VONNE strategic plan refresh

Author: Carol Botten

2023 is the year that VONNE will be undertaking a full refresh of our strategic plan, with the goal of launching a new strategic plan for 2024-2027 in April 2024.

We have had our current vision, mission and current set of strategic aims since 2015, although they have been reviewed by the Board of Trustees on at least an annual basis and tweaked/ adapted according to significant changes in our operating environment or key challenges and opportunities for the VCSE sector in the North East. For example, in 2020-2021, particular detail was added about our role in supporting the sector during the Covid 19 pandemic and then the recovery/ rebuilding that followed. 

In recent years, VONNE has grown significantly from a turnover of £374,262 in 2019/20 to £1.8M in 2022/23 (a 400%+ growth in 4 years). During this period VONNE secured continuation and additional core funding/ funding for our core functions both through and beyond the Covid pandemic (thank you Millfield House, Sir James Knott Trust, Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, National Lottery Community Fund, Co. Durham Community Foundation and The Joicey Trust). 

In terms of our work, we have significantly increased the range and quality of our offer to VCSE organisations and a wide range of stakeholders to enable them to effectively connect and engage with the VCSE sector to deliver our current strategic aims:

  • To be the expert source of knowledge and intelligence on the VCSE sector in the North East with a particular focus on the existing and emerging needs of the people and communities it serves.
  • To be a source of information to the VCSE sector on issues that impact upon it.
  • To raise the North East sector’s profile and be a leading voice for it.
  • To support external stakeholders to effectively engage and collaborate with the VCSE community, through effective system change and new approaches.
  • To support the North East VCSE sector to be effective, ambitious and enterprising.
  • To be an effective and sustainable organisation.

Further information on our key work areas and offer is outlined below.

So why now and how can we get involved?

Since 2019 VONNE have experienced a period of rapid growth and development, we’ve built and facilitated a wide range of partnerships, collaborations, and networks, and developed strategic relationships with key regional bodies, funders and commissioners. We now hold numerous positions with key strategic bodies to enable us to both represent the VCSE sector and influence policy and practice. 

The world has also changed significantly since 2019; the way we work, the challenges and opportunities that VCSE organisations are experiencing or should be preparing for have shifted, and the regional and national political and policy landscape has also changed and will continues to change, again offering a range of both challenges and opportunities for our sector.

Looking forward we want to ensure that VONNE continues to be an organisation that;

  • is clearly reflecting and responding to both the immediate and future needs of the sector,
  • can secure and leverage funding and support for sector organisations through partnerships and collaborations to meet those needs,
  • creates and enables spaces and opportunities for the public and private sector to engage, support and work in partnership with VCSE organisations,
  • champions the work, approach and impact of VCSE sector organisations, shares best practice and learning across the sector and enables organisations to work collaboratively to increase their reach and impact.

The VONNE board of trustees (the majority of whom are representatives from our membership) and the VONNE team, have already begun to pool their experience, knowledge and insights to start to explore and assess how we might shape a new strategic approach that will enable VONNE to be fit for purpose, and more impactful, sustainable and resilient for the future. 

As a membership organisation, with over 1,400 core members, 300+ Membership+ supporters as well as 500+ key partners, stakeholders and funders, it is also key that we hear from you so that we can continue to fulfil our role to successfully support the development and sustainability of a strong, effective and well governed VCSE sector and to promote and enable engagement, involvement and collaboration with the sector as a valued partner. 

In a fortnight’s time on the 27/28th September, we will be launching a survey in the next edition of VONNE News and we would encourage you to find 10-15 minutes to make yourself a cuppa and respond – we plan to make it is quick, easy and pain-free as possible for you! 

The survey will enable us gather the views and insights from a wide range of members, VCSE sector organisations and others.  We then plan to analyse the data we receive and use it to inform more in-depth workshop discussions and exercises at our Annual Conference and AGM on the 16th November in Sunderland. Following that, we are likely to hold further focus groups, workshops and discussions with particular groups of members, stakeholders and partners to either further develop and/or sense check key elements of the emerging strategy. 

In the Spring of 2024, with your help and engagement, we will launch a new VONNE strategic plan that will enable us to effectively serve and support our members, the wider VCSE sector, for the good of the North East region, our people and communities for the next three years and lay the groundwork for the longer-term.

Thank you for your ongoing support and engagement with VONNE and we look forward to hearing from you through the survey and ongoing strategy development activities in the months ahead.


Further information on VONNE’s development and work since 2019

Below we have provided an overview of our key work areas and current activity in case it is useful for you to review before responding to the survey at the end of September. 

Members Services/ Core offer to VCSE sector and stakeholders

 We have seen continued growth in our core services offer and the development of new services to members and the wider sector, through which we earn our own income:

We have also continued to further develop our information and communications offer through:

Projects and Partnerships/ Support to the sector

In terms of our Projects and Partnerships, we have developed and secured funding for substantial and longer-term programmes of work, that has enabled us to recruit specific project staff to coordinate and deliver regional or sub-regional programmes.  These projects deliver significant amounts of both direct support and funding to organisations.  Below are just three examples of current projects which sector organisations can benefit from:

  • Going Green Together funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Co. Durham Community Foundation has enabled £150,000 worth of to support organisations with environmental sustainability including training, events, web tools, toolkits and resources and subsidised access to Investors in the Environment framework and accreditation and Smart Carbon - carbon footprint calculator.  The programme will also award £70,000 of seed funding to 13 VCSE organisations to develop climate action projects.
  • Digital Pathfinders project funded by the North of Tyne Combined authority offers digital training and one to one support to organisations in the North of Tyne area.  This value of this programme in terms of support to the sector totals   almost £200,000 over three years.
  • LARCH (Local Access in Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool) funded by the Access Foundation and Big Society Capital is a £4M programme to provide practical support for the development of social enterprises and enterprising charities and access to a specific blended social investment fund to support that development and growth.

Other key area of partnership work is our Health & Wellbeing programme which has four key elements:

  • The VCSE Partnership programme with (and funded by) the North East and North Cumbria (NENC) Integrated Care System which is one of 42 alliances across England created to ensure that the VCSE sector is embedded at all levels of the emerging NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICS). Working in partnership with Cumbria CVS, VONNE leads and delivers the integration and enables the VCSE sector to shape and inform the ICS into a system which works for everyone. As well as funding members of the VONNE Health & Wellbeing team to coordinate VCSE sub-groups that link directly into ICS work areas, the team also provides information and opportunities for further engagement and influence through our Health & Wellbeing Network and directly influences key bodies and areas of work within the Integrated Care System by representing the sector on the Integrated Care Board and key workstream boards.  We also advocate for the ICS to acknowledge the value of VCSE representation into the system and have secured over £50,000 of funding from the ICS, NHS England and the Waiting Well programme for representative fees for VCSE organisation and Local Infrastructure Organisations to attend meetings.


  • Since 2020 VONNE has been the regional lead in the North East and Yorkshire for the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) Thriving Communities programme.  We’ve supported a diverse range of community projects and helping VCSE organisations interested or already involved in delivering social prescribing activities to learn more and make valuable connections across the social prescribing pathway, and particularly within local health and care systems.  Unfortunately, due to a change in strategic direction for NASP, this programme comes to an end in September 2023.


  • Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing - we’re the lead body for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing Workstream, managing the delivery plan for this funding. Our Infrastructure Investment Programme will award over £500K in funding from 2022-2025 to support place-based investment in VCSE infrastructure to facilitate better connections, collaboration and delivery in terms of social prescribing as well as an additional £160K available to support the development and sharing of innovative social prescribing models across the region.


Within this workstream, we also host the Health Champions programme across the North East and North Cumbria linking the NHS with grassroots voluntary sector organisations and communities, listening and investing in their expertise to help shape health services and messaging ensuring the most marginalised communities are reached, having a direct effect on tackling healthcare inequalities in our region.


The VCSE Health Research Partnership Programme, hosted by VONNE, and funded by the National Institute for Health & Care Research (NIHR) infrastructure organisations, is bringing together the skills and expertise of VCSE and research partners to ensure greater diversity of communities involved in research through long-lasting, reciprocal partnerships and a growing number of projects driven by community views.  Research plays a key role in developing better care and treatments to address our health and wellbeing needs. Community involvement in research can help identify the most important topics for research and the best ways of researching them.


On the back of this programme, we have worked with the NENC Integrated Care System to leverage additional funding through the Research Engagement Network Development (REND) fund and awarded £84,000 to VCSE organisations working with young people to engage them in health research.  We’ve recently heard that our second application to REND has been successful with additional money to flow to VCSE organisations to help them encourage and support their beneficiaries to engage in health research.


Representation and influencing/ networks and collaborations

Outside of our projects and programmes and core services, a significant proportion of VONNE’s time is focused on representing the VCSE sector at a range of regional or sub-regional strategic forums or bringing together stakeholders to help shape and influence their work to the benefit of the sector and the people and communities we serve.  A good example of this is our facilitation of the North East & Cumbria Funders Network, where we enable funders to share information and intelligence, promote good practice and share research and reports to encourage funders to review and amend their priorities and approaches to better reflect the needs of the organisations they wish to support. 

In addition, our role representing the VCSE sector in a wide range of strategic forums enables the voice of the sector to be heard and fed into the development of policy, practice and delivery of funding/ commissioned programmes of work.  We use the networks that we host or facilitate including the Health & Wellbeing Network, the Employment, Inclusion and Skills Network, the NE VCSE Policy Forum and the NE Local Infrastructure Organisations Network to enable us and stakeholders to gather the views of sector organisations, feed those into the development of local strategies, policy and practice and then feedback to the sector.

Read more about us, our services, projects and our impact on the VONNE website.