It’s a new year

by Stuart on 30 January 2012

Difficult to know when to post this.  The new calendar year was a month ago, the new financial year is a couple of months away.  But a new year, whichever one you use, is generally seen as a time of reflection.  What’s gone well in the last year, what hasn’t? What are the priorities for the next year?

In these interesting times* charities need to think really hard about what’s important to them.  When times are good we all do things that are fun or interesting in addition to the things we need to do.  But when times are difficult we need to look really hard at everything we do and decide if it’s an activity we really must not give up, or whether it’s a nice to have.  It’s not always an easy decision, but getting it right could mean the difference between the charity surviving or going under.

How are the finances of your organisation?  Can you easily tell which of your services and/or projects are contributing to your core activities?  Can you tell which of them need propping up with your unrestricted funds?  This is the sort of information you must have in order to make an informed decision about which services you can afford to keep and which you have to cut in order to survive.

None of these decisions are easy. For example, which of the following is more important to you?

  • A job finding service that helps around 30 people per year find proper jobs
  • A telephone helpline that helps around 200 people per year

At first glance it’s the helpline – more people involved.  But could those people find the information in another way or from another agency?  What about the job seekers?  Is there any other way for them to find jobs?  Are there any spin-offs from the job finding service?  Is the cost of the helpline crippling the organisation and preventing it from doing all sorts of other things?  Is there a way to provide the helpline in some other way? Does the job service contribute anything to the core activities of the organisation?

And so on…

With the new year it’s really useful to take some time out and have a really hard and cold look at what you do and the way you do it.  I’ve found it works best when staff and trustees are all involved.  It’s hard work, but worth it.  I have two of these days coming up, and I’m looking forward to them, because, no matter how hard they are, they tend to leave everyone with a clearer sense of what’s important and what’s worth fighting for.  They’re strangely inspirational.


*from the ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”


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