35th anniversary logo

Reflecting back, forward focused

2024 is Cranfield Trust’s 35th anniversary year, and as with all anniversaries and milestones, it’s prompted us to think back over our years of working with organisations providing vital services to our communities.

Looking back over such a long period, many things were different.  When the Trust was founded in 1989, we were still using landline phones and faxes for our interactions – and had only just got used to working with PCs.

The Trust’s early projects were with a very different client group than now: founded at Cranfield University, our initial focus was on seconding logistics and transport specialists to international aid and disaster relief missions, the area of our founders’ expertise.  Over the years, demand and focus changed to providing management support to UK-based welfare organisations, and this remains our mission today.

Many of our early management projects were on the same topics as those we work on today: business planning is our number one activity, and it was the same in the early 90s.  We know that many organisations don’t have the strategic and resource plans they need, and this was also the case in our early years.

If we’re working on the same things today, after 35 years, should we have made more progress and more change in charities’ management skills?  Should we be working on so many of the same activities with our client organisations? 

Of course, the answer is yes, as we’re working with different people, and although headline topics are the same, a business plan today is different in terms of how we work and how we manage our organisations – it’s not exactly the same as a plan in the late 80s or early 90s.  Many of the other topics we cover in our support are also different in nature – digital strategies, communications and social media, organisation structure and working practices – hybrid working wasn’t around 35 years ago, or if it was, it wasn’t the same as it is now.

Over 35 years, the Trust has developed to a considerable scale – in our last financial year, we had almost 800 active consultancy projects and mentoring assignments, and we reached hundreds more charities through our range of services overall.

Looking forward, we’re ambitious.  We want to reach more charities with management learning activities and support, and to help people working in vital voluntary services develop all the skills and capabilities they need to feel confident as leaders and managers.

In May we’re introducing our first Charity Management Month, to share key management skills for voluntary organisations, leaders and managers, and to mark our 35th anniversary. In just an hour you can watch a webinar, or read an article, to start you thinking about an approach or way of working which might make a difference to you and your organisation, a first step to doing things differently, or improving what you do.

We’re also working to develop a larger-scale training activity: first by collaborating with training providers, bringing together our and their existing courses and materials to make an easily-navigable, virtual programme for leaders and managers in smaller organisations.  In the longer term, we’re aiming to build a bespoke programme for small to medium size charities, to engage people developing their careers with management learning at an early stage, and to offer opportunities to people at any career stage to develop their management skill

Keep in touch with us as we embark on the next stage of our development, and let us know what you think we should be doing, to provide the best possible support to a sector that we all value and depend on.

It’s been a privilege for everyone at Cranfield Trust to work with so many inspiring people and organisations over the last 35 years, we’re looking forward meeting and working with many more in the next 35.

Find out more about our plans during our 35th year

Registered Charity No: 800072 | Scottish Charity No: SCO40299 | Company No: 2290789 | Telephone No: 01794 830338
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