We’ve been talking to lots of charities every day about their experience of the current crisis. There are challenges a plenty and some really tough stories. It’s heart breaking to hear about, for instance, the impossible dilemmas some hospices are facing with rising demand for their services, and the enormous problems of ensuring staff and patient safety at the same time income is cratering.
But we are also hearing stories of hope and optimism. It’s not true that all charities are facing declining fundraising. There are many examples of good donor-centred fundraising producing excellent results for causes of all kinds. And there are new opportunities emerging to replace those activities or streams impacted by the crisis.
Many people we speak to are talking about how the crisis and the dramatic changes it has produced are transforming how they are working with their colleagues. Old departmental silos and jealousies just seem indulgent now and charities are seeing levels of collaboration and flexibility that were previously unheard of.
And increasingly we are having conversations with charities who are using the inflection point of this situation to think much more creatively about the future of their cause. Fundamental questions are being asked to ensure that charities are going to be relevant in the post-Covid world. Is the mission still valid and, if it is, are current approaches and structures still the best way of achieving it?
There are some common themes in these discussions. How can the charity have a different relationship with donors and (terrible word) beneficiaries? How can we move from you giving money to me to help them, to us solving problems together? How can the charity get out of the way? How can we put voluntary endeavour back at the heart of what we do, without losing quality or efficacy?
And how do we organise ourselves to deliver this in flexible teams that integrate across everything we do and collaborate around common objectives?
These are crucial debates that will shape how well charities adapt to the new world and thrive or don’t and disappear. Making time and space for them now feels very important, hard as it might be to do with all the current pressures.
I think this is exciting. There is a real opportunity to address many problems that have dogged too many charities for too long. To break down old barriers and create organisations that are more dynamic, more flexible and more responsive to the needs and wants of supporters and those they aim to serve.
It does feel that this is the time for more radical thinking and for making far-reaching changes. The change in the world outside is seismic and responses must be proportional to this. Retreating into bunkers is the worst strategy of all.
We are keen to help where we can and where our experience and ideas can be useful. Do drop us a line if you want to discuss how your organisation’s strategies need to adopt to a virus affected world.