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Charities need to embrace their power and take charge, says report from NPC

May 24th 2017

While some charities are adapting to a new normal characterised by funding cuts and greater need, others are lagging behind and need to take charge, says a new report from charity think tank and consultancy NPC.

Charities taking charge: Transforming to face a changing world presents original qualitative and quantitative data from in-depth interviews, roundtable discussions and a survey of 300 charity leaders as part of NPC's State of the Sector research programme.

NPC authors Patrick Murray, Jennifer Shea and George Hoare find that business as usual can no longer work for charities; a familiar focus on external factors like the fundraising climate and commissioning practices needs to be supplemented by a focus on what is within charities’ power now.

Murray, Head of Policy & External Affairs at NPC, says: says: "It's about charities getting past feeling powerless in the face of the changing world, dwarfed by increasing demand and less money, and concentrating on what is in their grasp to achieve change. So really seeing the power of user voice, collaboration, being bolder in governance, etc,."

The report shows evidence of progress and inspiring examples for the charity sector to look to, such as new ways of working, accessing of new resources and creating positive relationships:

  • Charities are thinking about working more in partnership: 52% expect to be partnering more with other charities in three years’ time
  • Many are reviewing governance, and 78% report having discussions at board level about changing strategy based on evidence or learning in the last 12 months
  • 72% say that service users have had a direct involvement in service design, and 65% say service users have had direct involvement in strategy development in the last 3 years.

Murray says: "We found some charities thriving through focusing on activities that deliver the greatest impact; collaborating with new and existing partners; embracing diversity and a new attitude to risk; and harnessing new resources, from digital technology to beneficiaries and communities themselves.But the research identified many others struggling. If the sector is to step up to the challenge, leaders will need to think very differently about how to deliver impact in this changing world."

But  the report adds that charities still have work to do before achieving this transformation, as evidenced by the following findings:

  • 74% expect to do more things in three years’ time, and only 4% expect to do fewer. This lack of strategic focus is a major concern.
  • Many charity leaders think about public trust only through the fundraising prism. Only 9% felt the loss of public trust would give them less legitimacy in campaigning and lobbying, and 31% think a loss of trust in the sector would have no effect on their organisation.
  •  63% think Brexit will have no effect, or a neutral effect, on demand for services and 54% think it will have no effect, or a neutral effect, on cohesion within the communities in which they work.

·         Of those charities who deliver public sector contracts, 64% say they actually need to use other sources of income, such as money from fundraising, in order to successfully deliver these contracts. And a further 57% report having to turn down contracts because the operational risk is too high.

Ian Oakley-Smith, Director, Head of Charities for PwC, says: "Charities need to play to their strengths, rather than trying to be all things to all people, if they are to have a bigger impact in these changing times.They need to be honest about their capabilities and focus on those areas where they can really make a difference."

Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes for Barrow Cadbury Trust, says: "At a time of great change and upheaval for the charity sector, this report is a welcome barometer of what’s going well and what needs to change. It’s clear that many charity leaders are taking seriously the challenges of the changing context, with encouraging findings on governance, use of evidence and willingness to work in partnership.

Julia Oliver, Head of the Not for Profit Practice at executive search firm, Odgers Berndtson, adds: "This report reflects the changes we are seeing in hiring sector leaders. We’re often asked to find chief executives, trustees and other senior people for charities looking for strong commercial skills, a firm grip on governance and experience of leading cultural change."

Download the full report for free here: http://www.thinknpc.org/publications/charities-taking-charge/


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