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Building Capabilities

All organisations funded through the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities and Reaching Communities buildings can access additional funding to enable them to identify their strengths and build their capabilities. The purpose of this extra money is to help the organisations funded through these programmes to increase their skills, knowledge and confidence so they can deliver more effective and sustainable projects.

All organisations that receive this funding to build their capabilities must carry out an organisational strength review. This review will help you to identify your organisation’s strengths and also any potential areas for improvement. The Big Lottery Fund advise that you contract a third party to do your review as that will help you think more objectively about your areas for development.  ERVAS can provide this review and any additional support required tailored to your needs.


The review should include:

  1. An analysis of the context in which your organisation works – identifying the factors that are within and outside of your control, and what the priorities are for building your capabilities so that you remain an effective organisation in your area of work.
  2. A two-part assessment of the best way to embed new capabilities in your organisation.
    • Part one should involve looking back at your organisation’s track record to see where and how it has developed its strengths and to reveal the organisational behaviours that got you there or held you back
    • Part two should then take into account the type of organisational structure you have, to determine what you need to do to embed your new capabilities.
  3. An analysis of which new capabilities you need to develop, together with advice on the best way to use your resources to acquire and embed those capabilities. Once this review is complete, your provider should produce a written report of recommendations. You can use it to decide what your priorities for development should be. You should try to schedule your review within the first three months of your Reaching Communities project. This is so you can act on it and spend the rest of your additional funding within the first year of your project.

Training and Support (in response to the strength review)

The organisational strength review is a development experience in itself. It should be informed by the staff working for your organisation, so all staff, including any trustees, should be involved in it. Based on the outcome of your review, it’s up to you what areas you want to prioritise in developing your organisation. You can then use the rest of this additional funding to buy in expert training and support. Some organisations may choose to use this extra money to build on their strengths and assets, and others may prefer to address areas for improvement, or develop new skill areas. The aim of this funding is to enable your organisation to develop skills and knowledge that will improve your work and allow you to support the people and communities that you work with more effectively. You can use this money to build your skills and knowledge in a range of areas, such as:

  • governance, including choosing the right legal structure
  • consulting with service users
  • developing policies and procedures for safeguarding vulnerable people
  • developing trustees
  • strategic planning, including business and financial planning
  • fund raising
  • enterprise and income generation
  • HR processes
  • quality assurance and performance management
  • partnership development and management
  • marketing
  • monitoring and evaluation skills
  • data management
  • facilities management
  • health and safety
  • external relations, communications and influencing

This is not an exhaustive list. Your organisational strength review will reveal what the priorities are for your organisation, and you should base your development activities on the review recommendations. The focus of this funding is to develop the skills and expertise needed to undertake these activities, and not to undertake the activities themselves. Whatever you decide to focus on, the aim should be to buy in a service or provider who will work with you to improve your organisation’s knowledge, skills and confidence in that area (and not simply to contract someone to do work on it for you). Senior staff and managers in your organisation should get advice from the contracted organisation to understand how they can support staff to embed their new skills, knowledge and confidence in the organisation’s work.


You may need to use some of this extra money to free staff up from their day jobs to concentrate on the organisation’s development. If you need to release staff or trustees to take part in training or other activities, you can spend some of this money on:

  • back-filling staff time
  • temporarily extending part-time hours
  • covering reasonable expenses.


You can use some of this money to buy support tools, for example accounting packages or a new website. However, if you do buy a tool you should be clear how it will improve your organisation’s capabilities and make your service to your beneficiaries more effective. You should also use some of the money to enable staff to use the new tools confidently.