Cranfield Trust On Call: tailored one to one telephone advice

Through Cranfield Trust On Call we offer telephone advice from our staff and volunteers, which gives charities the chance to discuss immediate problems or challenges, or to explore where to get further support from Cranfield Trust or other providers. 

Charities are asked to complete a simple enquiry form.  Calls are pre-booked to capture information about the charity and the nature of the issue or challenge that they want to discuss, to enable a central Cranfield Trust co-ordinator to “match” their need with one of our volunteers.

Charities and volunteers are also asked to complete a short survey post their calls to capture data about the call that will be useful to inform the practical design of the service and the scope of the topics that the service will need to cover.

Introduction to On Call volunteer role

Frequent questions and how we respond

We receive calls on a variety of topics, and are able to support many of them through our consultancy and mentoring.  Charity managers often need to discuss the issues that they are seeing and experiencing in their organisations with an external adviser, and calls to Cranfield Trust’s office often lead into consultancy support, or to signposting to information or other resources, either our own, or those of other organisations.  On Call is an opportunity to offer phone advice and guidance to a larger number of charities than we can support through our small office team.

Through the On Call service, topics that we would expect to cover might include:

  • Setting direction and developing future plans - confirming strategy and developing more detailed plans
  • Financial issues - financial position, understanding finances, how to approach financial planning
  • Working better with the board, concerns about governance, trustees not clear about their roles
  • Funding difficulties, often lack of security of income, whether donations, grants or contract income
  • Organisation change or development problems: reorganising, structures needed to manage growth or change CEO isolation – often Chief Executives feel isolated between staff and board, need reassurance 
  • Underlying functional areas would be: financial management, developing strategy and business planning, marketing, governance, planning and managing change.

Below are listed areas on which we often receive calls in Cranfield Trust’s office, with guidance on how we can help, and links to other resources where charities can find help.

View On Call page


We do not offer direct fundraising advice and support, because the Cranfield Trust offer is of commercial sector skills to support voluntary organisations, but many of our projects feed into and support fundraising. 

Underpinning a request for fundraising support or advice, there are often areas where we can help and are covered on these pages: 

  • Strong financial information
  • Well-articulated future plans
  • Demonstrating the impact of their work
  • Development of a social enterprise
  • Mentoring for a Finance Officer

Sources of specific fundraising information or support

Strategy development and business planning

Many of our consultancy projects are helping trustees and staff to confirm their strategy (they usually have a strong sense of direction), and to develop their business plans.  These make up around 50% of our projects each year, sometimes because charities ask for this support, but also because charities ask for other support (often marketing), but when queried, do not have an overall plan. 

We suggest that a plan would be a good starting point for our work together, before coming back to the other issue in more detail.

Sources of specific support

Mentoring for CEOs and leadership support

Some charity leaders have a range of issues to manage and value a mentor to provide ongoing support. After an initial discussion, working with a mentor over a 6-12 month period provides support.  Cranfield Trust is launching a new mentoring framework in July 2019 and is offering mentoring training, details of both are available from the Cranfield Trust office.

Sources of specific support

Financial management

Charities are often facing financial challenges, especially short term funding and uncertain futures.  

Many charities are not strong on financial management, especially vital activities like unit costing and forecasting.  Charities often take on book-keepers, but do not increase their level of internal financial management and information as they grow and develop.  This is a problem for charity managers and trustees, who often receive insufficient financial forecast information to make timely decisions. 

It can also be difficult for organisations with a number of different operations or funds to maintain separate accounts for each one, this is often essential as part of funding arrangements, or where there is a registered charity operation with a social enterprise (commercial activity) running alongside it.

Sources of specific support

Organisation review

Some charities wish to discuss organisation challenges relating to growth or change in their charities, which can involve a review of the organisation as a whole.

Sources of specific support


How trustees work together and understand their role within the organisation.  

Charities often have problems with trustee boards, either finding it difficult to get the right skills represented in their board members, or problems in board members working effectively together.  Our consultancy can help with effective board working, improved teamwork etc. 

We are unable to help directly with trustee recruitment.

Sources of specific support

Impact and evaluation

Charities need to demonstrate their impact to funders and donors, and to inform their own service development.  Sometimes their questions in this area map across well to more commercial performance issues, in some cases more specialist charity sector advice can be helpful.  Cranfield Trust consultancy can help with performance questions.

Sources of specific support


Cranfield Trust receives a large number of enquiries for marketing support.  

Marketing is often a relatively ‘new’ skill set in smaller charities – in the past their focus has been on fundraising.  Charities do not always have a confirmed strategy or developed business plan to provide context for marketing or communications activities, and we ask them about their future plans before discussing marketing/comms support.  

Our support is geared to marketing/comms plans and strategic support, not practical activities such as designing websites or literature.

Sources of specific support


Organisations sometimes approach us for support with IT/systems issues.  We can help with strategic IT questions, such as reviewing needs and helping to draw up a specification for a new system, then reviewing tenders, but we don’t offer practical support for setting up systems.

Sources of specific support


We scope and manage HR projects carefully, as staff issues frequently come up in our consultancy and mentoring work.

Our scope of services includes:

Strategic HR matters, ‘how to’ good practice, managing change, leadership development, process improvement.  Activities which relate to staff collectively, and to organisations. 
Examples of areas where we can support projects, or advice:

‘How to’ advice – this should be good practice advice, not advice on individual situations.
Developing processes and systems – to support HR function
Strategic HR – areas for investment, skills development, building talent, how HR supports organisations, DEI
Mergers – but not the impact of a merger on individuals
Employee engagement and communications
Culture change/change management.

Our scope of services does not include:

Advice on individual situations
Operational HR matters

Reviewing policies (which are underpinned by legislation and therefore need to be compliant and up to date).  

Sources of specific support

If we can't answer the question

There are some areas which we can’t support – most frequently asked questions we’re unable to help with include:

Setting up a charity: Contact Charity Commission and Charity Set Up (Run by NCVO as the Small Charities Coalition is now closed)
Legal issues: Contact LawWorks
Property questions: Contact Ethical Property Foundation

Sources of specific support

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