The understanding of a thirty-year relationship
“The best consulting is about leaving the organisation you’re working with stronger for doing it, because you’ve given them the tools. To this end, my AFK has benefitted greatly from the services of Action Planning. Where it worked best for me was in having David sense check and challenge my thinking. That’s important because it’s very easy to get completely self-absorbed.”
Graham Duncan, former Chief Executive, my AFK
my AFK (formerly Action For Kids) is one of our longest standing clients. Since 1991 we have been helping them in their mission to help disabled children and young people to live independent and fulfilling lives. At the end of 2020, Chief Executive Graham Duncan, who we recruited on my AFK’s behalf eight years earlier, stepped down, so we thought we would mark this watershed with a case study that rounds up some of our work for my AFK both during and prior to Graham’s tenure.
Consultancy services delivered:
Our first piece of work for my AFK was the preparation of a legacy promotion leaflet, back in 1991. This was the beginning of a long and productive relationship. In the 30 years that we have worked for my AFK, the consultancy they have required from us has involved all three pillars of our service offering: Governance & Strategy, Fundraising & Marketing, and People & Practice.
Here are some examples:
- Legacy promotion leaflet
- Impact evaluation consultancy
- Major donor fundraising consultancy
- New services feasibility studies
- Capital appeal feasibility study and strategy
- Market research
- Recruitment of Chief Executive
- Consultancy sessions with Chief Executive
- Advice on organisational structure
- Facilitation of Board awaydays
- Strategy reviews
- Support for strategic planning processes
- C-me personality profiling
- Fundraising review
When Graham arrived in 2013 he found an organisation that was adept at giving disabled young people work experience and work-related learning but was not putting many of them into actual jobs. He embarked on a mission to refocus my AFK explicitly on getting as many of its beneficiaries into work as possible. Today it is a leading organisation supporting disabled young people into work.
As with all organisational change, this required Graham to develop a clear strategy and to bring the Board along with him. We helped by sense checking Graham’s thinking as it developed, advising on organisational structure, facilitating a number of Board awaydays and taking the Trustees through a programme of C-me personality profiling to increase the Board’s understanding of its internal dynamic.
David Saint was the principal contact and became a regular sounding board for Graham, meeting three or four times a year, whenever Graham wanted his objective view. “David’s understanding of the organisation and of the disabled sector was useful and having him challenging me was useful too,” he says.
Our most recent project for my AFK was the fundraising review of 2019/20. The charity was preparing its next budget and wanted to get a reality check on the potential of various income streams.
“This was a good example of bringing in an outside perspective,” says Graham. “Action Planning delivered a very experienced consultant, who won the trust of our Fundraising department. The work was done quickly and to the right scale: not too all-encompassing and not too trivial. It was finished just as lockdown was coming in and gave the Trustees reassurance at a very difficult time.”
It has been a real pleasure to work alongside my AFK over the past 30 years – first with founders Mike Hayes and Sally Bishop, then with Graham Duncan, and now with incoming CEO David Coe, who, by coincidence, was also one of our earliest clients, when he was Amnesty’s Marketing Director. What goes around comes around! my AFK were always wisely tactical in their use of consultants – sometimes they used us, sometimes other people. But over the years they have made use of many of our different services, as evidenced by the list above. It’s been a good partnership – a client with a clear sense of purpose and a willingness to ask for outside help when needed, and a consultancy with a flexible and pragmatic approach, able and willing to step in when needed – and to step back when not!