Running a charity and ensuring services are available for those who need it most, isn’t easy.
Since we re-launched as an independent charity we’ve faced numerous challenges including, but not limited to; ensuring people recognise us and know that we’re here for them, adapting to the everchanging economic climate and expanding our services.
However, these challenges are not just due to our large and recent changes, they reflect the environment all charities are operating within and the challenge of diversifying income which ensures vital services can continue to run.
Back in 2014, our CEO Michelle Hill and Head of Domestic Abuse Services, Anna Callaghan were supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation to attend a Trading and Sustainability Programme run by the foundation and School of Social Entrepreneurs.
The programme is for small but vital charities, who have a turnover of under £1m and wish to increase their trading and reduce dependency on grants. The School of Social Entrepreneurs structure their training around ‘Expert Witnesses’ who can share their insights. The programme was a fantastic resource for us as it allowed us to learn more about how to not only diversify our income, but how we can grow it.
From this, we gathered information, ideas, we took them and ran with it, shall we say… really quite far!
As a result, Michelle was welcomed for a second time to speak on the programme in London as an Expert Witness and she attended last Thursday to tell our story – the good, the bad, the ugly and what we’ve learnt along the way.
Michelle joined 22 small but vital charities and shared our journey from when she became our CEO back in February 2014, how we took the decision to become the charity we are now and the key turning points in our journey.
This includes the huge difference in our income, which was around £500k in 2014, to the figure nearly four times as much - £1.9m in 2019. She explained that the following work had taken place, which allowed us to diversify our income:
- Client payments – work conducted on increasing average payments and marketing
- Increasing the range and type of contracts including different partnerships
- Increased range of trusts and foundations
- Introduction of events and next will come fundraising and legacies
- The use of social investment
(Michelle's Notes from the day)
She also shared a key change in our charity structure, when income generation moved from being the responsibility of Michelle as our CEO, to our Head of Development, Emily Williams.
Other key insights on how we’ve diversified were shared by Michelle including:
- Importance of having the right Board of trustees
- Importance of cash in the bank
- The power of marketing
- The use of digital and social media
- How hard it is to build a team of the right structural design with the right people
- The importance of a peer group as it’s a lonely job.
Hopes, dreams and plans for the future were covered (as always, thinking big!) as we develop the 2025 strategy and financial forecast. This includes our ambitious plan to have 25% of income from trading and Emily having a place on the School of Social Entrepreneurs Trade Up course.
To learn more about why we became TLC: Talk, Listen, Change and the journey, read our interview with Michelle.