Cumbria CVS Trading Ltd. Some members of the Financial Services Team are here today so, during the Funding Fair, you will have an opportunity to ask them about the services they provide and how they may be able to support you.

During the year we also took the decision to introduce a charge for membership. This charge has been accompanied by the introduction of a range of member benefits including reductions on some of our charged for services and discounts negotiated with other service providers. We’ll be reviewing our membership scheme over next 6 months and Voluntary Sector North West will be assisting us with this review. Warren Escadale from VSNW will be here today from around 11.00/11.30 and he may ask you if you would be willing to give him your views. It would be really great if you would give him your honest feedback as it will help to shape what we do in the future

Another significant area of our work that we are planning to review in the coming year is our programme of support linked to volunteering. The review will look at how we deliver on our volunteering function in order to ensure that we provide the best possible service for the funds we now have available.

We have always recognised the value of working in partnership – capitalising on the skills and experiences that different partners contribute – and increasingly we are looking to work with others to deliver services. This year we have been involved in several very productive new partnership projects, these include:

Inspiring Barrow – a project funded through the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Programme with the purpose of inspiring and enabling young people in Barrow to broaden their learning experience and horizons, and raising parents’ confidence and abilities to support their children to make positive, informed career and life-skills choices

Sustain Eden – a Big Lottery Communities Living Sustainably project led by Cumbria Action for Sustainability. A project focussed on building community resilience to climate change. We delivered our activities jointly with Action with Communities in Cumbria. As part of this project we have produced a short animation about being prepared of an emergency that can be accessed via our website.

And we also delivered key elements of C3C’s successful Neighbourhood Care Independence Programme in Carlisle, Eden, Furness and South Lakes, activities include programme management, operating the helpline, recruiting volunteers and running a small grants programme.

The value of working in partnership in this way has been that we have been able to add our knowledge and expertise to that of our partners, offering better value for money with our combined strengths providing for a more complete package of service delivery.

Another area where we have used our expertise and experience (leaving the organisation free to what it does best) is in providing a back office function as the ‘Local Trusted Organisation’ for Big Local Projects. We have been providing this service for Barrow Island Big Local for a couple of years and this year Ewanrigg Big Local engaged our services. And I’m please to be able to report that – just in the last few weeks Distington Big Local also signed us up as their Local Trusted Organisation.

A further change occurred when Cumbria Third Sector Consortium – to whom we had been providing a similar service of back office support – took the decision to cancel their Hub Management agreement with Cumbria CVS and take on this responsibility itself. Although we were saddened and a little disappointed by this decision, it has freed up valuable resources that we can now use to support other initiatives.

Is worth saying it hasn’t all been about change, some of what we’ve been doing has been continuing and building on activities that we’ve been involved with for some time. Before I finish I thought I’d touch on a few of these other activities.

We have continued to support the Third Sector Network and associated specialist networks. Activities have included working with both the Clinical Commissioning Group and Cumbria County Council on improving third sector involvement in the design and procurement of their services.

We’ve also supported third sector input into the Local Enterprise Partnership’s European Social Investment Fund Development Plan. Assisting third sector organisations to access the new streams of European funding that will be available in 2015 will be an important task for us over the next 12 months and probably beyond.

The Third Sector Network led by Andy Beeforth also produced a report on welfare reform. If you haven’t seen the report copies are available via the Cumbria CVS website.

Another activity worth noting is the refresh and up-dating of our website including the introduction of an automated booking system for events and training hopefully making life easier for you as well as us

I’d also like to mention our experience with taking on an apprentice. The placement proved to be highly beneficial for both the young person and Cumbria CVS. So much so that we are now employing that apprentice (you will have met her when you signed in this morning).

Behind the scenes we have continued to work to the ISO standard improving our systems and becoming more effective by correcting problems and implementing recommendations for positive change (and there’s that word again)

We also dipped a toe in the movie business water – a screening of our Faith Hope and Charity DVD will follow the presentation on Crowdfunding.

Finally, I’d like to thank our funders, their support is essential to our delivery of services. I’d particularly like to thank those funders that have contributed to today’s Funding Fair: The Cumberland Building Society; Cumbria Youth Alliance; and Hadfield Trust.

I’d like to finish by recording my thanks to the staff team and our Trustees who have been so supportive of the need to respond positively and speedily to the challenges we have faced during the year and who have fully embraced the changes that have been introduced – Thank you.