Five things topping the agenda for charities in 2019
February 01, 2019
With January cleared, lofty New Year’s resolutions enthusiastically made start to fade. One month in, the 2019 policy agenda looks set to be dominated by Brexit, while our global CEO survey shows curbed confidence from business. In these uncertain times, charities must keep their focus on making an impact on beneficiaries, communicating effectively with supporters and collaborating with partners. As we look to the year ahead, there are a number of things that should be high on the agenda for charities:
- Focus on impact and outcomes: Impact measurement and reporting, and broader alignment with the charity’s ‘purpose’, is more and more important. Charities need to be able to articulate what they seek to do and demonstrate what they have actually achieved. Openness and transparency are at the heart of this and charities need to be innovative in how they communicate what they do, how they do it and why their work is important in a clear and meaningful way.
- Embed technology to deliver on your purpose: The continued and rapid evolution of technology is transforming how organisations operate and engage with individuals. Charities should embed technology in their strategies, focusing on how it can support them to achieve their charitable objectives and deliver on their purpose, particularly with the new Charity Digital Code of Practice published in November 2018.
- Financial insight: Financial sustainability continues to be an area of focus for many charities, with reserves and fundraising under the spotlight. There continues to be pressure on fundraising, particularly for ‘core costs’ and unrestricted funds - an area we are exploring with the Institute of Fundraising. There needs to be continued vigilance in considering the appropriate level of reserves and how these are held. Going back to basics, a full understanding of what drives a charity’s income and costs is fundamental for informed decision-making. Charities should also be mindful of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats and fraud risks.
- Navigate complex regulation and legislation: Key areas of regulation to manage include the need to report ‘serious incidents’ to the Charity Commission and adherence to the Code of Fundraising Practice issued by the Fundraising Regulator. Charities should ensure they recognise and act on the updated Charity Commission guidance on safeguarding. Data protection is also vital, and charities need to ensure they are GDPR-compliant on an ongoing basis. In 2019, we’ll continue to see charities and representative bodies engaging with tax authorities to navigate the ever more complex legislation and ensure that government adequately considers the impact of new tax rules on charities.
- Do the right thing, and be seen to do the right thing: With 2018 seeing a ‘plateau’ in public trust in charities, public perceptions remain a challenge. While the majority acknowledge that charities are a force for good in society, people do “think twice now about donating”. Beyond adhering to the principles of the Charity Governance Code, charities need to be, as the Charity Commission encourages, “a living example of charitable purpose, charitable attitude and charitable behaviour”. Diversity and inclusion, in particular, is a key area where charities should focus their attention.
On top of these, like all organisations, front of mind for charities will be the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Charities should have started taking actions to be ready for either deal or ‘no deal’ on 29 March.
Whatever the eventual outcome, it is clear that the role charities play locally, nationally and globally, will be as important as ever, and it is essential that they put the plans in place to ensure that they can continue to make an impact and achieve outcomes for their beneficiaries and for wider society in the year ahead and beyond.