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Are you preparing for change? 4 key planning considerations for charity leaders

By Amanda Powell-Smith

6 November 2018

It’s that time of year again.  Charity leaders will be in the middle of planning for 2019/20, reviewing the nuts and bolts of operations and making budget decisions.

At a time of intense political and economic uncertainty, there is one thing we can all be sure of – each CEO will want their organisation to be strong, flexible and ready to respond to the opportunities and threats that emerge over the next two years.

Communications is core to succeeding in a changing environment. As they start to consider their priorities, leadership teams will need to have an ‘outside-in’ approach so they understand their market in the broadest perspective, alongside an accurate ‘inside-out’ one that recognises their strengths and weaknesses.

As we work with charities on their future strategy and communications, we are urging them to answer four key questions:

1.  Are you more than the cause?

When the Oxfam scandal broke earlier this year, too many charity chief executives would have been relieved it was them in the spotlight and not their own organisation. Charities must demonstrate and communicate their values and progressive approach in everything they do, from investments through governance to safeguarding. They need to be open, honest and forthright when there are failings, say sorry and outline what they are doing to put things right. Hiding behind the cause won’t cut it anymore.

2.  When did you last challenge orthodoxy?

Faced with an uncertain future, charity leaders need a disruptive mentality, constantly challenging the way they do things, seeking out new ideas and technologies, and fully involving beneficiaries and employees in service development and innovation.  If you don’t know what it going to happen next, you need to be responsive to change.

3.  How are your people?

Employee wellbeing has a direct impact on recruitment, retention, productivity – and organisational resilience. We have worked with Business in the Community and Public Health England to develop free guidance for employers around mental health, physical activity, addiction, domestic violence and – recognising the multiple impacts of today’s 24/7 work culture – sleep.  The privilege of ‘doing good’ is no longer suitable as an employee care package, particularly as change becomes the norm and you need your team to lead the way. If you are not viewed as a great place to work, you are won’t have access to the top talent.

4.  Who are you collaborating with?

We’ve been swimming in theory of change models for the last few years – an incredibly helpful approach for delivering real change but the bit that is often neglected is partnership and collaboration. Charities could and should be natural collaborators, with each other and with businesses, many of whom are increasingly looking to do the same and support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Can you really reach your charitable purpose alone? Confidence in collaboration and partnership needs to dramatically increase so that solutions to challenging issues can be found, shared and scaled as quickly as possible.

This list could stretch on and on, and will inevitably vary for each organisation.

We know it can be hard to find fresh perspective when you’re busy and we are happy to share ours.

A strong, dynamic charity sector is critical for all our futures.

I look forward to talking