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Charity Community

New report confirms charity leaders fear for future

Author: Stephen Cahill, Cranfield Trust Regional Manager for Scotland

Published: 23 Mar 2023

Research by Cranfield Trust highlights the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis on frontline charities in Scotland.

In a 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

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:

“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”.

Another respondent emphasised the need for longer-term funding to help with planning:

“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:

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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, confirmed the Trust’s commitment to supporting charities through the cost-of-living crisis:

“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.”

The full findings of the survey are summarised in Cranfield Trust’s 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.

Cranfield Trust is the UK’s leading provider of pro bono business support for charities and Community Interest Companies (CICs). For over 30 years, we have supported charities tackling society’s most pressing human welfare issues. Through our work, we build and strengthen the capability of charities and the charity sector, making it more sustainable for society today and for future generations. Through our services, together with our 1,400 strong network of skilled volunteers, we help charities to develop business strategies, improve financial performance and explore innovative approaches to leadership. We are able to provide our services free to charities, thanks to the generous support of our volunteers, funders, corporate supporters and individual donors. To find out more about volunteering for us, how we support charities or to make a donation, visit www.cranfieldtrust.org.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.