Clare Bamberger

Mar 15, 2022, 10:00 AM

Catching up? Pivoting? Radically rethinking? Why it’s worth getting advice on your organisation’s future

Your charity has survived the last two years. You have shown enormous resilience, quickly adapting to virtual services, a partly or fully home-working workforce, furloughs, new health and safety measures, changing your office space, seeking new funders and much more.

While we are not out of the pandemic yet, it’s time now to pause, assess and plan for when it is behind us. Depending on your situation, you may decide you will plan for the next phase on a spectrum from a fundamental shift to some minor tweaks. 

Kick-off questions

To start you off, some of the basic questions the senior leadership team and the board might be asking are:

  • Who are we serving and why? 
  • What is success for us?
  • What do we do differently now that we want to keep?
  • What should we stop?
  • Where do we want to innovate?
  • Is the way we are organised now going to carry us into a successful future?
  • How agile were we and would we be when there’s another crisis?

Seek objectivity

You can, of course, carry out your assessments internally, providing you have the capacity and capability. Many larger, medium-sized and even small charities will have both, but sometimes they will prefer an external perspective, from a person or team who have no vested interest in the outcome. These objective observers will report what they find – warts and all.

An impartial and objective view based on clear, rounded and robust evidence means your decision-making is informed by more than opinion – even expert opinion, which, though expert, often comes from a partial view, without being completed by other perspectives.  

Getting honest opinions and ideas from staff is often best done by an external, trusted consultancy or agency.

Naturally your decision making will be influenced by much more than pure information or external recommendations – it will also depend on personalities, pressures from different sources, a compelling vision and many other factors. Having reliable data to start with, though, will mean your discussions with be based on what is, rather than what you think or want to be the case.

How can this desirable, objective evidence be generated? Of course, the answer is “it depends” – mainly on what your questions are. And one consultant may favour a particular approach over another, based on experience and training. A team may combine their areas of strength to offer a multi-faceted proposal.

What to expect from a consultant

Depending on what you’re looking for – from a radical mission rethink to some minor adjustments  – there are plenty of tools that a consultant may offer. Here are just a few:

  • Strategic analysis – how and whether your current strategy will continue to deliver your mission, how you perform as an organisation and assessment of the internal and external environments and market analysis. There should be strategic alternative options and some recommended actions for future direction.
  • Theory of Change – what your services are here to achieve, why and how. A theory of change can be smaller in scope for particular activities or larger to cover the whole organisation. From it you can build an outcomes framework to measure the effectiveness of your activity. Make it visual – a one-page diagram or picture makes it a useful, inspiring reminder of why you and they get out of bed every morning.
  • Business model review – how effective and efficient the way you operate is in delivering your mission. Possible ideas would be to merge, spin off, reorganise, review funding sources.
  • Functional or structural review – whether a particular function is meeting the needs it was set up to serve and/or whether the structure of your organisation will meet future needs. Is there something missing? If you have had to contract to combine functions or expand to incorporate new ones in crisis mode, it’s time to review.
  • In-depth piece of research – whether that be into assessing the level of need for your mission, understanding your different audiences, comparator or market analysis, a funding or fundraising review, feasibility for an innovation, a restructure… they will all involve a lot of talking to stakeholders and analysing systematically gathered quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Management guidance, risk review, ad hoc support and other advice.

Brief them well

Good commissioning is vital; a poor brief will lead to confused, vague proposals or no proposals at all. Ultimately a poor brief will not get you the information you need, no matter what money you spend. I’d even recommend getting advice on producing a good brief if you’re not certain what one looks like – at the very least someone external to look over it.

A post-pandemic future means organisations can no longer live in a world where such events are unthinkable and not planned for. The WHO has warned that there will be others, it’s just a question of when and where rather than if. We are seeing a war on our European doorstep and it’s having effects on you and others that would have seemed impossible only a few months ago.

Disasters, emergencies and crises can be planned for but you can never be sure what the next one will be. Get the right advice now to answer your key questions and plan for an agile future.

Do you need help constructing a workable action plan? Please call 01737 814758 or email office@actionplanning.co.uk

Clare Bamberger

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.