Third sector set for creative ‘shake up’
Recent charity investigations have proved a deafening wake-up call for the entire sector. Across the board, organisations are focusing on governance by improving their regulatory and compliance capabilities, scrutinising their safeguarding policies and ensuring a robust communications strategy is in place in the event they find themselves thrust into the media spotlight.
While the much-needed overhaul in this area is relatively recent, regulation is not the only operational area where there has been a changing of the guard.
Building a sustainable financial future is the ultimate challenge as charitable organisations combat a moving landscape. For those organisations heavily dependent on government contracts, there is widespread acknowledgement that these are reducing, both in volume and value. Charity leaders face the difficult choice of either continuing to deliver still-available projects with greater efficiency, or walking away from one of their primary income streams.
It’s a balancing act, as aiming to deliver projects more efficiently typically relies on reducing fixed costs, and this can involve costly restructuring measures.
By comparison, charities that generate the substantive part of their income from fundraising, face an ever-changing donor landscape, further impacted by the new General Data Protection Regulations which affect the whole organisation, not just the fundraising department.
In response, charities are asking themselves the fundamental questions of are we financially sustainable, are we making a positive impact for our beneficiaries, and are we still relevant?
Finding the answer to these home-truths is leading some charities to take a new approach – and consider a ‘shake up’ of their internal structure.
Organisations are in instances relieving incumbents, and turning instead to seasoned interim professionals. Charities are specifically on the lookout for leaders that are strategic thinkers, commercially-minded, and crucially, creative, with an ability to bring a fresh approach and disrupt habitual thinking.
The incentives to bring in external expertise to fill these positions are clear – the organisation gains an objective perspective on strategic decisions. And this can be particularly beneficial in cases where the senior leadership team has been in place for a long-time, or a charity’s founder is resistant to change.
Interims themselves still predominantly have a background established in the not-for-profit sector, but use their experience of working for a number of different charities to develop creative solutions. Those interims coming from outside the sector need to bring plenty of emotional intelligence and an empathy with the cause, as beneficiaries will remain at the heart of any strategy.
The financial hurdles the third sector faces are not going away any time soon, but remaining open to innovation is its best chance to overcome these.