Helping a well founded charity step up to the next level


“David is a seasoned pro. He’s perceptive and diplomatic and leaves a lot of space for opinions in the room, while not shying away from delivering messages that might be harder to hear. It was great to have him there. The workshop enabled everyone to have their say and be heard and enabled David to challenge the assumptions or preconceptions that different people in the room had. The real jewel was his analysis of CEASE and the stage that we’re at as a charity. He really got that. He could perceive the challenges and opportunities that we face at this present time.”

Vanessa Morse, CEO, CEASE

Since it’s foundation as a charity in March 2019, CEASE, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, has achieved much to be proud of, especially as a young charity in a tough economic environment. CEO Vanessa Morse describes it as an “exploratory phase”, seeking to identify where and how CEASE can make the most impact in its fight against sexual exploitation in the UK. 

Having gained a clearer sense of the unique and important role CEASE can play, Vanessa felt the charity had outgrown this exploratory phase and was ready to transition into an “established charity” – one which could deliver its ambitious aims and have a lasting impact at national level.

Three areas had become bottlenecks: the operational model, governance and fundraising. The charity had been funded by two funders but hadn’t expanded its major donors beyond this. Vanessa felt that an external facilitator could help the whole Board to address some of the issues that were holding them back.

Having heard about Action Planning through ACEVO, Vanessa contacted David Saint and had an initial conversation that “opened new doors in my thinking about fundraising”. Vanessa sent David a copy of the strategy document she had prepared and asked if he would run a strategy day with a particular focus on fundraising. 

The make-up of the Board –  the two Founders and other good but new trustees – posed an sensitive dynamic. In order to make sure everyone felt free to have their say, David contacted them all in advance to hear their views privately and build a relationship.

This helped when it came to the strategy day itself, both in saving time on introductions and giving David a valuable insight into the feelings of everyone in the room and a sense of where CEASE was in its journey. David was able to go into the day with a strong perception of the opportunities and challenges that the charity was facing. 

The content of the workshop was designed to get the Board thinking about alternative funding sources, in order to reduce the charity’s heavy dependence on two donors. This meant challenging the attendees with some important questions, interrogating their vision for the future of CEASE – growing from a “kitchen table charity” to a force to be reckoned with – how they would get there, who would do the work and how the current funders felt about bringing other donors on board. Vanessa’s strategy paper proved a valuable basis for these discussions.

During the day David and the Board addressed the gaps in the paper, such as a Theory of Change, personnel requirements and the fundamentals of a fundraising strategy.

The strategy day increased the CEASE Board's awareness of what it will take to increase income streams, and revealed blindspots, such as who was going to do the fundraising work. In Vanessa’s words, “It definitely got us thinking.”

“The big value of it,” she added, “was in planting seeds for the trustees as to where we are going as an organisation as a whole and, therefore, what we need in terms of income generation. That takes time. This workshop created a space where all those personalities could be heard.”

Vanessa was able to begin implementing the recommendations that she had made and start recruiting senior management. Then they would be ready to move on to strategy and then fundraising. The day helped in identifying the key development points, ie the work they needed to do before they set about fundraising.

Consultant’s insight:
Every organisation goes through step change moments, which can be painful and tricky to navigate. Perhaps one of the most difficult is that shift from “kitchen table” charity to “established organisation", and the transition from )founder-led to staff-led (under the overall direction of the Board. It is in these step change moments that external facilitation can be so important, allowing people to voice their concerns and fears, and providing an external perspective on possible solutions.

The CEASE Board and staff team were excellent to work with – really driven and focused on the cause, and yet open-minded to what the next step might look like and how best to take that step. I have no doubt that CEASE will increasingly be a force to be reckoned with in the years ahead.

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