<Alan Chapman Consultancy for Voluntary and Community Organisations (Lancaster and North West England)


1. When does an organisation need a consultant?

For many voluntary and community organisations taking on a consultant is rightly viewed as a big step and not just because of the financial cost involved.

The thought of using a consultant can be intimidating to some and others may be wary of using an outsider with little prior knowledge of their group.

So when should an organisation consider using a consultant? The answer to this will be shaped by an organisation’s assessment of:

  • the benefits of an outside view
  • the importance of the piece of work and the risk involved if it isn’t done
  • limitations in internal capacity to do it themselves
  • having the resources to pay for the work

If your organisation is considering taking on a consultant it is very important that it first spends time considering the brief for any work and the process through which it will be managed.

Alan Chapman is able to bring his experience of using consultants when working in the voluntary and community sector and is committed to helping groups make the right decision for their organisation in any initial discussions.

2. Get connected

Amongst the biggest challenges for busy voluntary and community groups is knowing where to find information, advice and support on a day to day basis and how to keep up with what is happening in areas like funding and legal requirements.

Some organisations may also feel isolated either because they have little time to check out what’s happening locally or their physical location leaves them feeling cut off.

There are some basic steps that might help, wherever your organisation is based and whatever you do.

Get connected to your local voluntary and community sector. No matter how busy you are, find a willing volunteer in your organisation to invest time in seeking out local support services for the sector e.g. newsletters, networks, meetings, training, events, development and support workers. 

Start with your local helping agency or network (e.g. Community Federation, Community Council, Development Trust, Council for Voluntary Service) or similar organisation to yourself and take if from there.

Whilst you won’t want to spend valuable time in endless meetings you may find real benefit in being connected to others “on your patch”. There may also be occasion when groups working together can speak strongly with one voice on an issue that affects them individually and collectively e.g. changes in a local funding stream.

Being part of a physical and virtual local network and the informal links that grow from it can be an invaluable way of sharing information, learning, challenges, successes and the inevitable occasional frustrations of life in the voluntary and community sector!