New report confirms charity leaders fear for future
Cranfield Trust, the leading provider of pro bono management consultancy and mentoring to social welfare charities has released a new report ‘Demand, Change, Survival’. The report outlines the challenges facing charity leaders in Scotland, which mirrors what the Trust is hearing from charity leaders across the UK.
In the survey conducted during December 2022, Cranfield Trust heard directly from over 70 charity leaders in Scotland about the impact the cost of living crisis is having on them, their charities and their beneficiaries. The survey insights reinforce what other organisations across the sector have reported but highlight the stark position of many frontline charities, which includes:
- existing challenges of running and managing organisations in the voluntary sector being amplified - from overstretched staff to capacity and capability issues in charities’ governance and leadership
- an increasingly competitive context for fundraising as well as funding processes placing additional pressure on stretched charities, and the negative impact of this on innovation and strategic planning
- the need for more effective collaboration between the charity sector, local and national government and the commercial sectors.
The challenge is summed up by one respondent to the survey:
“We only support women not able to access services and who are at risk or who have children at risk. This means that if we don't keep them safe they have nobody else to turn to. Demand in Glasgow has almost quadrupled and almost doubled in Edinburgh. We lost 80% of our funding at the end of March 2020 due to Brexit and various [reasons]. We can't recruit enough childcare staff to respond to demand.”
Cranfield Trust heard that while charity leaders are determined to keep going, they are fearful for their future and that of their beneficiaries. They are finding the increased demands on their services and burdensome funding and commissioning requirements overwhelming, and are asking funders and commissioners to reconsider their funding models:
Quotes from respondents:
“Change funding assessment mechanisms, make them more human and person-centred. Small charities struggle to carve out funding for Funding Officer functions, which often become part of the CEO role”.
“We need multi-year funding of 3-5 years so that we can properly plan and develop our service. Funding is mostly from short term grants which creates great deal of administrative pressure during already very busy times.”
Charity leaders also calling on Government to recognise the valuable contribution and support charities are giving to the public sector:
Quotes from respondents:
“Recognising, understanding and truly valuing the contribution of the Third Sector and reflecting that in sustainable funding.”
“If Voluntary organisations are expected to work in collaboration with health and social care and pick up workload/cases regarding vulnerable individuals that they are unable to support due to lack of resources then the sector needs proper funding.”
In response to the findings, Cranfield Trust has outlined advice to charity leaders to support them in overcoming the management challenges they are facing:
- Do not neglect leadership and organisational development - having strong operational leadership and a capable board will be key to navigating the current crisis. Leadership support and development will help to unlock innovation, collaboration and exchanging knowledge and insights.
- There is a future and it needs to be planned for - the skills of forecasting, horizon-scanning and effective business planning are vital for every charity leader.
- Look for similarities and synergies that could be achieved with other charities, including sharing resources – charity leaders should look closely at their resources to identify what is being underutilised and where collaboration could deliver better combined outcomes.
- Make it easier for funders/donors to engage with you - review communications and routes to funders/donors and tailor messages to be make them more engaging.
- Focus on managing risk - becoming adept at assessing risks is another core tool that every charity leader needs to master.
Amanda Tincknell CBE, Cranfield Trust CEO comments on the findings:
“We are deeply concerned about what we have heard from charity leaders through our survey, which reflects what we are hearing across the country. The challenges faced by the sector need to be tackled urgently and at scale.
“We accept that funders and government at all tiers have limited funds, their own objectives, and the need to set criteria to access these funds. However, we feel that it’s vital for all of us supporting the sector to continue to find ways of working that are less demanding on the resources of often small organisations. We support and would like to encourage better dialogue between the charity sector, corporate sector and local and national government.
“There is much that can be done practically to support charity leaders now to help them continue to develop their organisations and services to meet the increasing demands of their beneficiaries. We work with thousands of charities every year to provide management consultancy, mentoring, peer support and telephone advice and are supporting charity leaders with practical and, sometimes, emotional support to get them through this difficult period of time.
“We are ready and willing to engage with the sector in Scotland to tackle these intrinsic challenges, and support leaders and managers to address their challenges, whilst also using our insight and influence to address the long-term issues.”