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The needs of the charity vs the needs of the business

The needs of the charity vs the needs of the business

Thursday 26 November 2020

The needs of the charity vs the needs of the business


The charity sector, in general, can more often than not be steeped in tradition leading to struggles when attempting to adopt more innovative approaches and less traditional organisational structures.

Many bigger charities on the island will run on a service-provider business model where they become a service provider to the Government of Jersey providing care and support to fulfil the government’s societal obligations.

Jersey's government currently relies greatly on charities to deliver services and, with the announcement of the new Primary Care Model, that reliance will only become greater, which possesses the question of 'the needs of the charity vs the needs of the business'.

With greater funding for service providers comes greater responsibilities to provide services and satisfy contractual obligations. The government's support can be seen as a positive but it also possesses a danger to the needs of Charity if not managed correctly with the necessary countermeasures.

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Pictured: The new Care Model is likely to place greater reliance on charities.

Charities must structure to guard against losing sight of their charitable vision and purpose or face success without meaning.

The well of goodwill

First, we must realise charity is the purest form is uncertain in nature, it is the reliance on goodwill, donors, and fundraising. It is irresponsible for charities to run without revenue-generating activity as the well of goodwill can and will eventually run dry.

Pandemics such as covid have already disrupted fundraising activities of local charities, leaving some in a precarious position.

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Pictured: Goodwill can run dry in difficult circumstances.

So we have established revenue generation is a must for survival and longevity and the government has an obligation requiring service providers to fulfil a duty of care. 

Is the CEO in the charity sector still a BINGO?

Well, it all depends on balance and not losing sight of the business or the charity, to be frank! Sure, trustees are designed to balance and provide checks and countermeasures but it is a role many take with limited time to devote to it.

Many charities will run on a CEO model where great autonomy is required. The issue there arises when the charity chooses a CEO with the competency to run and deliver the services they provide but not perhaps the competency to grow the charitable mission and ensure the charity is positioned in good stead with donors and other key stakeholders in the community.

Often you are forced to choose one type of competency and skill set above another when recruiting and appointing a CEO in the third sector and, for reasons we have outlined above, it is only natural the ability to deliver services and generate reliable revenue is the skill set that can often prevail, and rightly so. However, perhaps it's time we consider how we stop employing pitfalls to reach new heights?

Divide and strategise

Instead of creating one role and potentially setting someone up to fail miserably at one aspect which then encourages them to weigh the scales in favour of their competence to disguise areas that they are underperforming in, why not split the CEO roles and create two roles for two exceptional individuals with complementary skillsets?

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Pictured: Why not divide up the role of CEO to ensure all competency areas are covered?

Having two individuals looking after their respective areas of the charity's interests will ensure a greater balance in how the charity grows and will help to ensure both the interests of the business and the interests of the charity are forefront in strategies for the charity's growth. This could be choosing to have Co-CEOs, which has been effective for some businesses, or it could using a Director-General model, which you may see more traditionally in governments or membership organisations.

Surprisingly, the rationale you see for a Co-CEO in the corporate world is not too dissimilar from what you may expect of a charity in terms of varying responsibilities and a need to ensure both are adequately resourced as explained in this recent article on the Harvard Business Review that discusses the model from a corporate viewpoint.

With two equally committed individuals to their respective areas of expertise, we are able to ensure time is spent wisely and the business and charity are both at the forefront of the strategy for the growth of the charity as a whole.

But such and such is the CEO of such and such and they do it so well!

Well, yes, of course, there will be exceptions and some Charity CEOs will be able to hold the balance, but many will fall into a rabbit hole of either hyperfocus on the needs of the charity or hyperfocus on the needs of the business.

Of course, for smaller charities which don't have an added business model of providing care services to the government, it would be unnecessarily complicated and unneeded, but for those charities who are key service providers, it's time they consider if a CEO can lead both the charity and the business.

In the wake of the government's increased reliance on charities, it's a discussion that is worthwhile broaching and considering at the board table. Charities mustn't be afraid to take bold steps and innovative approaches!

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