Eleanor Mitchell

Dec 8, 2022, 12:00 PM

Getting in shape for 2023 – three focus areas to add to your planning

By Eleanor Mitchell

As we approach the end of the year, we naturally think back to the challenges and opportunities of 2022. Then ahead, probably with a level of trepidation, to what may be in 2023.

The year ahead is particularly daunting for charities, their staff and beneficiaries. After years of cuts and with the economy in a mess, secured funding will have a lower value than when applied for and new funding will be even more competitive, as charities continue to find themselves forging ahead to meet the increasing need of beneficiaries.

Managing under such pressure means planning differently; we can no longer produce plans and strategies that are undeviating. We need to become fluid and adaptable while maintaining a strong core and vision.

New planning considerations

Within strategy and business planning, the standard areas of attention are budget, targets for growth, development of services and evaluation. These components are fundamental to an effective and efficient organisation. Alongside these, though, we can plan to increase morale and adaptability in uncertain and challenging times, by adding new ideas or ways of working that directly support staff, beneficiaries and growth.

Leadership and adaptability, people management and sharing expertise or resources are all imperative to a successful charity that works with change, not against it, in a transparent and collaborative way. Here is to incorporate this into your planning.

Leadership and adaptability in planning ahead

As a leader, the last few years will have probably taken a toll. Leading through endless months and years of uncertainty is not a fun task. Adaptability, or planning to have to adapt, will help to prepare and lead proactively in the year ahead. You can do this by:

  • Sharing concerns and areas of need with your senior leadership team and/or board. Do not carry the weight of the organisation alone.
  • Support creative thinking in deliverables and assess your assets, what do you have that others may pay for? This could be training to corporates, CPD, or having a social enterprise arm to the charity.
  • Seek support from mentors or fellow CEOs, come together with partner CEOs and discuss the challenges. These meetings do not always have to be solution focussed; time to offload is needed and sharing ideas is helpful to all.
  • As you plan, think of the worst case scenarios. Ask department heads or managers to risk assess and plan for this. Every service strand must have a contingency plan.
  • Ensure you have everything in place to support staff and beneficiaries and seek advice if you need to on policy development for wellbeing within your organisation.

Inspiring your people

The organisation will not run efficiently and meet targets unless its staff and volunteers are involved, supported and fulfilled within their roles. One-to-ones, away days etc are the norm but how about adding a section to your annual or strategic plan on how you will support your workforce during the next year?

A section on staff development, covering the plan’s duration, will promote a feeling of inclusiveness and support through transparent operations. These ideas cost nothing, or very little, but create autonomy and freedom within a role, which boosts morale and effectiveness.

  • Plans for pay increases and how they relate to the cost of living crisis. If no increases are available, explain why not and state how the organisation plans to overcome this.
  • Support for staff and volunteers is imperative during uncertain times. Think about increasing flexible working where practical and add wellbeing or mental health days to the leave offering. These can be limited or at the manager’s discretion.
  • Do you have a regular meeting schedule? If not, put one in place. Staff need effective communication and to be brought together.
  •  Communicate the plan. When targets move or are not met, explain why. Bring in your staff and support them to work fluidly and adaptably within service provision to meet targets.
  • Involve staff in decision making. If ideas are not taken up, explain why not. This always transpires into growth for staff members and the organisation.

Sharing the burden and opportunities

It is time to take partnerships up a notch. Services and resources are being squeezed. If your funding is secure, then think of less fortunate partners and share. What could you offer for free from your premises or services?

Free and valuable possibilities include:

  • What do you need that another organisation could give to you? Maybe exchange a meeting space for an excellent policy template that you have been meaning to update for months.
  • Organisations come together to give updates and develop partnerships or connections, so why not come together to share resources? Add this idea to the agenda. Call it a swap shop, where you can either ask for or offer your resources for free.
  • Internally share how different services are running. If you are not already doing this, share templates and monitoring tools or ways to simplify admin tasks across the organisation.

These are non-funded but doable areas to enhance planning, staff inclusion, wellbeing and the implementation of sharing resources and ideas with partners and peers. This increases morale and brings transparency to organisational planning that is focussed on understanding current situations and their impact.

Where we cannot change difficult times ahead, we can be prepared and work collaboratively, supporting one another through them.


Eleanor Mitchell

Eleanor Mitchell has over 20 years experience in the charity sector, working across strategy, development, effective management practice and income generation. She started with volunteering before progressing to senior management level, vice chair and consultant. Eleanor's specialist areas are in supporting charities to develop realistic growth targets through effective strategic planning and management. This brings reassurance to boards and provides realistic ways of working at an operational level.

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