Inclusion – a liberating watchword for 2022
How hands on should a trustee be? In a small organisation, with five staff and only three trustees, I’m pretty hands on. Other charities may have larger boards, with more of an advisory capacity than ‘doing’. In all honesty our board isn’t big enough to cover all the skills and knowledge we need.
Our charity is unusual in that its sole role in the UK is to raise funds exclusively for the World Villages for Children programmes run around the globe by the Sisters of Mary. This working order of Sisters operates 13 incredibly efficient, caring and high achieving residential schools, educating 20,000 of the very poorest children in the world, alongside running free medical centres and childcare facilities.
Trustees are there to guide, not take the day-to-day decisions. The last two years through the pandemic have made us, as a board, take a more involved role to support the Chief Exec and the staff in running the charity. So, how have we fared?
Review of 2020 and 2021
Through weekly, hands-on fundraising, finance and governance planning since the beginning of the pandemic, we have weathered this period remarkably well so far. We have a revised reserves policy, have expanded the team to include a fundraiser, reviewed our brand and website, developed a theory of change and outcomes framework, brought in an ethical policy, reviewed safeguarding and much more. We hit our revised fundraising targets in 2020 and have exceeded the target in 2021.
Coming out of the pandemic over the next couple of years, though, will require more careful steering to ensure the charity very much remains a going concern. If supporters were very engaged due to the difficult situation, we mustn’t assume their support will be as strong once the situation eases. We need to plan for that.
Our watchword on progression and performance for 2022 and beyond is “Inclusion” and how we weave that into everything we do.
Inclusive board and inclusive skills
One of the things we’ll be doing in 2022 is increasing our board capacity, starting with a skills audit. Currently we cover fundraising, impact, finance and governance. There are crucial areas we don’t cover yet, such as expertise in education, a deep understanding of poverty, reflecting the world that the children at our schools come from and the faith-based community in the UK. The skills audit may highlight other lacuna, some of which we had already identified.
In the first instance we are inviting Maria-Rosa* as an advisor. Maria-Rosa attended our school in Mexico as a child and runs an alumni group, as well as being a successful accountant and now auditor. She has first-hand experience of how the school programme transformed her life chances and those of her family.
We are setting up an ambassador scheme, chaired by one of our brilliant supporters, to raise money with individuals and companies who have links with the countries the schools operate in. They’ll be in a position to offer more than money: expertise on local procurement, for example, jobs and placements for our students, mentoring…
Recruitment of staff, board members and volunteers will be driven by the need to better reflect the cause we serve and understand our giving audiences.
To be an inclusive employer means adapting all employment offers so that no one talented group is excluded – for example, offering part-time, remote/office work, job shares, adjustments, being upfront about employee benefits such as maternity and sick pay policy.
For volunteers and board members, it will be about finding a model that works for them. Only have time at weekends or in the evening? We should be adapting for that.
Expenses should be easy to claim and cover real costs. Meetings should accommodate all styles of communication and opportunities to contribute.
Involvement of the programmes on the ground
With funding sources being so sought after, we’re wanting even more to show huge benefits of investment in our cause. We will focus on our framework for measuring and reporting on outcomes. We will involve the children, the staff and the Sisters in producing their own stories, data and pictures to demonstrate the brilliant work they do in every country.
We will work closely with the other fundraising offices (in Europe and the US) to make sure we are aligned in what stories, data and pictures we want the programmes to produce and find ways to pool our resources. We will base this in our agreed Theory of Change and outcomes framework, thus avoiding duplication of effort, gaps and divergence of narrative.
Far from being an add-on or a constraint, thinking everything we do through the lens of inclusion liberates us to be the best we can be. We can lead the way into the next few years in the knowledge that once we, as trustees, have served our six-year term, the baton will already be in the hands of the next set of people, who have been included all along.
Need help with trustee training or strategic planning? Please call 01737 814758 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Name changed to protect identity
Clare Bamberger enables organisations to strengthen their culture, relationships and practices to adapt in a world where change is a constant. Her experience in successfully setting up and embedding new services within organisations has served charities and public sector bodies well. She plans and steers a path with the different stakeholders, making sure that the cause and mission of the organisation is the driving force.