charity turnaround is becoming more necessary as charities come under commercial pressure and more charities fail. Is your charity making a loss, made a merger that hasn’t worked, or not raising enough from alternative income streams? The charity world and particularly the social care charity world can appear very risk averse, especially where turnaround is concerned. However, risk and risk appetite are central to charity success and certainly to charity turnaround. To be successful elements of a charitable business may have to be approached in a a radical but systematic way to make the necessary changes.
This is a very basic set of steps to give you some ideas but if you need help, please talk to us in confidence and Jonathan will offer a more substantial, in depth package to get you reviewing, changing and moving your charity to the success you and those you serve need.
I’ve put to gather this 7 steps to start a charity turnaround, to try and help.
Many Charities and trusts are failing. The government has advised mergers which even when accomplished are not always easily managed, so they continue to fail. To turn around a charity that is failing its essential to think commercially and be willing to ask questions of the organisation in terms of what they are willing to let go of to survive and become sustainable. This commercial knowledge and understanding will be key.
To turn around a charity especially one of turnover that exceeds 5 million (remembering 90% of UK charities turnover less that £500, 000) you may need to let go of things you have a personal interest in. e.g buildings, ways of doing things, the logo, the name (yes even the name) and staff in the short-term. You may need to take radical short-term action while rebuilding and building value, strategy and financial acuity in the medium to long-term. It will be essential to bring as many stakeholders with you in moving toward the vision and associated strategy that will ensure the charity has a sustainable future.
Decide who you are and what you represent,
All the planning in the world for business and charity turnaround 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’. When actually 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 and what they are working for. Fifty percent, of those asked, in a recent TSB survey said they would happily give to local charities if only 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 the tagline ‘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? Does your logo give immediate charitable identity, separate you from others and give further understanding of the charity?
Create a plan, an in-depth business plan
and have them feed directly your business plan.
You will need to scope your charity using audit, hr and inventory.
- What are the top line determinants?
- What are the send out costs in the bottom line?
- Do you need more topline fundraising?
- What are the results of a break even analysis?
- Do you have 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, if you can’t afford to look for volunteers or negotiate short term with consultants. Your trustees can play a part here, its not enough to have well meaning individuals, however involved, you need trustees with specific skill sets.
Revise your plans
Save my charity means 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 trustees and employees.
Meet with the major internal stakeholders.
With your new business plan meet With Trustees, Key Senior Managers, and Junior/Site Managers. In other words all the key senior stakeholders, (you might be all volunteers) 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, or Chair of trustees who must lead the charity turnaround 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.
Meet with your employees
Hold 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. This meeting is an opportunity to bring people onside, plan it well
Meet with external stakeholders.
To turnaround a charity stakeholders must be brought on side. 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, 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 planting the seed that income must rise and the authorities need to be part of this.
Ensure your Accounts team is working to priorities
All payments must be 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 to be unmoved in the process of getting people to pay you and you must reassure those you owe by paying on time.
Keep the best Staff, the essential 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, to create charity turnaround 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.
Lastly (not first)
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.