Beneficiary involvement: the basics

What is beneficiary involvement and why do it? Involving beneficiaries encompasses a whole range of activity from asking their opinions on services you provide, to including them on recruitment panels for staff and volunteers and involving them in the running of the organisation at board level. Beneficiaries bring a unique perspective to any discussion about the success of a not-for-profit organisation because they can talk with direct experience about what it is like to be on the receiving end of your services. Who are your beneficiaries? Some organisations talk about beneficiaries, others refer to participants, others to clients, service users or partners. Here we will refer to beneficiaries and mean by this, the people whom your organisation seeks to benefit.  When thinking about involving beneficiaries, it’s important to be clear about who you are referring to. For example, if an organisation provides activities for children with disabilities, are the beneficiaries the parents or guardians of the children? Or is it the children themselves? If a charity provides free veterinary services for animals are the beneficiaries the animals or the animals’ owners? Knowing who the beneficiaries are can be more complex than you might first anticipate, and is fundamental to consider carefully who they are if you are going to involve them effectively. How you define your beneficiaries will shape how you allocate resources and spend your time. Through the process of defining who you exist for, you will provide direction for your strategy. Useful Links Participation Works: Participation Works is a consortium of six national children and young people’s agencies that enables organisations to effectively involve children and young people in the development, delivery and evaluation of services that affect their lives.  Further reading Involving people: a practical guide, a free guide from Voluntary Action Westminster (opens a PDF).

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