Another area of exploration in the study was the obstacles that the projects encounter.
Restricted funding has knock-on effects. It can curtail activities – directly or indirectly because partner organisations have closed or scaled back their activities in the context of public sector cuts. It can hamper projects that need premises either for their own activity or for clients such as homeless people. It can make it impossible to employ paid staff, which would enable the greater deployment of volunteers.
Please refer to Funding: sources and developing a bid for more information.
A major facet of many projects is recruiting and managing volunteers. As has been indicated volunteers are one of the strengths of such projects. However, it is not always easy to attract high quality volunteers especially ones, such as befrienders, “who are willing to devote quite a lot of time to an unknown requirement with regard to when a call will be made”. Once recruited, it can take skill and sensitivity to manage volunteers and avoid issues such as cliqueyness or resistance to change.
Another danger that was mentioned is that of losing focus or distinctiveness. Some projects become aware of multiple needs or opportunities and consequently the many different directions they could take. Then the risk is of becoming too diffuse and woolly. In others, any growth brings with it the challenge of retaining organisational integration. The move from grant aid to contracts can similarly challenge the integrity of the organisation. The amount of paper work involved may curtail the time spent with clients. The terms of a contract may be prescriptive in a way that distorts the project’s preferred approach.
Please refer to Management and Leadership for more information
Geography can be another contextual issue that is challenging in rural areas where access or bringing groups together is more difficult.
Externally, potential partners or funders can still be suspicious of a perceived ‘religious’ agenda.
“Agencies that we work will sometimes assume that as a church-based organisation, we have another agenda, that the only reason for our being here is to get people into church on a Sunday.”
More generally, it can be difficult to win the confidence and collaboration of professionals on the ground. In the context of public sector cuts, there can be anxiety about the voluntary sector being brought in to do jobs ‘on the cheap’.
Another obstacle inside and outside churches is people prejudiced against the groups with whom projects are working. For example, there is “prejudice about refugees and asylum seekers fanned by the tabloid press”. This can even occur within agencies: “whilst many police are extremely helpful, we have known instances of them being almost brutally unhelpful”. Similarly, church members can have very judgmental attitudes towards people in poverty, again often because “their only window on the world is through the media” so that there is a need “to change attitudes and overcome inaccurate preconceptions”.