Flexibility is absolutely crucial in allowing charities with wide-ranging services to tailor their procurement function.
For organisations such as the Salvation Army, which provides a range of social care services from over a thousand sites, procurement needs to ensure its practices can be used flexibly.
Andrew Roper, procurement director at the Salvation Army, told SM that it is about “creating a procurement toolkit and using it in a flexible way. What works for a homeless hostel doesn’t necessarily work for a church or a support vehicle”.
The charity spends £160m with suppliers each year across its UK services, including 82 hostels (called Lifehouses), 650 churches and 12 residential care homes and adult day centres.
Roper said: “Our churches are community centres, and we have to ensure they have the flexibility and support to use local tradespeople or local suppliers where appropriate to maintain that local relationship.”
The Salvation Army’s central procurement department manages the high-volume, high-spend categories, but individual services are permitted to manage their own spending.
“We give them the authority and trust to manage areas of spend locally because we can’t manage everything from headquarters,” Roper added. “Even if we could, we don’t want to as we want people to take accountability and ownership for their own budget.”
As the charity sector has varying levels of procurement maturity and resources available, Roper believes a collaborative and decentralised procurement model can work better with the right support and training.
“In the last three and a half years since I joined the sector, the level of procurement knowledge has definitely grown,” he said. “But charities don’t have the resources that a lot of corporations or the public sector have. A lot of quite big charities have relatively small procurement teams.”