Testing progress towards ambitious growth targets

African Child Trust

Consultant: Eleanor Mitchell

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Eleanor Mitchell

“Eleanor was absolutely excellent. She very quickly grasped what we were about, which meant that time with her was efficient and purposeful. Her expertise and experience of working with charities meant she really understood the challenges we face and how others have solved them, so we could discuss and learn from real examples. She has been incredibly helpful.”

Diana Walters, Office Manager, African Child Trust

African Child Trust (ACT) is a UK-based charity, which works with partner organisations in eight African countries, running projects to alleviate poverty and advance development, with the aim of breaking the cycle of poverty. Their work is mostly focused on helping widows in need to live independently and disadvantaged children and orphans to access educational opportunities. In 2018 ACT marked its 20th anniversary by setting out a very ambitious five-year vision for growth. Two years on, the charity wanted to review its growth trajectory and saw an opportunity in Action Planning’s Pearls of Wisdom offers.

Pearl of Wisdom:
Organisational Growth and Development Plan, delivered by Eleanor Mitchell, who has worked in the charity sector for 18 years and has extensive experience of strategy development and senior management.

To carry out a strategic review of the organisation and provide insight on how it could achieve its desired targets.

Eleanor began by working with the Director, Dr Kunle Onabolu, and the Office Manager, Diana Walters, to review the internal and external workings of ACT, looking at how much income is required for growth alongside internal capacity needs. Following an initial online meeting, ACT sent Eleanor documents to review and she followed up with further questions over the next fortnight. 

The review took into account current capacity, income, resources and management needed to meet the desired targets. This revealed a gap in capacity and what was needed financially to improve operating systems and outcomes.

Eleanor delivered her feedback in another online meeting at the end of the review process and submitted a full strategic growth plan.

Recommendations in the strategic growth plan included an extending the deadline to meet targets from 2023 to 2025 and increasing core costs funding in order to take on a business development manager, who will work with the CEO and Board to increase income and project availability in the African countries. The management systems are to be overhauled, coming fully online and with increased staff capacity to administrate the projects and supported children and widows. This includes administration systems, outcomes management, web and social media coverage alongside partnership development in the UK and Africa. 

ACT received the review very positively and were able to take forward all these suggestions, quickly increasing the business development capacity of the organisation. The trustees reviewed the report and agreed to an extension of the targets, working strategically to ensure growth is sustainable for the organisation. 

The plan will support ACT to grow steadily, meet targets and overcome new challenges faced due to Covid-19.

Consultant’s insight:
ACT has seen steady growth since its inception, producing high levels of outcomes that include education opportunities and meaningful work for widowed families in rural areas of African countries. 

While being excellent at delivery, ACT required a strategic overview to assess how to meet their targets and boost the capacity of the organisation. 

Working with Kunle and Diana was a pleasure. They and the rest of the organisation readily answered my questions and received my recommendations with an open-minded and positive attitude, which will stand them in good stead as they continue to grow.

Through the strategic review, ACT were able to step back and assess their situation, adjusting timings to meet targets and work in a more structured way to build internal and external capacity.

Charities are often excellent at their cause but once they grow it can be difficult to keep up structurally to ensure the growth is manageable and sustained. The strategic review and business planning showed ACT how to grow and develop realistically while highlighting gaps in the organisation, such as management systems. 

Being able to take the review on board and adjust thinking was impressive and I have no doubt that ACT will succeed in its growth targets. That can only be good news for beneficiaries and supporters of this brilliant organisation.

About Pearls of Wisdom
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