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I’m CEO of The Edge, a small charity set up 35 years ago to provide counselling and support services to families in our town. Our original mission was to empower and support parents of children with disabilities. However, in recent years, we’ve been called on more and more by other parents, facing all sorts of family worries and problems such as debt, unemployment, domestic violence and concerns about bringing up their children. This may be because other local advice services have closed down.
To help meet the need we’ve chased funding opportunities and gradually added to our services, for example welfare benefits and debt advice. We’ve negotiated annual grants for our work from local authorities but now they’ve made cuts, and in order to keep going we’ve been drawing on our reserves. Team morale is poor, opinions differ on the kinds of services we should provide. Our reserves will run out next year if we carry on like this, but we don’t want to reduce our services as people depend on them.
It’s vital to diversify your funding base, but there’s something else to attend to first.
If I were to ask you to state in a short neat sentence why your charity exists, could you do that? Your mission seems to have drifted over the years (not surprisingly) but now is the time to take stock. Involving your Trustees and the rest of team to try to arrive at a consensus is the best way forward but remember to make it come across as inspiring! An independent facilitator may help. Consider what your beneficiaries need from you, and the extent to which you can realistically go about meeting that need. This process may lead you to phase out some services, or plan to introduce new ones. This spring clean will hopefully galvanise everyone around a common cause, the likes of which probably hasn’t been seen since your founders started the ball rolling 35 years ago.
Next, you’ll need to refresh your business plan, including a realistic new budget, working out what funds you can depend on and what more needs to be raised. This will require a fundraising strategy including how to, for example, gain donations from individuals, grants from trusts or public bodies, sponsorships from businesses, earnings through delivering public services or running shops or social enterprises. Perhaps you’ll need a mixture of all these to take your reinvigorated charity to the next exciting stage of its development.
Our Recipes for Success below may help, but if you’d like further help do get in touch.