Charities and longevity – Hope for the best, plan for the worst

December 13, 2017 at 10:33

Like CFG, we have been supporting not-for-profit organisations for many years and we were proud to sponsor their Annual Dinner. As CFG celebrated 30 years of supporting charities this year, we asked dinner guests to share their advice to charities for surviving 30 years in the sector. With the landscape changing rapidly for charities, a little advice can go a long way. From the advice shared by charities, three themes stood out in the responses.

  1. Being bold and ‘positively disruptive’

As the regulatory climate in the charity sector evolves with changes like the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Fundraising Regulator and the rise of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT), it can be perceived as a tougher environment for charities looking to make bold decisions.

Charities showed us that they still have an appetite for being bold and innovative. This is causing charities to make changes to the way they operate through adaptation of  new fundraising models, collaboration and structural changes. In this environment, reacting quickly can be the best way to be impactful.

Here’s what charities had to say:

  • “Think long term, keep on learning, adapt to technology and stay ahead of changes in the industry.”
  • “Think light-footed, responsive, digitally-enabled and able to be positively disruptive when you think about your organisational structure.”
  • “Be bold in your purpose. Talk positively about what you are trying to do and honestly about progress made. State what support you need. That will convince others to support you, financially or otherwise.”

Being bold takes confidence, for more on how trustees can protect themselves, see David Britton’s guest blog for the Charity Times on 5 tips to help manage risks.


  1. ‘Be honest about what you’re trying to achieve.’

When New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) asked charities what they thought would help rebuild trust in the sector, 85% of charities agreed that being more transparent about how money is spent and demonstrating impact would be effective.

Advice from charities:

  • “Always be as open and transparent as possible about what you are trying to do, who you are trying to help and why you are spending money in the way that you are.  These basics often get temporarily forgotten along the way.”
  • “Talk positively about what you are trying to do and honestly about progress made.”
  • “Keep on learning and adapting, it will help you to stay ahead of changes in the industry.”
  • “Ensure you have appropriate financial expertise in the team, and remember that it’s not about size – i.e. a smaller organisation still needs a high level of financial professionalism – and integrity!”


  1. Balance the need of those you help today with those you help in the future

Charities who responded balanced their eagerness to be bold with a little caution. Longer-term strategy and financial plans were to be encouraged to ensure resilience through tough times. This was reinforced by Ecclesiastical customers who revealed the top concern for charities over the next 12 months is a lack of funding.[1] With careful planning, charities can ensure funds are available at all times.

ecclesiastical blog

Charities gave strategic advice to ensure longevity:

  • “Make sure there’s a focus on building reserves so that you have access to funds through the good times and the bad.”
  • “Make sure there is a clear and powerful statement purpose that is distinct from existing charities.”
  • “Take time to prepare a proper business plan, including sensitivity analysis, in advance of pressing the button”
  • “Make sure you have a robust business case, it may be a charity but it needs to be resilient.”

Being bold is good. Charities just need to balance bold moves within their strategy enabled by careful risk management and contingency planning to make sure they stand the test of time.

One final important piece of advice was shared on the night: “do subscribe to CFG, lots of help in there”!


[1] Ecclesiastical 2017 Annual Tracking Survey