The project was in crisis. Of the 90 outputs which the organisation needed to deliver, it had only delivered 1 (one) to the satisfaction of the funder. The project co-ordinator had recently started a period of sick leave and had indicated to the chair that the absence would be lengthy.
The organisation had already received (and spent) about £40,000 of the project budget and was facing a clawback of £37,000. This would have put the organisation out of business.
What we discovered
From our initial investigation, which included meeting the funder, we quickly established the root of the problem.
- There was no time, no capacity and no funding to deliver more activities. The organisation's response relied entirely on what had already been delivered but not claimed.
- The organisation had a high staff turnover and was dependent on Future Jobs Fund placements. As inexperienced trainees, none of them understood what the funder required.
- Worse, there was a generally dismissive attitude amongst the staff towards any kind of accountability.
- On a positive note, the organisation had, in truth, completed much of the client-facing work that was required to satisfy the funder. But they had failed to complete the necessary documentation to evidence that the work had been done.
- No-one in the organisation had the skills to complete the monthly and quarterly returns and the organisation was in technical breach of its funding agreement.
- We estimated that, with our support, the organisation could probably evidence between 60 and 70 of the required 90 outputs.
What we did
Working closely with the chair and treasurer, we agreed a course of action.
- We mustered all the available paperwork which might evidence the work which had been carried out.
- We devised simple forms which, when completed, would provide the funder with everything required. We gave detailed guidance to the staff so they knew what to do.
- We negotiated with the funder. They agreed that if about 60 of the key outputs were evidenced, they would remove the threat of clawback. But they were adamant that the final £10,000 of the grant could not be paid.
We turned the crisis into a credit:
- The funder was entirely satisfied with the evidence which was provided.
- The funder formally withdrew the threat of clawback and, with further negotiation, agreed to pay the final £10,000.
- The organisation has a clean bill of health and will be able to apply for similar funding again in the future.
- During the course of our work we completed and submitted an unrelated application for a £10,000 grant. The application was successful. We did not charge the client for this.
- Our fees for the remedial work amounted to around £6,000 over 4 months, a figure more than offset by £20,000 additional income we secured for the client.