Published date: 29 June 2022

How can charities get smarter with the spaces they use?

Charities across the country are facing growing demand pressures alongside limited or shrinking budget and resources. Competition for resources is fierce, and charity leaders are always exploring ways to reduce costs and optimise funding. Getting smarter with the spaces your organisation uses and how to better use them can make a big impact on both cost and quality. NHS Property Services works with a large number of charitable organisations across the country, providing space and advising on estate strategy. In this blog, we share our top tips for what charity leaders should be considering when planning their estate requirements.

This article was originally published in Health Business UK, you can read it here

Building flexibility into your spaces
Covid-19 has proven the difficulty of planning ahead and matching estate needs to service provision. For organisations with limited funds, long-term leases should be approached with caution and more flexible, pay-as-you-go options considered. Charity leaders should question whether they need exclusive use of space in exchange for a financially and contractually binding agreements, where paying only for the time and space you need will help you to be more flexible as funding and other conditions fluctuate. This can minimise costs and also help you to remain agile, moving to locations and types of spaces that best serve your needs over time.

This applies to more ‘back office’ workspaces and frontline services. The pandemic has also accelerated the move to smarter working, and all organisations should be considering how to make their workspaces more flexible. Offering flexible spaces to employees can boost their sense of empowerment and wellbeing, as well as making smarter use of budgets.

Choosing the right spaces
Your organisation is likely to thrive in community-based, accessible, safe, and high-quality spaces, which can offer the best experience possible for your staff and the communities you serve. Existing public sector landlords often manage the spaces most heavily used by local communities, providing voluntary sector organisations with the opportunity to use these familiar and accessible spaces. Whichever site you choose, consider what facilities are already on-site to support your organisation, such as reception, wayfinding, waste disposal and cleaning, to remove as much of the logistical or administrative workload from your teams as possible, so that they can focus on what they do best.

Consider opportunities for co-location with other complementary organisations wherever possible. This is particularly relevant now with the formation of Integrated Care Systems and the ramp-up of multi-agency/multi-disciplinary working, which are connecting a wider range of health, care, and community organisations to achieve more joined-up services. Choosing the right space could help your charity work more collaboratively and form new partnerships more readily, which in turn will benefit the communities you serve.

Streamline admin
Much like our previous point on minimising on-site logistics for your teams, leaders should be exploring how to optimise administrative time and energy spent on finding and booking spaces. As ‘space as a service’ grows, you can find more digital tools – like NHS Open Space – to streamline this process, meaning your teams can focus on what they do best.

Digital solutions not only reduce admin but can give you access to data and insights on estate usage and spend that can support future planning. Having a clear understanding of how your teams are using space – locations, room types, and times – can unlock more effective estates management and identify opportunities for savings.

A solution for charity leaders: NHS Open Space
Developed by NHS Property Services, NHS Open Space offers ACEVO members flexible, national access to over 1,100 bookable clinical and non-clinical rooms across 190 community-based healthcare buildings. Using our free-to-register, easy-to-use online booking platform, ACEVO members can search for and book rooms for their services and business functions, to meet ad-hoc/one-off space requirements or to support the delivery of medium to longer-term commissioned service contracts.


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