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How can charities be more resilient?

Beth Clarke, CAF Resilience Programme Manager, CAF

This Big Advice Day I’ll be leading a workshop on how charities can innovate and become more resilient. It will feature lessons we’ve learnt from our CAF Resilience programme.

Read on to find out more about the programme and the workshop I’ll be leading during Small Charity Week.

It’s very difficult to measure in advance whether a charity is resilient. The only way to know for sure is when they are put to the test.

Not may of us would have thought a global health pandemic would be the test – reimagining services, dealing with increasing demand and facing acute pressures on funding.

The current situation underlines what we saw several years ago when we launched the CAF Resilience programme – many smaller charities in the UK might do great work, but they have a pressing need for financial investment and some management support to help them to be resilient, able to react, flex and pivot under stress. Covid-19 has sadly laid bare the extent of the issue.

We know that the public (and many grant funders) do not like to fund core costs and expect the maximum funding possible to be spent on direct delivery of their work.

Whilst understandable, the unfortunate and unintended result is charities that are not adequately invested in, often with minimal leadership and a lack of infrastructure.

Speaking to charity donors, when I ask what a good charity looks like, I typically hear responses around strong safeguarding, good governance, transparent reporting and prudent financial management. These are the exact ‘core costs’ that donors are often reluctant to fund. It has always been clear to those of us in the sector that if we value reliable quality work being carried out by charities, we need to invest in the organisations as well as the activity.

This was the premise of CAF Resilience, which is drawing to a close later this year. The programme saw small charities receiving significant funds but, unusually, only to be spent on freeing up their capacity in order to improve their organisational strength.

Alongside this came tailored expertise from consultants who helped them on their journey. It wasn’t just about providing core costs but going even further, providing funding that allows charity leaders or key staff to step back from busy day jobs and be self-reflective and adaptable.

The hypothesis of the programme was that if we provided this support over two years, we would see cases that showcased the impact these kinds of donations can have. The programme is still running but the ones who have completed it have found it to be incredibly beneficial to their long term ability to efficiently deliver great services to the people who need their help.

Many have managed to adapt to this current crisis well and have been more confident in having to think fast and make necessary changes, having used their time on the programme to streamline their services and focus on what’s important to them. We expect to release a full report with finding by the end of this year.

I hope you’ll join me at the workshop on Big Advice Day. I’m looking forward to sharing the findings of the programme with small charities and getting your feedback on how we can use them to improve how funders support you.

CAF is proud to sponsor Small Charity Week 2020. Find out how we’re supporting charities during the coronavirus crisis.

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