A big focus for us here at Sported is to make sure community sports groups are sustainable – that they have the capacity to deliver the amazing work they do, not just now but for the future as well. We say we’re making groups more sustainable, but a while ago, we started asking the question: ‘what do we mean by that?’
We had a pretty good idea – we know that groups need dependable sources of income, volunteers, and the structures in place to manage these effectively; we’ve been supporting and strengthening groups for years, and wanted to put what we’ve learned about what a group needs to survive down on paper, bringing together our knowledge with learning from across the sector and beyond.
To develop this, we pulled in a range of sources – including existing research and tools from a variety of sectors. We conducted an in-depth literature review, consulted members and volunteers, as well as others in the sector. Using all this evidence to build on our own experiences, we developed our Capacity Model – an overview of everything we think a club or group needs to have in place in order to make sure they’re here for the long term.
We ended up grouping what we found into five segments:
We elaborated on this, building outward from our core five elements to create the full model – what we’ve started calling The Frisbee:
This might look a bit daunting, but a lot of this is common sense. Here’s what we mean by each section of the Frisbee.
Finances are obviously central to making sure an organisation is around for years to come – if you can’t pay for your activities, how can they continue? But Sound Finances covers more than just getting money in. Here we look at:
Diverse Sources of Income. If you’re dependent on one or two sources of external funding for your income, this can leave you very vulnerable to changes in circumstances – what happens if your main funder stops giving you money? Linked to this is the Ability to Generate Income Independently, but also making sure any new sources of funding you go for don’t drag you away from what you set up to do and what your young people want and need.
Financial Management and Budgeting. How well are you managing the funds you have? Is your money been spent as effectively as possible, and can you account for how your money is being spent fully, for your own purposes as well as for funders and partners? Do you have Reserves to cushion any unexpected financial issues?
Mission and Structure
Having a clear Mission and Structure means knowing what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. There are a few elements to this.
Key to your mission is having a Strategic Plan, and that this is consulted regularly to make sure you’re meeting your goals and plan any changes that might be necessary if you’re not. It can also mean planning to appropriately react to changing contexts and circumstances – anticipated or unanticipated – that might be affecting your group, and work on the Plans and Processes that will help you design and run your activities. Also important here is Good Impact Practice, which can help you know that your activities are effective and why – and how you might want to change them if they’re not having the desired effect.
It’s also important that you have a Clear Structure, Roles and Oversight – that responsibilities for key obligations and tasks are clear.
Ability to Deliver
Ability to Deliver covers equipment, personnel and facilities – the tangible things that you need in order to do your work:
You need to have Sufficient Numbers of Staff & Volunteers, of course, but an organisation needs to have the right number of people in the right roles – not just coaching, but also back-office and administrative functions, and be working to ensure they’re well equipped to continue if the current leadership leaves: Succession Planning. Volunteers also need to be reliable. If a group doesn’t have the capacity to hold their activities regularly and dependably, young people’s attendance is likely to drop off.
In addition, sustainability relies on organisations knowing the facilities and equipment they use are fit for purpose and going to be available to them in the long term – that they are Secure, Affordable and Adequate.
Embedded in the Community
Being embedded in the community is essential for a local organisation. By Embedded in the Community, we don’t just mean the immediate community you serve – though that’s vital too. As well as being locally known and respected, responding to local issues and needs, and reacting to local demand, the community also encompasses others doing or supporting similar work to yours.
An organisation that is embedded in the community is using local knowledge and connections to identify and respond to need and encourage participation by both participants and volunteers while establishing itself and using contextual knowledge to ensure what it does stays relevant and pursuing useful partnerships with others in the sector. Ideally, your volunteers and the young people participating in your activities should be representative of the wider community, too.
People with Relevant Skills & Knowledge
Staff and volunteers should have skills, knowledge and connections relevant to their role, and committee members should come from a variety of backgrounds so you can benefit from diverse knowledge and experience.
Knowledge doesn’t reach its full potential if it’s all in one place, though – this knowledge needs to be shared throughout the organisation – not concentrated in a small number of people, and kept current. There should also be a wide range of relevant experience and backgrounds in the organisation’s committee. As well as tangible skills, volunteers need to be passionate and empathetic; they need to be skilled at connecting with young people. There’s also an overlap here with Local and Sectoral knowledge – knowing what else is happening in the sector.
Though there are lots of elements in the Capacity model, there will be a lot of things in here you already have or are already doing. There may also be things in there you don’t have, but which you’re planning to work on. We’ve designed a tool, Game Plan, to help you identify where you’re doing well and where you might need additional support. This will give you an overall capacity score as well as a score for each element of the Capacity Model, helping you know where you most need to develop.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our capacity model or the Game Plan tool, contact Chris Wignall at email@example.com. You can download the core elements of sustainability here and the full Frisbee here.