Charities taking charge: How can charities deliver greater impact in changing times?
May 25, 2017
With high levels of change and uncertainty in our economy and society, the role of charities is more important than ever. Over the past year we’ve supported NPC’s State of the Sector research, exploring how charities are transforming to deliver greater impact in these changing times. With over 400 chief executives and trustees involved in the research, the final report, Charities taking charge, gives insight into the key trends in the sector from the view of charity leaders themselves.
The research shows that while some charities are adapting and taking the lead in new thinking and ways of working, others are lagging behind. The report sets out a number of areas for charities to address when thinking about how to be more effective in future and here I’ll highlight just three.
Firstly, the research shows that charities are lacking focus, trying to do more of everything. Of the charities surveyed, 74% expect to do more things in three years’ time and only 4% expect to do fewer. Charities need to play to their strengths, rather than trying to be all things to all people, if they are to have a bigger impact in changing times. They need to be honest about their capabilities and focus on those areas where they can really make a difference. There is no denying that this will mean many charities will need to make some difficult decisions, impacting both their staff and their beneficiaries. I know how hard it can be to do this, but, with the pressures on charities only growing, it is the long term impact on beneficiaries that needs to come first.
Charities are also thinking about how they can collaborate more with others, with 52% expecting to be partnering more with other charities in three years’ time. Building networks and collaborative relationships can help address capacity and capability gaps an individual charity may have and provide a platform for charities to work together. The barriers to collaboration were a topic of much discussion at the report launch event, from funding conditionality, to the lack of infrastructure, to the personal and organisational priorities that often get in the way of effective collaborations.
Thirdly, there is still limited understanding of what digital and data can achieve to both transform how a charity operates and how it engages with its stakeholders. Seven out of ten are confident that they are making the best use of technology while 57% of digital strategies are managed at board level or by senior management. Digital can also help charities to enable and support people to make a difference themselves and for their communities. Currently 69% see service users and community networks as important and 56% involve service users in delivering services, suggesting that there is untapped potential to be harnessed.
I hope this report will make a useful contribution to charities seeking to find a practical ways forward. There will be hard decisions so be made along the way and true transformation will take time, but charities need to act now and take bold decisions in the long term interest of those they serve.