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October 12th, 2018ArticlesGeoffrey Hand 0 Comments

charity-governance-consultancy.jpgThe well-known national charity Scope is adopting a radical new strategy. It includes a 40% reduction in the charity’s income and shedding 60% of its employees.

There are lessons here for every charity and every charity trustee – lessons in being radical.

ScopeThe story so far

Founded as The National Spastics Society in October 1951 with the aim of improving and expanding services for people with cerebral palsy, in 1963 it merged with the British Council for the Welfare of Spastics to become The Spastics Society. As such it provided sheltered employment services, day centres, schools, colleges and residential care homes for people with cerebral palsy. It also opened a chain of charity shops.

The Society adopted its current name, Scope, in March 1994. It enlarged its work to include campaigning to make disability better understood and tackling the common barriers faced by all disabled people. Scope still remained a major service provider to disabled people, including running over 50 residential care homes.

Scope’s dilemma

With some 13 million disabled people in the UK and Scope’s services collectively reaching just a few thousand, how could Scope become relevant to the majority? Was Scope to be a provider of services or a campaign group for social change or both or something else?

Lesson 1

Ask yourself and debate with your fellow charity trustees this question:

“Is absolutely everything our  charity is offering still relevant to the actual present-day needs of our beneficiaries?”.

It’s a long question deserving a long answer. Your measure of your charity’s continuing relevance.

Take an away-day to answer it.

Lesson 2

Soul-search your charity’s Core Purpose. Look at the Objects Clause in your charity’s Governing Document. What is your charity really about? What is its essence? What is its Core Purpose?

Another away-day.

The Scope trustees identified their charity’s Core Purpose as: “to become a mission-led social business to achieve an equal society in which all disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else”.

Lesson 3

Be radical.

Focus resolutely on your charity’s core purpose. Stop, exit or transfer everything else.

Scope is transferring all its regulated and day services to other providers including 51 residential care homes and 1300 staff to Salutem Healthcare, hence its 40% reduction in income and the shedding of 60% of its employees.

Lesson 4

Be brave but recognise risk

Change involves risk. Ensure your charity trustees are strong, united and tolerant of risk.

If your charity is facing declining relevance and confusion of purpose, there is no greater risk than doing nothing and hoping for the best.

And if you need help in assessing your charity’s relevance, identifying its core purpose or working out a radical strategy, give me a call, I’m here to help.

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Geoffrey Hand

Geoffrey Hand is a charity governance consultant, offering governance consultancy and training. He also provides legal services management, helping charities get better value for money from their lawyers. Geoffrey has extensive experience in the charity and legal worlds, and his mission is to help charities deliver good governance.

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