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Improving a consultancy business

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The Interlink Foundation looks at improving their consultancy offer with different charging models and toolkits.


Founded in 1990, the Interlink Foundation (IF) is a charitable company supporting some 200 orthodox Jewish community groups. The organisation developed after it was identified that the orthodox Jewish community had a vibrant voluntary sector but their support needs weren’t being met by mainstream infrastructure organisations such as NCVO or local CVSs – although IF do work closely with these organisations. We are a national organisation with offices in Manchester and London, and the majority of our work centres on four areas: Haringey, Hackney, Salford and Bury. Our mission is to support and capacity-build community organisations to achieve better outcomes for their community, and to work collaboratively with public sector organisations to improve services for orthodox Jewish people.

The issues we faced

We had introduced charges for consultancy to our members at rates that were slightly lower than not for profit consultants were charging, but significantly higher than the CVS sector. We’d reached a plateau where we felt we were working to the maximum but not quite recovering costs and not covering overheads. From a purely financial point of view, we wanted to examine the way we were working and see what improvements could be put in place. 

The actions we took

We were awarded a voucher as part of the BIG Assist programme, and worked with a consultant to look at how our consultancy service was working and what improvements could be made.

Positive outcomes

For certain projects such as charity start-ups and particular pieces of training, we introduced package prices rather than pricing per hour. This new charging model was actually more in line with the way consultants charge rather than the hourly charge we had been making. Our members prefer this way of charging because they get greater certainty about what their costs are going to be.

Another fundamental outcome was that we firmed up and implemented checklists and toolkits. We now have an entry level checklist (we call it our ‘due diligence’) which facilitates the foundation level of capacity building for organisations. I know that sounds basic, but it’s something we’d spoken about in the past and had different versions that we worked from but now we’ve absolutely nailed it down.

We looked at and examined different toolkits which we’re now using after trialling them and adjusting them to meet our needs. We use them to help organisations get to the next level of development.

Finally, we introduced a system so that one person in our organisation takes responsibility for the member we’re working with. This means that even if others in the organisation were working with them, one person continued to hold that case.

Our income from consultancy and training has risen steadily since the Big Assist Voucher, and we’ve been able to recruit another Development Worker to our team to increase capacity. Just as important, the quality of our consultancy service has improved.

Negative outcomes

Our biggest challenge is our capacity. Working with consultants, and then following through and implementing change, was a time-intensive draw on our resources during the period when the Voucher was used.

Lessons learnt

During this project we learned just how messy our work with an organisation could be. It could end up being the case that an organisation was doing some work with consultancy, and was a member of the consortium with different people from our organisation working with them. Everyone would assume that the due diligence checklist had been done, but it hadn’t and no one had actually supported them with it. We’ve learned to work in a much more streamlined way, and this ties in with our IT system and the better data management which we’re working on.

This turned out to be a magnificent piece of work because it got everyone from our organisation working together. We identified weaknesses in the system that went far beyond just the financial and ended up with lots of improvements to the way that we work. 


Page last edited Jul 10, 2017

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