For many small charities, income from grants is essential. But how can you improve your chance of being successful when it comes to applying for grants? Harriet Stranks, Director of Grant Making (North and Wales), offers a ten-point health checklist to ensure that your charity stands out.
At Lloyds Bank Foundation we know just how challenging it is for small and medium-sized charities at the moment. Income is in decline whilst demand for services grows every day. We’ve identified ten areas for charities to focus on in building capacity, which will pay dividends in the long run and increase your ‘fundabilty’.
Many charities sleepwalk into financial trouble because they do not have a solid understanding of their finances, and worry about the future when it’s too late. Having a robust understanding of finances helps charities spot and mitigate risks, and importantly. Reporting and discussing finances regularly means the charity can work together to address any risks and create contingencies. CFG’s training for small charities is a good place to start!
Thinking about new ways of diversifying income and introducing new assets is very important. This might be through fundraising, having a mixed economy where some people are charged for services, regular giving schemes or trading for example. There can be risks involved and this comes with a health warning as it needs careful planning, but charities that do not embrace new ways of raising funds will be left behind as more enterprising local charities fill the void.
3. Digital Skills
Embracing digital fundraising and social media will be crucial to survive and thrive. Millennials see the world through a screen and if your charity doesn’t have a strong internet presence, optimised for mobile, you will deter a whole generation of potential support. Digital fundraising is increasingly important, and essential if you’re going to stay ahead. Lloyds Bank Foundation has links to free tools for charities on our website www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk
4. Competition and branding
Charities are in competition with each other, for funding, clients, reputation and employees. Whilst it is important to collaborate, charities also need to build competitive advantage. Everyone in the organisation should know the ‘elevator pitch’ and understand the unique selling point (USP) of the charity to create a unified brand with a clear direction. Mapping competitors’ strengths will also help to spot your own charity’s weaknesses and identify areas for growth.
5. Investing in staff
Many charities simply focus on training which complies with legislation or the basic competencies of a role. However, identifying and addressing skills gaps will help staff develop within their roles, provide stretch and motivation, support delegation and build credibility and trust. Training also helps with succession planning and transferable skills across roles. Training should be viewed as an investment, not a cost.
6. Understanding your impact
Charities should not measure impact to report back to funders, it should be to understand the user experience and to improve services. Investing in a database will transform a charity from one that thinks that they do well to one that knows it does well – and can prove it. Reflective learning from results is critical.
7. Networking and leadership
Charity leaders need external sources of support and like-minded people to talk to. This might be through formal networks, mentoring or action learning sets. The external validation of ideas builds confidence to act, reduces isolation, raises ambition and promotes strategic thinking. Without active leadership a charity cannot become stronger.
8. Building trust locally
Building trust within the community brings its own rewards in referrals, reputation and funding. Being consistent and building relationships with clients creates longer lasting impact and transition to lasting change. Using local volunteers builds a skilled future workforce and enhances social capital in the local community.
9. Strategic thinking
Investing in awaydays, agreeing your mission, values and annual operational plan helps staff and trustees align in one clear direction. It also affirms confidence in the leadership and motivation in the team. Recognising and celebrating successes makes people feel valued and looking ahead supports aspiration to grow and become stronger.
10. Support trustees
Appreciate trustees by providing training and opportunities for engagement. Prepare well for board meetings and give assurance that the organisation is being well-run by providing transparent management information and regular reports. Appoint trustees for a fixed term and induct new trustees well. Good trustees will act as ambassadors and champions of the charity, thus enhancing the reputation and brand.
This blog was written as part of Charity Finance Group’s Small Charities Programme launch, published in Finance Focus on 8 December 2016. The programme provides practical finance training and resources for charities with an income of £1m or less across England and Wales. http://smallcharityfinance.org.uk/
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