About BIG Assist

BIG Assist is an innovative programme testing new ways of delivering support to infrastructure organisations in the voluntary sector enabling them to adapt and change how they work to meet the challenges of a much changed operating environment.

The programme has been piloting a ‘demand led’ model of support by awarding a voucher that the organisation uses to select support of their choice through an online market place of approved suppliers of support.

A further £1million will be invested in infrastructure through the Big Assist platform;

Big Assist offers a wide range of support and opportunities to voluntary sector infrastructure organisations. In 2015-16 we will be prioritising organisations who are
- Ready to change / can evidence that they are embracing change
- Able to capture the impact of the work undertaken
- Prepared to share their learning; utilising a ‘pay it forward’ model – requiring the organisations in receipt of funds ‘re-paying’ the value of the support by passing on their learning and knowledge to other organisations
- Champion and promote the BIG Assist approach

Support can be financial help, in the form of a voucher, towards support services or it may be through our peer to peer support community that allows infrastructure organisations to share and learn from one another both online and offline. Not all eligible organisations submitting a self-assessment will receive a voucher. For this reason, even those who are not awarded vouchers will still be able to benefit from the programme by learning from the experience of other organisations.

Big Assist continues to focus support in these key areas:

Strategy, planning and managing change
- Organisational strategy
- Planning, assessing and communicating impact
- Business planning
- Leading change

Financial sustainability
- Income strategy and new business models
- Cost efficiency and savings
- Financial management
- Managing your assets

Innovation, new products and ways of working
- Innovating culture
- Developing new products, services and ways of working

Marketing and building strategic relationships
- Collaborations and partnerships
- Strengthening and creating effective relationships
- Marketing and communications

Supporting and developing people and organisational culture
- Organisational culture
- Developing skills and adapting to change
- New structures and ways of working

To get started with BIG Assist read our guide on pathways to the website, for more information read our frequently asked questions.

Big Assist is delivered by NCVO under contract to the BIG Lottery Fund until March 2016.

A programme of engagement with leading infrastructure organisations to learn from and share their vision for the future

Over the next year we will engage further with those infrastructure organisations leading change; inviting them to take part in a series of local and national events in a collaboration that will inform the future shape, policy and funding for infrastructure.

The focus of our events programme will be to promote and share learning from BIG Assist with infrastructure organisations and the wider sector through face to face and on line engagements drawing on learning, experience and expertise of infrastructure organisations.

We will also be working alongside NAVCA to help take forward the NAVCA Commission recommendations.

A programme of outreach and consultation with funders and other stakeholders will be undertaken

Within 2015-16 work will be undertaken to look into the possibility and viability of securing additional investment to support the longer term sustainability of the Big Assist platform.

To do this we will engage funders in better understanding the learning and impact of BIG Assist and the potential for supporting their grantees to learn, develop and be more sustainable.

NCVO is committed to encouraging other funders to support BIG Assist and to consider running some of their grant programmes through the platform. There has been growing interest in recent years in ‘grant plus’ or ‘funder plus’ schemes. Many funders have concerns about developing an over-dependency on grants and have explored ways to help organisations become more sustainable through diversifying their income streams.

We plan to use the proposed extension of the current contract for a further 12 months to engage funders and other key stakeholders through a variety of methods, including:
- Presentations, seminars and roundtables to interested funders
- Presentations to local authority commissioners and Government departments
- A series of short learning papers on BIG Assist
- Online dissemination, discussion and learning.

Big Assist is delivered by NCVO under contract to the BIG Lottery Fund until March 2016.

Contact us

If you have questions about Big Assist you can have a look at our FAQ page, telephone enquiries 0207 520 2418 or e-mail assist@ncvo.org.uk. You can also contact members of our team see below.

Meet the team

Leesa HerbertLeesa Herbert, Head of Infrastructure Development

Email Leesa or call 020 7520 2557
Leesa is Head of the Infrastructure Development Team within NCVO. The team leads on support to infrastructure organisations including the delivery of the Big Assist programme, the Cultural Commissioning programme and Funding Central as well as leading on NCVOs work with volunteer centres.
A trained teacher, Leesa worked in Islington Council Children’s Services as Early Years Policy and Development manager, leading on the boroughs strategy to provide affordable quality childcare. Prior to this Leesa worked in education as Lead Officer on school exclusions in Barnet Council, reducing the boroughs exclusions rate in line with Government targets. 

Nicola NorthNicola North, Project Manager 

Email Nicola or call 020 7520 2427
Nicola North is the Project Manager for the BIG Assist programme - a programme for infrastructure organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; delivered under contract to the Big Lottery Fund by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).  
Nicola has previously worked as a Programme Manager at the National Children’s Bureau where she was responsible for managing various national and European projects and programmes with an emphasis on children and young people’s participation and held a number of roles at the Basic Skills Agency; including overseeing the delivery of the National Basic Skills Strategy for Wales on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Davinder KaurDavinder Kaur, Community Officer

Email Davinder or call 0207 520 2441
Davinder is the BIG Assist Community Officer; focussing on delivering learning and networking opportunities through national, regional and local events as well as managing the sponsored visit opportunities available through the BIG Assist programme.
Davinder has previously worked on the Value of Infrastructure Programme (also at NCVO) which trained infrastructure organisations on how to better measure and communicate their impact. Prior to this, she worked as a campaigner at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Actionaid where she was responsible for raising awareness of their Food Rights Campaign as well as increasing their profile among young people in the UK.

Marie FaulknerMarie Faulkner, Online Engagement Officer

Email Marie or call 0207 520 2410
Marie is the Online Engagement Officer for the BIG Assist programme and NCVO; focussing on delivering learning and networking opportunities through our newsletters, Twitter, our online forum- Share Space, online events and our unique wiki platform.
Marie has previously worked on the iKnowHow wiki project with KnowHow NonProfit (also at NCVO). Prior to this, she worked as a social media professional at Action for Children and an online campaigner with Anti Academies Alliance where she was responsible for raising awareness around new education policies and its effects locally.

Vasilis Ntoulos, Finance & Administration Officer

Email Vasilis or call 0207 520 3151
Vasilis is the BIG Assist Finance & Administration Officer; focusing on processes and systems as well as assisting in the organisation of events, analysing data and responding to enquiries.
Prior to working at NCVO Vasilis worked in various non-profit organisations across Europe focusing primarily in the fields of art, culture and community action. 

Julie WardJulie Ward, Consultant

Email Julie or call 0207 520 2434
Julie is the consultant for the BIG Assist programme overseeing the customer review process, conducting reviews and managing the independent consultants. Previously she worked for NCVO as a Sustainable Funding Officer, delivering support, training and consultancy to frontline and infrastructure organisations. She has a particular interest in individual giving, trading and contracting.  
Julie has a broad understanding and practical knowledge of funding and finance issues and has extensive experience in working with small charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises and advising them on new ways of generating income.  Coming from a background as a fundraiser, Julie worked for three years with a local infrastructure organisation as a Sustainable Funding Adviser.  She has a practical, creative approach and brings a background in the commercial sector to her consultancy work.
Julie has a degree in literature specialising in American literature. She later completed an MA in Leisure Management which involved a number of practical modules completed in conjunction with a variety of commercial and non-profit organisations including Sheffield United FC, Sheffield Eagles RL and The Grand Opera House, Belfast.  She has volunteered widely both in the UK and abroad and has had varied roles from leading a Girl Guide unit to painting a health centre in Delhi. She is currently a volunteer fundraiser for a small charity that assists women who have experienced domestic violence.