Primary purpose
Potential benefits
Who can use the tool?
What resources are needed?
Development, ownership and support
Organisations that have used Quality First
Further sources of information

Primary purpose

Quality First is a simple tool that uses a workbook to run through nine quality areas that can help an organisation improve its performance. It is aimed at small organisations that are run solely by volunteers, though may be used by organisations with one or two paid staff.


Quality First was developed to support groups that wish to be actively involved in developing their communities without necessarily becoming employees and managers of funded organisations. It offers small organisations an opportunity to focus on quality assurance and to build on their confidence about the quality and effectiveness of their activities

Organisations using Quality First work through the Quality First Workbook, which suggests that an organisation should make procedures explicit (say what you do), ensure that those procedures are carried out (do what you say) and check their effectiveness by monitoring and reviewing performance. Improvements in quality should be seen as a result.

The nine quality areas in Quality First are:

  1. Stating our purpose
  2. Our standards and values
  3. Managing it all
  4. Involving our community
  5. Working together as volunteers
  6. Equality and fairness
  7. Reviewing our work
  8. Financial management
  9. Communicating effectively

Each quality area has two levels:

  • Level 1 – the basic standards that even the smallest organisation should address.
  • Level 2 – for organisations that have met Level 1 and have done so for at least a year.

When an organisation has completed self-assessments for all nine quality areas, it fills out an overall assessment form to provide an overview and some ideas for what action can be taken in order to meet the commitment to the code of practice in these areas. Once the overview of current achievements has been established, the organisation can decide which quality areas to work on and draw up a schedule of review dates, to access each quality area at least once during the year. Evidence for quality improvements should be compiled in the workbook.

Potential benefits

  • Quality First is free and simple to use.
  • It is designed specifically for small organisations without any paid staff and has high relevance to the voluntary sector or small start-up social enterprises.
  • It can be used in ‘bite-sized’ chunks.
  • It systematically addresses quality without requiring an organisation to be familiar with more complex quality assurance systems.

Potential limitations

  • One of the benefits – its simplicity – can also be one of its potential limitations. For some organisations it may not be comprehensive or vigorous enough.
  • Quality First is a quality tool. Other quality approaches require a more comprehensive diagnosis of an organisation’s wider impacts on people, communities and the environment.
  • It doesn’t involve external evaluation, certification or mark.

Who can use Quality First?

Any small or medium-sized organisation without any paid members of staff or organisations with one or two members of staff can use Quality First. It is a good starting point for organisations that are unfamiliar with quality tools.

What resources are needed?


An organiser will need to lead, but this can be anyone at the organisation who has read through the instructions.

Proficiencies or skills

Quality First is easy to use and requires little or no training.

Staff time

Quality First is flexible and can be used over any period of time. It has the potential to address a range of activities across the organisation that may require some significant staff time to make improvements.

Development, ownership and support

Quality First was written by Tony Farley in partnership with Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC). BVSC can be contacted to obtain the workbook and offer support.

Voluntary organisations that have used Quality First

  • Birmingham Community Venture
  • Youth ‘n’ Youth

Further sources of information

Birmingham Voluntary Service Council

Tel. +44 (0)121 678 8888
Fax. +44 (0)121 643 4541


Top of Page

Previous: PQASSO Back to Contents Next: SIMPLE


Training Programme
Strategic overviews for leaders and practical training for teams.

We offer tailored online and on-site training and briefings on SROI, Theory of Change, measuring social impact, commissioning for outcomes and social value, measuring local economic impact, community economic development, the social value of research, and more.

Clients include local authorities, universities, public health services, charities, community groups, membership bodies, and responsible businesses.

Find out more

Sign up for updates

Join our mailing list

by @nefconsulting