10 steps to start a charity turnaround
The charity world and particularly the social care charity world is very conservative, especially where turnaround is concerned. That’s why we’ve put to gather this 10 steps to start a charity turnaround. Often people who work in it and within it have worked preciously in health, social care or the voluntary services. In the Small to medium charity sector Business Acumen is often only found sparingly, and then predominantly amongst trustees. Yet many Charities and trusts are failing, government has advised mergers and these are not always managed well, so they continue to fail. People are drawn to what they know and people they understand, that’s natural, but to turn round a charity you need something different, something you won’t have seen or known before.
Risk and risk appetite are not well understood except perhaps by the accountants, but they are central to charity success and certainly to charity turnaround. To turn around a charity especially one of turnover that exceeds 5 million you need to let go of many things. e.g the logo, the name (yes even the name) staff, buildings, ways of doing things in the short-term and take radical short-term action while rebuilding and building value strategy and financial acuity in the medium to long-term.
- Decide who you are and what you represent, all the planning in the world for business mean nothing if you do not have a clear identity that staff and stakeholders can relate to and understand. Of course we do I hear you say, but I have seen too many charities with names like ‘Smiths’ and a byline of ‘we empower’. Turns out they are a disability charity founded by Mr Smith. They would be better called Smiths – The disability charity. People need to know what they are giving to. 50% of those asked in a recent TSB survey said they would happily give to local charities if they knew who they were. Your name, your logo, you values must be crystal clear because at some point in this process you will asking numerous people for something and you will be wasting time if you have to explain the organisation. Only the very large charities have brands that don’t explain ‘Scope’ is one, however even they follow that with equality for disabled people. If you are small does you name explain you are in disability, care, health, housing etc. Have your values come from the trustees or upwards from staff in a planned process to help staff retention? What of your log does it give immediate charitable identity, separate you from others and give further understanding of the charity.
- It may seem obvious but you need a plan, an in-depth business plan not just a financial plan, ( break even analysis is however essential) but digital and marketing this will direct feed your strategic plan. You will need to scope your charity using audit, hr and inventory. What are the top line determinants and the send out costs in the bottom line? Do you need more topline fundraising? You might want to create a break even analysis or even a pro forma income statement to help you determine the viability of your charity. Build a senior team Marketing and fundraising, HR, IT and Digital, Quality Improvement, Operations, Finance, care/Clinical,
- Now with your business plan meet with the major internal stakeholders. Meet With trustees, Key Senior Managers, and Junior/Site Managers. The key people in the business need to have an open no-holds-barred discussion on how to fix the organisation. These meetings can be taken separately by hierarchy or all together The Chief Exec who must lead the tune around must present her/his own outline plan and vision at this meeting. S/he must also be willing to meet all ideas, comments and the plans of others with a truly open mind, self-confidence and flexibility.
- Now revise your plans and start to build your team. Are the team you have up to it, can you put a team together fast enough if not? After listening to key Execs in the business and discussing important aspects of your plan with your Senior team, revise the plans again before presenting them to the board of directors and employees.
Meet with your employees, a charity wide meeting, admit that there are things wrong with the charity, and discuss how management plans to fix it. You do this by showing employees the relevant parts of the business plan and ask for their input. Prior to this you may even have had a poll about the name or the logo, looking for their input and buy-in as the first step in a values process. This step demonstrates that careful consideration has been given to the development of the business, it is a consultation. In terms of name etc, any renaming or not can be announced here with results from Poll. It’s an opportunity to bring people onside.
Meet with stakeholders. Meet with Clients, Volunteers, with families and carers. Key stakeholders may easily become anxious, if they have heard things are not right. Reassurance and professionalism are important. The CEO and the senior team should inform families in person at multiple meetings if necessary about the charities situation and reassuringly tell them how the organisation plans to correct it. Its important here to be reassuring first but not hide anything.
- Meet with commissioning or funding Stakeholders if needed, to explain your plan and their part in it. If your charity receives state money, whether this is direct or through other services such as health. This is the starting point of using the finance part of your team to negotiate for higher fees, or at the very least of planting the seed that income must rise.
- Check with your Accounts team that all payments are up to date whether it is tax, PAYE or invoicing and make sure your creditors are good and debts to you are called in. Ensure all credit banking etc is being serviced properly and understood. I have seen charities with a million pounds in debtors whilst they religiously paid off a loan. Part of accounts job is not matter what to get people to pay you and you must reassure those you owe by paying on time.
- Check the staff. Keep only employees who are essential, if you are running a 24/7 service check rotas are right, that they are calculated properly. Look at staff recruitment and retention stats. Agency staff must be slowly phased out. Figure out which employees you can let go without damaging the charity and which you are better off saving money on for now. Keep only people who are bringing in, making, or servicing stakeholders (no duplication). You maybe for some might just cut their hours for now and hope to increase later. If you want your charity to survive, you should be prepared to let go your non-essential employees. Its hard but you must make your first cut deep! You can only do this once and get away with it. You want to avoid having multiple rounds of cutbacks—that becomes psychological torture, as all employees will then fear they are likely going to lose their jobs sooner or later.
- Cut All Unnecessary Costs Make a list of all your expenses and eliminate what you don’t need. This will buy time in order to fix your problems, and cutting expenses is a good way to buy “financial” time. start