How much? Can we deliver? Does it fit?

Thursday, 19 February 2015 - 7:51am

York Road Project's Cath Stamper explains how in spite of economic and political challenges for the homelessness sector, they have created opportunities to improve the organisation's prospects and profile in the local community.

York Road Project, Woking

While the past few years have seen cuts taking their toll on the homelessness sector, at York Road we have managed to turn our fortunes around. This change has been underpinned by a clear, three-year business strategy, which has enabled us to be both aspirational and realistic, and a clear mission statement and objectives, which have enabled us to sell ourselves to prospective funders.

When looking for funding, I tap into what’s around. It’s about looking outside, what’s on the agenda locally, what’s available locally to you. You’ve got to understand your local authority’s homelessness strategy - if you’re in line with them they’re more trusting.

A big chunk of our money has come from proving our worth to the local authority and we received funding from the local Police and Crime Commissioner for our work helping to reduce offending in the area. 

When looking for funds, I’m always asking, how much do we need? Can we deliver? Does it fit in with our core aims? Because every single one of these pots of money gives you another report to write. If you’re managing six little pots at the same time it’s important that you’re on top of the reporting. If you don’t manage your funding streams effectively you’re not going to get repeat funding.

One of the questions that always appears on funding application forms is, ‘how do we know you can manage this?’ You want to be able to evidence that you’ve managed somebody else’s money before so it’s really important that you’re organised. 

Now that York Road is embedded within the community rather than marginalised from it, it’s brought in so much more money.

When approaching funders, it is also important to make sure you can prove there is a need for the project and that you can evidence your impact. I ask my staff for evaluation sheets before, during and after projects. As a worker, you might have seen the difference a project makes but if you are going to tell your funders that 50% of clients have improved self-esteem, you need to be able to prove that.

Organisations need to build information gathering into the actual delivery and get whoever is responsible for gathering it to buy into the process. Do they know why their doing it? If not they won’t do it, including them in the process gives them ownership. 

Something else that has helped us to bring in funds and strengthen our organisation has been community engagement. We haven’t always done this well but now that York Road is embedded within the community rather than marginalised from it, it’s brought in so much more money.

We’ve done all sorts in the community to raise our profile - our choir performed when the Christmas lights were switched on, we’ve done gigs; we’ve supported other charities to raise money. It’s made us much more visible and raised awareness. It also meets the need for clients to feel less isolated from the community so it’s ticking boxes all the way through. I actually had a member of the public say that, ‘we feel less excluded from you’. As a result, we’ve seen members of the public walking in the door and making donations. 

Working with local media has been a really important part of raising the profile of York Road. I’m on the radio, I’m in the paper – literally all I do is talk about what we do! At Christmas I did interviews with the local press, TV and radio and as a result one of the larger donations we received came from somebody who normally donates to a large national charity who didn’t know we existed previously.

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Cath Stamper

Project Director, York Road Project

Cath joined York Road Project in July 2012 after 5 years working in the homeless sector in Guildford.  She is responsible for managing all of the services provided at YRP.  She also works with commissioners and potential funders to ensure the continuing viability of the organisation in order to provide the best, client centred support possible.

Twitter: @yorkroadproject

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