Social Enterprise and alternatives to grant funding

Noise Solution has now been operating sustainably for two years and…whisper it very quietly…we're not grant funded in anyway….gasp!

 

In the interests of historical accuracy and transparency we did apply for a very small grant at the very beginning for capital costs i.e. a couple of computers and some software (thank you Suffolk Foundation) but that's it.

I am not knocking grants…lets make that clear from the start, some of my best friends use grants. However for Noise Solution's situation we decided to try something a little bit different - see if it could be done a different way, a more sustainable way, and let's be honest avoid an awful lot of the paperwork that comes with grant funding. And there's the rub. If I was giving someone money I'd want to know where and how it's spent - and that's how it should certainly be, but what I'd witnessed often and still do was ill thought out expectations of evidence collection with little or no consideration of the impact that that has on a small organisation.

Noise Solution is a social enterprise, we sit firmly within the third sector aiming to take the best bits from both the charitable and private sector. We have social aims and outputs as our primary focus, like charities, yet we strive to be self sustaining, effective and as businesslike as a private sector company. We decided to act like a private company in that we would just charge the clients as a private company would for services that we delivered (those clients being traditional clients like local government departments, schools, charity organisations etc) and  for us it's working.

It's taken some time and relationship/trust building to convince people to do things a little differently but we have found it's well worth the effort. The approach enables us, a small but growing organisation, to be able to concentrate on maintaining the very high quality provision that we demand and which is one of our selling points without being distracted by over zealous grant servicing requirements . It's worth mentioning as well that people who are paying for your services rather than perceiving them as being free because someone else has paid for them seem to take you a lot more seriously.

Now it might sound a little like we are trying to avoid work this is not the point I'm trying to make. We work very hard on other things, like building those trusting relationships with clients through providing evidence of the effectiveness of the work we do. I'd like to point you to Paul weston's excellent blog piece recently about articulating the benefit of your work which is so important, proving that the work you are doing is effective is by far the best advert for your services that you can have. Something that we achieve in part through our use of social media and blogging of soft and hard outcomes with clients (see Noise Solutions blogging article)

The point of this article is not to say to do things one way or another. We would have absolutely no problem with applying for a grant if it was the right thing to do for us and if it would provide the best outcomes for the people who's lives we work to enhance. What I am saying is that it's ok to try doing things a different way, try something that appears to go against the grain - sometimes it pays.

 

 

Noise Solution is a Social Enterprise Mark holder, That's the Mark's logo at the top of the article. The Mark is a kitemark/quality test denoting a social enterprise that has passed a stringent set of rules., read more about it on their website.

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Comments

Lyndall Rosewarne's picture

I'm in bid writing purdah at the moment so it was great to hear about Simon's social enterprise model and to recognise that there are other ways to do this work- however, the historian in me just wanted to recognise that the community music sector in Suffolk was funded by ACE and Suffolk CC to train and mentor musicians through the Amplifier project and that it was this intervention which is partly responsible for creating the marketplace for music in Suffolk and the availability of excellent leaders. So well done Simon and well done Jayne Knight and well done ACE.
Ok back to bid writing.....

Simon Glenister's picture

Absolutely - I was an Amplifier tutor and the programme certainly helped me in a variety, of ways as it did a number of other community musicians in the area......Good luck with the bid writing