11th April 2016Alistair Lomax
Top Ten Ways in which charities need to adapt for the future
I’m writing this blog on the way to New Zealand, where I will speak at the FINZ Conference (Fundraising Institute of new Zealand).
My first session is in the CEO’s forum. Here are the two questions that I was asked to cover:
How will charities need to adapt for the future? What should CEOs do about it?
Having asked some friends who happen to be charity CEOs or Directors, here are the top ten things that emerged:
- Funding: traditional funding is down. Individual giving is going up. Diversify your funding base. Now.
- Governance and regulation: anticipate the need for more evidence. A number of high profile failures have been attributed to poor governance. There is a demand for better governance from all sides, including donors. Greater regulation is coming.
- Demonstrating value and impact: getting the basics right. The public sector is being squeezed. Morale is low. Public concern is high. The whole sector has to up its game.
- Beneficiaries: they belong at the heart of everything. Listen to the beneficiaries. Allow people a voice so that they can speak up about the benefits of the services they access, as well as the problems they experience when services are cut. Many people are vulnerable and powerless. They need us. If another organisation is supporting beneficiaries better or more efficiently, merge, share resources or close and pass your funds to them.
- Scale: stay lithe and flexible. Size matters. The headlines say that there are ‘too many’ charities. Size contributes to the reputation of the sector as nimble and flexible. Those who use our services are often vulnerable; their lives are chaotic and unpredictable.
- Collaborate: charities will need to work smarter – there will be more collaborations, partnerships, alliances and mergers. Collaboration is key. Social problems are too big to tackle alone. Too many leaders say ‘I’ a lot. ‘We’ is much stronger, more inclusive and holds so much more authority.
- Vision and strategy: any charity needs strategy, vision, brand, measurable impact measures, clarity and transparency around its running costs; and clarity about what $100/$1000/$10,000 will buy to make a difference.
“People say charities should be more like businesses… I actually disagree. Charities need to be more like good charities and remain dedicated to their cause.”
Nick Phillips, Group CEO, Community Impact Bucks – A Better Life Together
- Agility – so many things are unpredictable. Technology is developing apace. Agility is everything. Many large organisations take too long to make decisions and adapt and this results in a waste of time and money but more importantly in delays or poor service to beneficiaries.
- Integrity – be more like a charity and less like a business. Understand the unique assets that a charity that business does not: the passion and power of volunteers and the emotional Charities have two key assets that set them apart from business and the goodwill, passion and support of the giving public. Cancer Research UK is the first major charity to announce it was going to stop calling its donors unless they specifically opted in. It will cost them millions in donations but they recognise the need to re-build trust with the public. This is a major decision for CEOs.
“There have been too many scandals – Kids Company going down, the RSPCA putting down a cat without gaining permission, Age UK recommending a higher gas and electric tariff and receiving £6m, the suicide of Olive Cooke after she was hounded for donations.”
Yvonne Rainey – Director, Philanthropy Company
- Understanding your roots and history and being proud.
“If we are looking up and out the future as well as focusing on the present while staying true to our roots, we have a strong ‘backbone’.”
Sonya Chowdhury, CEO, Action for M.E.
I look forward to finding out from the CEOs in New Zealand whether it’s the same on the other side of the world. Let’s hope the cats are safer over there.