1.2% of UK charities turn over 68.9% of the cash cycling through the sector. So never mind Oxfam’s predictions for individuals – it is already true for the sector that often says it is out to change the world for the better. Are they doing enough though?
A recent Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar grappled with the way organisations think about scaling (specifically to achieve wide-ranging and lasting change) – the authors, Alice Gugelev & Andrew Stern, focus on non-profits, but the thinking is useful for any organisation trying to change the world.
Having an end in mind is essential for aligning your board – and other stakeholders – yet, many organisations omit this from their planning.
One example cited is the formation of new charities – and whilst the authors focus on North America, it is relevant elsewhere too. Quoted in The Independent, Sam Younger (recent Chief Executive of the UK’s Charity Commission) sets this out in stark numbers:
In the 2013/14 financial year, the Charity Commission received 6,661 applications for new charities in England and Wales, a 16 per cent rise on the previous year. “There are more people coming forward to establish charities than is really desirable, in the sense that I think some of those people might operate better not by establishing a new charity but by collaborating with, working with and associating with existing charities,” Mr Younger said.
Let’s connect that to the bigger picture for the UK:
Charity Register as of 30 September 2014
|Annual income bracket||Number of charities||%||Annual income £bn||%|
|£0 to £10,000||67,972||41.4||0.227||0.4|
|£10,001 to £100,000||55,207||33.6||1.945||3.0|
|£100,001 to £500,000||20,940||12.8||4.618||7.2|
|£500,001 to £5,000,000||8,358||5.1||12.580||19.6|
|Not yet known||9,630||5.9||0.000||0.0|
Do you serve on the board of one of the start-up non-profits mentioned above? Or perhaps on one of the minority large-scale players (only 1.2% of UK charities turn over more than £5m). Either way, you owe it to yourself and those you serve to seek clarity.
And let’s be direct: it is perfectly valid for a small charity to serve a niche need and never seek to scale. Just be clear about it.
My main concern is in fact the 1.2% who sit on 69.8% of the income. Especially if we’re to take the figures in this table as transferable to settings beyond North America (heckles welcome):
What to do?
With apologies to Voltaire: ‘with great resources come great responsibility’ – so whether a charity turning over just a few thousand, or one of the 1%ers:
- See the top five take-aways from the webinar in the Tweets below (RT as relevant).
- Look at the Stanford Social Innovation Review brief survey (in the last embedded tweet).
- Review “Plotting an Endgame” in the last visual and ask the “What is our Endgame?” strategic question at your next board meeting.
The six options laid out by the authors may help – and don’t forget to think through the resource implications.
Need help aligning your thinking on this issue for your organisation? Get in touch.
W/planning, orgs shldn’t just think about getting bigger but ask “What do I want my org to be when it grows up? What the endgame?” #SSIRLIVE
— shannon peterson (@Shantasmagoria) January 22, 2015
Collaborating with competing NGOs in your space? Start w/ “what’s your endgame” question- pivots discussion to increasing impact #SSIRLive
— Catherine Lada (@cathylada) January 22, 2015
— Carissa MacLennan (@cjmaclennan) January 22, 2015