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Dormant Accounts – What you told us and next steps

March 3, 2020
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund

Our latest blog has been written by Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund. She gives an update on the findings of the consultation and way forward for Dormant Account money being delivered.

From October to December 2019, The National Lottery Community Fund consulted with the VCSE sector about how they think Dormant Account money should be delivered in Northern Ireland. We have analysed all the information gathered and a full report is available here.

As part of the consultation, it was great for me to meet people and hear first-hand about what is important to them.

Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed in any way to this important work.

What you told us

The Dormant Accounts policy directs us to focus on improving the capacity, resilience and sustainability of the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland. Throughout the consultation, we talked about definitions and how terms and language used can mean many things to different people.

The response to our questions highlighted the diverse nature of the VCSE sector and the many ways it makes a positive impact on people’s lives.  However, cuts to public funding and increasingly complex social challenges mean the sector is largely operating in crisis mode, feeling overwhelmed and unable to find the breathing space to explore options for sustainability, development and diversification.

This Fund provides a unique opportunity to take a long-term approach to rejuvenating the sector, but it can’t be all things to all people or bring about sustainable change on its own. Dormant Accounts funding will allow organisations large and small to look at their own capacity and sustainability.  People understand the need for such strategic development and planning in order to become less dependent on grants in the future, but they currently struggle to even think about it because they are operating in a constant state of crisis management.

We heard about major systemic issues in the way that funding is delivered and the challenges that come with public sector procurement and commissioning. Genuine, cross-sectoral and long term collaboration is required to change this; that includes a change in attitudes and systems, including levels of bureaucracy, from government departments, funders and the sector more broadly. People also told us about their positive experiences of working with funders when they are responsive to their needs rather than dictated by strict criteria. There was a real endorsement of approaches built on trust and ability to change. Outlined was the need for flexibility in how funding is made available in relation to things like grant size, timeframe and funding criteria to enable and empower organisations to adapt and become sustainable.

We heard views on the need for leadership, strategic planning and core costs to be funded so that organisations can focus on their core purpose. We were told about the need to strengthen boards and committees, provide support for volunteers, enable genuine collaboration and reduce competition.

There was recognition that while welcome, Dormant Accounts funding is still a limited pot of money and should be directed toward initiatives that can have the greatest impact on the sector.

What’s next?

We are now working on delivery plans for the Dormant Accounts Fund, using what you told us and wider learning from the ways in which Dormant Accounts have been delivered in GB.

We won’t have all the answers immediately, but the consultation has indicated the need for a tiered and phased approach to have impact over a sustained period of time. In the first phase we plan to offer small, flexible and responsive grant funding to build the core resilience of individual organisations.  We are also planning to support larger strategic investments that leverage other funding, enable collaboration and new creative approaches to sustainability. We will apply a test and learn approach to develop the fund over time and look forward to continuing the conversations we have started with you this year.

We will be sharing our plans for this fund with the Department of Finance in March 2020, who will then lay the strategic action plan in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We expect to have the first phase of the programme open for applications by June 2020.

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund

If you would like more information please contact dormantaccountsni@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk.

Dormant Accounts – What we did and who we talked to

January 24, 2020

It’s been four months since we launched our consultation on how Dormant Accounts funding should be delivered in Northern Ireland.

We met organisations – large and small – across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector to hear how they thought this funding could have the biggest impact in communities across Northern Ireland.

We engaged with over 300 people at four major regional events in NewtownabbeyCraigavonDerry-Londonderry and Enniskillen. We also hosted, facilitated and took part in 25 smaller roundtable discussions with communities across Belfast, Lisburn, Randalstown, Newry, Cookstown and Strabane.

We made a conscious effort to reach different parts of the sector engaging with people with disabilities, BME communities, rural groups, environmental organisations, sectoral leaders, other funders, the volunteering sector, organisations working with children and families and the arts and sports sectors.

Since October 2019 we’ve had over 700 face to face conversations, talking to people from more than 460 organisations.

We also dealt with over 500 enquiries and received 62 written submissions.

We used social media to tell people about the consultation and reached over 50,000 people on Twitter and 11,000 people on Facebook. Our update blogs were also read by over 1100 people.

We’re now reviewing this information and analysing the responses.

Emerging themes so far include core costs, collaboration, income generation, governance and strategic planning.

As well as this, there are some interesting insights into the overall funding environment, attitudes to long- and short-term funding, and a range of other issues facing individual sectors.

We are pulling together a report of everything we heard and will be sharing this by the end of February.

Our plans for the delivery of the programme will follow later in March.

Dormant Accounts – Round Up

December 19, 2019

We launched the consultation on Dormant Accounts funding in October and since then we’ve been out and about listening to the Northern Ireland Third Sector.

We hosted major regional events in Newtownabbey, Craigavon, Derry-Londonderry and Enniskillen with over 300 people across all 4 events.

We’ve hosted, facilitated or taken part in 25 roundtable discussions with over 350 VCSE representatives and have received 36 written submissions as well as hundreds of emails, phone calls and conversations.

As we’ve gone through the consultation, we’ve shared some of what we’ve been hearing in blogs – you can read the previous one here.  As we finish this phase of the consultation, we wanted to share a couple more reflections.

In our discussions, there has been lively debate about the balance between direct support for smaller organisations and the benefits of collective support.

People have been telling us that one size doesn’t fit all. The change each individual organisation would make to become more sustainable and fit for the future might look different. So, any fund should be flexible enough to accommodate that.

But people also really value what they learn from each other – they’d like to reduce competition and see collaboration enabled, not enforced.

Some would like to have collective resources or expertise to draw on which they might not necessarily be able to afford themselves e.g. professional financial, HR, legal or governance advice.

Many people have commented that support networks, particularly in rural areas, have faced cuts and are no longer able to provide this kind of support to smaller voluntary and community groups.

How could this funding help foster collaboration or connectedness while still supporting local groups on the ground?

We’ve also been talking about loans and other types of social finance.

We’ve heard some great examples of organisations which have benefited from existing loan funds which support VCSE organisations in Northern Ireland.  But a large proportion of the sector say they aren’t ready to access this type of social finance.

The main issues around loans or hybrid social finance models seem to be confidence and capacity. Some organisations say they don’t want to have to prioritise paying off a loan over their core purpose. Others say they don’t have the skills to understand the difference finance models which might help them realise their long-term goals.

Could the Dormant Accounts fund invest in organisations to build those skills, enabling them to leverage other, more sustainable investment or income?

We may have finished this stage of our consultation, but we still want to hear from the sector.  You can make written submissions over the Christmas break and up until January, or you can call or email.

Our office will be closed from lunchtime on Tuesday 24th December until Thursday 2nd January, but we will respond to any queries when we return in the new year.

We’ll be analysing our findings and working on programme design in January but we won’t turn down any chance to talk or discuss any of these issues once that process begins.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or views on any of this – send them to us at dormantaccountsni@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk or you can comment on this blog, drop us a line on the phone or social media.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to be involved so far.

Dormant Accounts – What we’ve been hearing

December 4, 2019

We launched the consultation on Dormant Accounts funding in October and have been out and about ever since listening to the Northern Ireland Third Sector.

Since October, we have hosted three major events in Belfast, Enniskillen and Craigavon – 280 people attended to tell us what they think.

As well as this, we’ve hosted, facilitated or taken part in 16 roundtable discussions with over 200 people and have received 22 written submissions as well as hundreds of emails, phone calls and conversations.

We promised that we would share what we are hearing throughout the consultation so this blog highlights some of the key themes coming through the conversations. We would love to hear back from you on what you think of what we’re hearing so far.

It’s important to reiterate that Dormant Accounts funding is not the same as National Lottery funding.

The policy directions state that this funding ‘should benefit the third sector in Northern Ireland, through projects/work primarily delivered by Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise organisations to increase capacity, grow resilience and encourage sustainability’.

This list isn’t exhaustive but gives a sense of some of the things we’re hearing throughout the consultation.

Strategic Planning 

Leaders across the sector are rarely funded and don’t have the time to lift their heads to think about and plan for the future.

Could Dormant Accounts funding help fill that gap and help to build a sustainable sector in the future?

Governance  

There is a need to strengthen boards, committees and governance structures, ensuring the right mix of skills and training, putting all the appropriate policies and procedures in place to support an organisations’ purpose and activities.

Again, this is rarely funded but could investing in this help develop a more resilient sector? 

Income generation 

Organisations should be supported to take time to consider options for diversifying their income and/or reducing reliance on public funding, ensuring all their work fits with their core purpose – rather than chasing project funding which can often lead to mission drift.

Would funding for this allow organisations to think longer term and be more sustainable?

Capacity building and Skills 

We should recognise that there is a lack of understanding of the different social investment and finance options out there, as well as the other skills needed to translate vision and good ideas into action.

How would building this kind of capacity within the sector lead to its sustainability?

Volunteers 

The sector needs to be supported to strengthen its volunteer bases, including attracting young people, providing pathways into leadership alongside appropriate training and recognised qualifications.

How could Dormant Accounts funding support this to help build sustainability and resilience within the sector? 

Connectedness

With our own funding, we have seen there is lots to learn from other organisations operating in the same area or working on the same issues, but a culture of competition hinders collaboration.

How could investing in activities that connect organisations, not collaboration for collaboration’s sake, help build up capacity in the sector? 

Digital skills and Communications 

We’re hearing there isn’t enough time to focus on providing staff and volunteers with appropriate digital tools and skills to make them fit for the future. Alongside this, there is no capacity for organisations to develop the communications skills needed to tell the story of the amazing work they do to a wider audience.

Could funding aimed at digital skills and communications help build a more resilient sector? 

We would love to hear what you think about these questions as well as any other thoughts you might have. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Join us at our last event in Derry-Londonderry on 12th December at 9.45am in the Guildhall – register your attendance by email

Dormant Accounts Fund – Weekly Update

November 22, 2019

We’re now half-way through our consultation on the Dormant Accounts Fund and are continuing to hear a wide range of views from people and organisations across Northern Ireland.

We promised to share what we’re hearing as we go along, not just at our events and roundtable discussions but via email, on the phone and in conversation. Being as open and transparent as we can is the best way to hear all the great ideas out there and make sure we this money has the biggest impact possible.

Below is a quick summary of what we’ve heard over the last week or so and what we’re planning to do in the coming weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Most of the queries we have received have been about our consultation events but we also got some other questions.

People have been asking about the closing date of the consultation which we have said is the end of December.

Our office is closed from Christmas Eve but people can still submit responses and ideas up until early January. However, our last external events will be 18th December 2019.

We’re hearing questions about how this funding can support specific projects.

At this point we are still open to how the sector can define and interpret the guidelines set out by the Department of Finance – namely increase capacity, grow resilience and encourage sustainability.

We have updated our website with a new FAQs section which should help.

As well as this, we’re planning a series of blogs on some of the issues arising from the consultation. If there is a theme or idea you’d like more detail or background on, get in touch.

Events

This week we held events in Lisburn, Newry and Inner South Belfast.

We have a busy week ahead with discussions and events all over Northern Ireland.

Our next main consultation event will be in Enniskillen at the Killyhevlin Hotel on Wednesday 27th at 09:30.

As well as this, we’re hosting roundtable discussions with Social Enterprise NI, The IFA, Disability Action, Rural Community Network and in Strabane alongside Derry and Strabane District Council.

A lot of our events are at or near capacity but there are still some places available for our event in Derry at the Guildhall on 12th December.

We know that while we want Dormant Accounts funding to meet the needs of a diverse sector, it cannot be all things to all people. So with that in mind we want to know what are the two or three main things Dormant Accounts funding could do that would have the greatest impact?

And if Dormant Account funding achieved its aims of increased resilience, capacity and sustainability, what would the third sector look like in five years’ time?

We would love to hear your feedback on these questions and those outlined in the consultation framework. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Come along to one of our events – To book a place, email us at least one week before your preferred event. Please let us know if you have any specific access or dietary requirements. We still have space at the following events:
    • Enniskillen, Killyhevlin Hotel – 27thNovember – 9.30-1.30
    • Craigavon, Civic Centre – 2ndDecember – 12.30-4.30
    • Derry-Londonderry, Guildhall – 12thDecember – 9.30-1.30
  • If you want to bring people from your area or sector together then you can organise a roundtable event. Please let us know, and we can come along to facilitate this.

Get in touch if you’d like to attend or get involved.