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Derek Bishop

Culture Consultancy

Director

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Developing Charities

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I want to tell you a story.  It’s not about any one person, or object or endeavour but it is a simple tale about how a single idea can develop and grow and become a world changing force.  It’s a tale about one charity and every charity and about how taking the time to get the basics right can make the difference.

Like many charities our story starts very simply.  A single person, inspired by a local event or a story seen in the media decides that something should be done.  And some charities end just there; with a declaration that “something must be done” and a reliance on “them” to do it.  But in this story the person decides to act.  They draw in friends and family, make a plan and embark on fund raising.  Rather than simply add to the coffers of an existing charity this person, we’ll call them the founder, sets up a charity of their own.  This means legal documents, trustees and bank accounts and the number of those involved grows.

Now the charity is up and running and is starting to draw in funds.  There is a little argument about how the funds, publicity and fund raising should be managed but the charity is still small enough that the enthusiasm of the founder carries the day. 

The charity evolves still further. Some of the initial helpers drift away citing family or other reasons and a few others leave as they are unable to match up with the demands of the founder who has become all consumed by the aims of the charity.  Shrugging they carry on and draw in fresh help and even employ an administrator to drive the cause forward. 

Moving ever onward the charity grows and soon there are full time employees, part time volunteers and a managing board.  The charity may be funding experts in research or paying outside organisations to produce goods to support the cause further.  In the blink of an eye the charity has moved from the brainchild of one person to a full business and at any stage in that journey in the blink of an eye it could have gone.

The difference between success and failure, between creating a force for tremendous good and broken dreams is simply the way in which the culture, aims and values of the charity have been allowed to mature as the organisation grew.  When the founder spread their initial dream, when a group of friends became a mix of volunteers and paid employees, when highly qualified specialists were brought in and when the charity started calling on outside suppliers, at any stage in that process if the balance had been ignored the endeavour could have failed.

Balancing training and development is never easy at the best of times.  Too much and employees never get any work done, too little and you don’t fully exploit the potential of the workforce.  When looking at the training needs of all those who become involved in a charity the equation becomes even more complex.  Do you just train the employees and leave the volunteers to muddle along; do you give extra training to the volunteers in return for their time and energy?  And if you leave the experts out of the equation do they become resentful? 

The key, as with so much else in business, is to temper every training and development decision in the light of the values and culture of the organisation.  And whilst this may mean that some require vast amounts of training, others may simply need help in assimilating the aims of the charity and their role within it.  Taking time to engage and appropriately develop every individual, whatever their level of contribution, whatever their needs, will result in a charity in which employees, experts and volunteers work in harmony. 

Our story ends in success; sadly others don’t.  Taking time to develop your people can make the difference between hope and ashes.

Author Profile Picture
Derek Bishop

Director

Read more from Derek Bishop
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