Looking for Funding In All the Right Places
30 October 2013 at 8:41 am
An experienced Not for Profit has moved to a social enterprise model to help fund much needed psychological services for people affected by eating disorders. The CEO of Eating Disorders Victoria, Jennifer Beveridge explains.
Over recent years, the Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline has heard over and over again about the limited number of options for people to receive appropriate services from knowledgeable and experienced professionals in the community.
Sometimes these requests could be met by existing services at EDV and sometimes by referring people to professionals on the EDV Private Practitioner database. However in all of these situations more was needed than just an empathetic listening ear.
What emerged was the overwhelming theme that people were struggling to navigate the fractured and difficult-to-access community services.
As a long term provider of information, support and referral for people with eating disorders, their families, friends and the community, Eating Disorders Victoria had the knowledge and experience to be able to develop a service to meet the demand. How to provide this new service without any funding was the challenge.
Following much discussion, the EDV Board endorsed the development of a business plan and exploration of new funding models. The only viable option was to use a social enterprise model, whereby client fees charged would allow the service to become self funding over time.
At the end of 2012, a small loan to provide seed funding through the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF) provided by the Federal Government and managed by Foresters Finance was approved. The plan was in action.
EDV Psychology was launched in April 2013 offering affordable psychological services to people who are affected by eating disorders. Within the first three months demand was high, a waiting list developed and there is high engagement by existing clients to continue to use the service.
The outcomes on psychometric scales are positive with improvements being recorded across all of our measures. The service is helping people to overcome their battles and making a positive difference to the lives of many.
While to date it has been a positive story, there have been many challenges. The financial challenge was significant. Referral numbers and marketing of the service was another challenge. However, the biggest one was the philosophical paradox the organisation faced.
We believe inherently we have a genuine role to provide quality, evidence based services in the community for people experiencing early stages of an eating disorder or disordered eating, and for those continuing to need support after receiving specialist services and continuing to recover. We also believe that there should be equity of access for all people to our services.
Charging fees for our services challenges the very core of these beliefs. It took some time to wrestle the detail of how to establish the service without compromising our vision and mission. The result is that this is an issue that will be addressed over time. Kept firmly at the front of our thinking is the dual goal of ensuring financial sustainability of the service, while simultaneously finding ways to make it accessible to all.
To date, in addition to providing the client service, EDV Psychology staff have developed partnerships with hospitals and treatment centres that have smoothed some of the difficulties clients faced when transitioning from one form of treatment to another, have engaged with system improvement, and have provided professional development to GPs and allied health practitioners. These are all important activities that would not have been achieved otherwise.
While the philosophical versus practical issues are something many charitable organisation will grapple with when considering whether to go down the social enterprise path, in EDV’s case the overall experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
The social enterprise path has allowed us to deliver a much needed services to many people, as well as providing EDV with an independent source of revenue for the organisation, which will make the organisation more sustainable in the long term.