By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Academy For Chief Executives
There are around 160,000 charities registered with the Charities Commission in the UK, with a total income of some £53.86 billion, expenditure of £51bn and investments of £77.7bn. There is always room for more income, especially as charities seek to do more. When time donations are included, charity is a much bigger sector than donations suggest but still, in business terms, relatively small.
Charities come in different sizes and with different ambitions. At the small end (the smallest with under £5,000 of income are exempt from registration), 75% of charities represent 3.7% of income. At the other end of the spectrum, 6% of charities receive 90% of charitable income (and just 1.1% represent 67.5%). Therefore the charities in the middle 19% collect just 6.3% of income.
Not all charities want to grow but many do. Where they do grow, they follow a similar lifecycle to many small businesses. Charities are often begun in response to an issue faced by a single person or small group with the intention to make a difference to people encountering those issues in the future. They are often run by a very limited number of people who put some or all of their time to operating the charity.
As the charity succeeds and grows, the founder (or founders) has to become part manager and part doer and at some stage, the founder becomes an employer, possibly a full time manager. This is the stage when leadership development is useful. There are leadership courses aimed at the charity sector through trade organisations such as ACEVO, NCVO, NAVCA and John Cass College. Peer based mentoring and development is also a very useful option at this stage.
At some stage, professional management may well be recruited and the founder may take a Chairman’s role or act as Trustee and figurehead. Leadership skills are still useful at this stage, especially as professional management can move on and the passion and drive behind the charity is likely to remain in the founder.
The Charity Commission publishes on its website 'The Hallmarks of an Effective Charity'. In summary, they are:
• Clear about its purposes and direction
• A strong board
• Fit for purpose
• Learning and improving
• Financially sound and prudent
• Accountable and transparent
There is room for improvement in just about every business and charity and often this can come from other charities and from business. The use of skills transfer, education and successful management and leadership techniques is one way this can be achieved. Peer groups where all contribute and all learn together have proved to be highly effective in the business sector and it is highly likely that the charity sector will benefit, too.
The approach that the Ella Foundation is taking is to develop groups that will meet for 10 monthly meetings per year. Members of each group are from non-competing organisations - 10-15 in a group ensuring support and not rivalry. The meetings are run in a workshop style environment that is interactive, informal and above all, confidential. Meetings will be chaired by experienced and well-trained facilitators and will include inspiring sessions where the group learns from a wide spectrum of expert speakers.
The top performing charities are those which have already addressed the need for continuous improvement and inspiring leadership. These are areas where other charities (and voluntary groups) will also find benefit.
Brian Chernett is the founder of The Academy for Chief Executives and Chairman of Academy Group ACE2. Having stepped down as Chief Executive of the Academy, Brian is now developing his own coaching and mentoring business — Wisdom Forums - for senior executives and building a new charity, The Ella Foundation, to coach and mentor Chief Executives in Charities and not for profit business.
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