2021 – the year that relevance re-emerged
What a year!
How has yours been?
The word “challenging” keeps coming up. If challenging means “different” then it has certainly been challenging. But does that necessarily mean difficult?
For some organisations the answer is yes. No sooner had 2021 started than we were in lockdown again and financially that was hard. Operationally it may have been even harder. Some will not have survived and some will have emerged in a different state than when Covid first came to our awareness in early 2020.
But new purposes have arisen and those who have been agile enough to have adapted are now, generally, moving forward. My year has been, to use a technical term, bonkers busy! There has been a “four month” interim contract, which started in August 2020 and will run until March 2022. And then there has been the "other stuff”, of which most has been fundraising.
With my clients I have concentrated on what additional money will do. So, for example, the care charity that I’m helping through Action Planning has been able to add value to its existing domiciliary care offer, which has not only increased user benefit but also enabled staff retention and development, as well as an improved balance sheet.
Expanding its offer has led to an additional reablement contract with the NHS/MBC, which will lead to increased use of core services. The addition entailed very little extra overhead, so the break-even point was exceeded and now they have reserves that are adequate, whereas before they were just about managing. The expanded offer was targeted and the targeting enabled funding to be accessed.
Churches have discovered new ways of working. My own church developed an online presence with choir and a regular gathering for compline – an excellent way to draw breath before a busy working week. We are very rural indeed (the village in which I live has a bus service every Friday), yet a couple of places in the group are now holding weekly coffee mornings, recognising that loneliness is an increasing issue in cut-off rural communities.
We spent a small amount of money putting castors onto pews so that they could be moved to make space in the church for larger village events, which are too big for the village hall. The two buildings now share a disinfectant fogging machine, and a contactless card reader was purchased for the church to share with the hall. Well, that was the plan. It was so successful on the first use by the hall that they have bought their own.
Difficult? No. Different? Yes.
Meanwhile, a City Farm is beginning to milk goats and develop a range of products. This came about from a "what is it going to achieve?” conversation. The vision was refined and defined. Further site improvements have been identified and they will be subject to funding applications in 2022.
The "free entry to all" ethos is of paramount importance to the trustees. It is how they have operated for the past three decades, in one of the most deprived wards in the country. The use of such a statistic has helped in winning bids, as has full participation in the feeding children during holidays schemes. I did not have a hand in that but was able to use the participation as evidence of the agility of the organisation.
Finally, a church in Somerset has had all of its windows replaced over the past two years. A kitchen zone has been created and they now have a draught-free building, which is used as a drop-in for villagers, as well as hosting events.
I had that marked down as complete for all of three weeks. Then the church warden phoned to say that the boiler had failed and that the component needed to repair it was obsolete and out of stock in the UK and all known markets. So, 2022 kicks off with an energy efficient boiler within an excellent building. There is scope for loan repayment so that is being explored.
As the country moves into 2022, the need to remain agile yet true to core purposes remains. We will be in an environment that would not have been envisaged by many of our organisations’ founders. As we move forward, keep an eye on the spirit of innovation that created many of the organisations we support, work for or both. They need to “do what they do” in a manner that is relevant to current situations.
That word “relevance” has been the one that has emerged most prominently for me during 2021 and will form the core of my work for 2022.
From a personal perspective, our major house project should start (planning permission delayed by 10 months because of Covid and now we have a delay with the contractors starting). We will have to move out for a few weeks whilst the roof is replaced on the existing bit and the extension joined on.
The result will be a house with heating and plumbing upstairs (we know what the money we are spending will do) and decent roof insulation with a "green" heating system. This gives us the opportunity to live slightly differently. Have motorhome: will travel.
So, less remote working and more face-to-face work, with my "office" being on a camp site near you.
If you’re looking for help in restoring relevance to your organisation’s activities, please get in touch. Email email@example.com or call 01737 814758
Andrew Rainsford is a specialist consultant in the Christian sector, helping churches with matters concerning buildings, capacity building, project development, income generation and community enterprise. He has 28 years experience in funding and third sector management and now engages with projects that will make a difference to the community.