Helping a small team maintain its purpose
Global Hope Network International, UK
“Action Planning were very good. David gave us some important questions to answer and was quick to pick up on the weaknesses and struggles we’ve had over the years.”
Malcolm Gifford, Director, Global Hope Network International, UK
Global Hope Network International (GHNI) is an international humanitarian aid charity, founded by Hal and Lana Jones in 2000, with its headquarters in Geneva. In 2012 it was given special consultative status by the UN and today it provides sustainable solutions and transformational assistance to some of the world’s poorest communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The UK branch of the charity was founded in 2012 with its main administrative base in Geneva. Much of GHNI UK’s work since then has been done by a succession of UK Board members and volunteers, Malcolm Gifford taking a lead role here. While legally independent of the parent charity (a requirement of HMRC among other things), it lacked complete autonomy, with no UK website and a reliance on sporadic support from offices in Geneva, then France (now closed) and then the US, none of which were entirely successful.
GHNI UK had found itself at a fork in the road: continue and grow or call it a day? It had decided to continue, but in order to do so it needed to increase its annual income from £40-50,000 to around £80,000.
The question was simple: “How do we raise around £30,000 more each year?” However, there were a number of other questions that needed to be answered before we could address the fundraising issue.
The first concerned the future of GHNI itself. With Hal Jones, now 71, playing such a controlling role, was there a future for the charity beyond his time? Similarly, Malcolm was conscious of the need for his own succession plan. Without a committed future, there would be little point working on a fundraising strategy.
Secondly, Malcolm seemed unsure whether GHNI UK still had a purpose. While seeking to operate independently of the parent organisation, it nevertheless had no website of its own and there was a question over the trustees’ appetite for the struggle.
Thirdly, there was the scale of GHNI’s ambition. Malcolm had always tried to avoid runaway growth, preferring to keep the UK charity to “a manageable size, not a monster”, but was aware that this also put limitations on the charity’s ability to become fully self-sufficient.
We began with an assessment of GHNI’s activities and found that there are some very valuable services that it is delivering. These include the annual Geneva Institute for Leadership and Public Policy (GILPP) conference, aimed at senior Government officials in countries where GHNI is already operating, and programmes of Transformational Leadership Development (TLD) and Transformational Community Development (TCD).
We then turned to the future of GHNI UK. The main concern about growth was the capacity of the small team to handle an increased number of donations. However, if the Board did decide that it was worthwhile continuing (and there were ample reasons for it to do so), we advised that its best chance of achieving its aim of increasing the funding going to the field was to increase the funds for the team in the UK.
For example, one of the four Trustees, Tim Norman had been working as Partnership Development Director on a voluntary basis, but the Board felt he should be remunerated and had suggested paying him a commission based on the funding he brought in. We advised against this, partly on regulatory grounds, partly on ethical grounds. So Tim’s salary would become a fixed overhead that would need to be covered.
We also felt it was imperative that GHNI UK should have its own independent voice, tailored to the UK audience, so having a website and printed materials of its own was a pressing requirement that would add another cost to the equation.
Next we turned to the Case for Support. We felt this was too broad, not presenting GHNI’s unique strengths as well as it could. We advised that it should focus on the national leadership development project provided by the GILLP, as this would be most attractive to major donors and institutions, and to work on the messaging to make the proposition clear and compelling.
Having addressed all these considerations, we turned our attention to the fundraising strategy. We concluded that the relatively small target of £30,000 extra per year could be raised quite easily from just 36 individual gifts. GHNI UK has good connections to wealthy donors and by concentrating on large donations from a small number of donors, the problem of managing the increase would be averted.
Given the charity’s access to major donors, however, we proposed that it raise its aim from an extra £30,000 per year to at least £50,000. With the addition of trusts, churches, legacies and other funding sources, we felt it was well within the charity’s capabilities to raise the additional funds it needed and put itself on a financial footing that would become self-perpetuating.
GHNI UK welcomed our recommendation to increase its independence and wasted no time in commission a dedicate UK website. They took our advice on making Tim Norman a paid employee and he has stepped down as a Trustee and begun a salaried part-time role on a one-year trial. Project donations have increased two-fold and staff donations four-fold.
GHNI UK has also taken on board our recommendation to set up its own website, independent of the US/global site. A website designer was engaged in October 2019, but progress is going more slowly than expected and the UK website – significantly different from the US one – is now due to be launched in July 2020.
The future is by no means guaranteed but GHNI UK now has a concrete plan of action, a renewed determination to carry it out, and a firmer foundation on which to build.
Managing growth is always a challenge, but when that growth represents a significant step change, the scale of the challenge seems to multiply. However, by offering an external perspective, we are able to show how that step change could be perfectly manageable – whilst also raising some important questions that verged on the existential. It is always a privilege to help a client work through these issues, which strengthens both the internal resilience of the organisation and its appeal to external funders.