Perceptions and use of quality standards in voluntary and community organisations
13 June 2012 - Voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) are increasingly expected to demonstrate to funders and commissioners their approach to quality assurance. Quality standards are one way of doing this.
Today NCVO launches a new report into the perceptions and use of quality standards in the voluntary and community sector. The research, commissioned by the BIG Lottery Fund, and carried out with OPM (Office for Public Management), investigated how voluntary organisations use standards such as PQASSO, Investors in People, ISO 9001 and specific standards for sub-sectors and areas of work (e.g. the Matrix Standard). The research also found out how funders and commissioners view quality standards and how they influence funding and commissioning decisions.
Key findings from the research include:
- Over 130 quality standards are being used by the VCS covering a range of areas of organisational life and work specialisms.
- Working to a quality standard can benefit organisations by putting them in a stronger position to respond to tenders and provide a tool for organisational improvement and reflection.
- 88% of respondents cited the resources (time and money) involved in working to quality standards as a drawback.
- ISO 9001 was viewed as process driven, too onerous, and not appropriate for the voluntary and community sector.
- There appears to be a knowledge gap amongst some commissioners and funders about quality standards and the difference between them.
- Some organisations need to fulfil very similar requirements for a range of funders, regulators and commissioners. This can result in re-jigging evidence and moving pieces of paper around.
- If they are done well, taken seriously, and measure the right things (i.e. not just process but impact too), then quality standards can be viewed very positively by voluntary organisations. However, there is concern that they may be fuelling an attitude of ‘good enough’ rather than driving excellence, particularly in relation to the commissioning environment.
- Recommendations include increasing the knowledge and understanding amongst commissioners and funders of the purpose, scope and difference between quality standards (with suggestions for how BIG can help with this), and supporting voluntary and community organisations to make informed choices about their approach to quality assurance and use of quality standards (with suggestions for how NCVO can help with this).
The BIG Lottery Fund will use the research to inform their use of quality standards in assessing funding bids.
Find out more about quality standards
Download the full report, Quality Assurance in the Voluntary and Community Sector (PDF, 764 KB - updated June 2012).
Our Research Consultant Ellie Brodie has also blogged on the issue, Quality standards in the voluntary sector: join the debate.
For more information contact Ellie on email@example.com or 020 7 520 2548.