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Quality assurance

Ensuring performance and effectiveness
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Demonstrating performance and effectiveness is becoming increasingly important. There are ever more ways to do this which can make for a complicated field.

We’ve identified over 130 quality standards used by voluntary and community sector organisations. In fact, it’s not uncommon for organisations to hold more than one quality standard themselves. Add to that the informal ways that organisations can measure their success and you’re faced with a myriad of options.

Through our research we’ve identified some of the benefits and drawbacks of recognised quality standards. We’ve also seen how else you can approach quality assurance.


Meeting recognised quality standards can bring benefits internally and externally.

  • Externally, it can put your organisation in a stronger position to respond to tenders. It can also reassure stakeholders that ‘all is well’.
  • Internally, it can provide a tool for organisational improvement and reflection by benchmarking against other organisations. It can also provide a framework for consistency, audit and increasing organisational impact.


Our research shows that there can, however, be drawbacks to obtaining such quality recognition. Standards:

  • can be resource-intensive to obtain, detracting resources from service delivery
  • may measure processes rather than outcomes
  • benefit external organisations rather than service users
  • are ‘live’ for a limited period of time
  • can encourage groups to meet standards rather than make a real difference and strive for excellence.


Quality assurance doesn’t have to come from formally obtain standards. Less formal measures are far more common among voluntary and community sector organisations.

User satisfaction and other forms of feedback can help improve services. Staff development and evaluations can also be value methods of assessment.

More about the research

In 2011 we commissioned NCVO and OPM to explore how organisations approach quality assurance. We also wanted to find out how funders interpret this quality assurance.


Quality assurance scoping report