In March 2016, GAVCA Trustees took the decision to embark on a managed closure. The decision was taken in the context of the changes facing infrastructure organisations, and in light of GAVCA’s current financial position and future prospects.
After the EGM, three Trustees will remain to wind up the company and take care of any remaining administrative processes. The service in Cheltenham is transferring to GRCC and Angela Gilbert will continue to provide support services to organisations in Cheltenham. We wish her well with her new employer and GRCC success with their new service.
The trustees undertook a strategic review in February 2015 and considered a number of options. In the first instance, resources were focussed on developing our training and capacity building offer.
As a second stage, trustees were keen to expand our partnership working, and explore possibilities for joint working. Meantime, the income from direct grants reduced and income from the training and consultancy services was not enough to make up for the growing deficit. The majority of GAVCA’s clients are small to medium size organisations who cannot afford to pay for advice, training and development.
As we planned for the year ahead, the expected income for 2016-2017 did not materialise and free reserves were reducing. As good governance demands, the trustees reviewed the business plan and concluded that to change GAVCA’s business model would have absorbed more resources and time. Sometimes, the right decision is not the most palatable but we recognised that to sustain GAVCA for its own sake would not be future proof, and that to continue would very possibly lead to an unplanned closure and more disruption to services. The decision was taken to close the organisation in a managed way and to leave a legacy to support local organisations. This legacy will be managed by a locally established grant management agency and will benefit organisations in need of support to grow and develop their organisation or train their people. We have sought legal advice throughout the process, so that any transfer meets charitable requirements. Trustees will also explore opportunities to grow the legacy by for example, finding a match donor.
GAVCA’s journey is similar to that of other Infrastructure organisations, faced with decisions in response to a “marketization” of infrastructure support. Increasingly, frontline organisations should be able to choose the support they require from a range of organisations. In a mature market they should have access to a framework of preferred providers and the process would be managed by an informed agency. This ensures organisations’ access to a menu of available support from a diverse pool of providers. This approach provides some controls over the ongoing quality of the support on offer and anyone falling short of the minimum standard would not make it on the framework list.
With the end of public funding for infrastructure support as we know it, and the advent of a demand led market, the remaining infrastructure agencies must focus on the ability of organisations to respond to change. NCVO state that the level of charitable grants available from government has dropped by 60% in a 10 year period between 2003 and 2013. In 2000, every £1 of grant-funding was effectively matched by £1 of contract funding; by 2013 the government was giving just 19p of grant money for every £1 of contract money. If this trend continues, it will mean that many charities will have disappeared by 2020, especially in the small-medium sized bracket which largely depends on grants and are not well-suited to take on complex contracts or develop relationships with new funders.
GAVCA’s legacy will continue for the foreseeable future and in addition to the legacy funding, we were pleased to hear that the Gloucestershire University Business School will follow up on Our Community is Your Business project to develop the best model for connecting businesses and voluntary organisations in Gloucestershire.
For any voluntary organisations in need of support, Barrie Wyatt and I will be at the Growth Hub most Monday afternoons to provide free advice on a voluntary basis. We look forward to seeing you there.
I was overwhelmed by the dozens of emails of support and kind comments:
“I am very sorry to hear the organisation is going to cease its operations. It has made a very valuable contribution over many years to the voluntary sector and it will be missed.”
“It is a bad day for the county, for the people that work for GAVCA and for the people GAVCA supports. To say I am greatly saddened is an understatement, as I know there will be a void when you have gone and I am uncertain it can be filled.”
“We have received great support from GAVCA over the years in terms of linking the VCS together and in infrastructure support.”
“We have always found being part of the organisation worthwhile from both a practical advice and support perspective, but also in the reassurance that there is someone out there advocating for the third sector at county level.”
Finally, I am grateful to my colleagues, Angela, Jane and Susan who between them served GAVCA for a total of 26 years; they demonstrated their ongoing commitment to our members during a difficult period. I also thank our six trustees for their support during my tenure.
Best wishes to all involved with the VCS in Gloucestershire for continued success and thank you for your support.
Catherine Kevis, Interim CEO
An overview of the 20 year history of GAVCA as an organisation can be found here.