Last week I ran a workshop for a small charity. They had bucked the trend during the last few years, growing despite the cuts. The mood in the room was confident, (but not complacent), ebullient and hungry.
They’re not unusual. The sector seems to be on the up. According to Third Sector this week half of charities say that their income is rising and they reported a sharp increase in charity professionals’ morale in April, no doubt buoyed by the economic recovery.
Realistically, the sector is at something of a crossroads. We may be optimistic, but we’re still battling misconceptions about charities and their role. This week we had Mark Astarita calling for government minister Brandon Lewis to apologise for his ‘outrageous slur’ against fundraisers. Last month MPs professed themselves to be ‘shocked’ at Oxfam’s campaigning. And let’s not forget all the other negative press coverage the sector has had over the last year, from the Charity Commission to CEO pay to Panorama. I can’t be the only one who’s thinking that charities, their role and transparency will feature in all of the party manifestos come the election next year.
I don’t want charities to be forced into the role of the victim, waxing and waning according to circumstances. I think we should be proud of the resilience, innovation and the impact the sector has shown amid the cuts. We cannot and should not rely on politicians to define us. As charities we need to decide what we want the sector to be, and we need to communicate it assertively and clearly.
With that in mind, here are two upcoming events to kickstart the conversation about the future of the sector. Turning the Corner 2014 on 12 September at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge will ask what the best way forward is for charities and social enterprises, including what the election may hold in store and how to deal with the pressure on organisations to merge. More details here. I’ll be running a social media workshop, so hope to see you there. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for fundraising inspiration, the lovely people at Open Fundraising are involved in championing young fundraisers by asking them to pitch the idea which they wish they’d thought of at this year’s ‘I Wish I’d Thought of That.’ You can find out how to enter here (the deadline is 7 July). We should be very proud of some of the amazing young people coming into the sector.
So here are the 5 key questions that I think every charity leadership team should ask about its future:
- What inspires you? What do you admire- whether it’s a project or an idea, and what could you learn from it that is useful for your organisation?
- Are you making the most of all the current fundraising opportunities, including digital and mobile?
- How is your organisation positioned for the election? What are the opportunities and threats for the different scenarios?
- Should you merge? What could you gain from it?
- How can you attract the right people, whether it’s for your leadership team or young talent?
What questions do you think charities should be asking at the moment?