This year we have pulled together a programme that speaks to many of the questions we are facing in our everyday work, with the intention to improve our resilience in a future filled with risk and uncertainty.
The first session in the 2018 conference focuses on improving our efficiency through collaboration. Building on last year’s conference which examined what lessons we could learn from other industries, and the power of innovation in improving fundraising returns, this session brings together the experiences of three large charities in how they have succeeded in being innovative in order to lower their costs.
At the 2017 conference, delegates learnt about how the processes, discipline and clarity of purpose of a Formula 1 pit stop crew helped to improve baby mortality rates across the UK. The ability to keep learning from new ideas, where they have been successful in other fields, was an incredibly useful reminder that best practice can exist outside our own silos. I’ve found that many charities see what they are doing as unique and incomparable with other organisations – the session last year, and the one planned for this year’s conference remind us of the power of looking up and outwards. We used the idea of league tables to improve Purchase Order compliance and a natural competitiveness amongst colleagues to push up performance over a short period. I expect to be able to learn and take back efficiencies to implement.
New ways of thinking about risk
This year has been a demanding year for the media spotlight on charities, in light of allegations of safeguarding issues in the international development sector. In the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld, what are our “unknown unknowns”? How do we reframe thinking about risk and opportunity beyond a box-ticking compliance exercise to a task where the risks that have a high impact but low probability are routinely assessed? How do we think about emerging risks and opportunities that might not be considered at the moment at all, deeply considering what might fundamentally affect our reputations, incomes and our delivery to beneficiaries?
There are plenty of uncertainties ahead to consider which are being well documented by the general and sector media; political uncertainties, the general economic outlook and Brexit all pose questions. I would imagine many of us will have already thought about the impact these might have on our incomes, costs and how we deliver our services. But what about those that are more explicit to our own sector, or specific industry?
As a sector, there have been a range of issues around safeguarding, donor management and executive pay reporting in the past few years that we have had to respond to. This session at the conference will encourage us to think about how we can address, understand and mitigate against these risks ahead of time. In the midst of a busy day to day schedule, and the time taken up by new tasks driven by regulation (such as GDPR), it can be hard to find the capacity and headspace to think about the emergence of new threats and opportunities on the horizon.
I expect this session will give us food for thought and renewed vigour into considering what the risks are for my organisation. As finance professionals, colleagues will often look to us to understand and monitor risk for the organisation, and I hope to learn from other organisations.
Leadership and resilience
The final session will include a speaker from a different industry to give perspectives on leadership and resilience. In light of changes highlighted in the risk session, leadership and the ability to deal with change is becoming increasingly important. The world is changing, through politics, economics and regulations; hearing how a leader has already dealt with change and what lessons we can learn will be useful in improving the medium-term outlook for our organisations.
The team at CFG, supported by the Large Charities Committee, has listened to feedback to craft a conference plan that is shorter than in previous years – we know that time is at a premium for Finance Directors and their teams. We also wanted to continue our focus on learning from best practice across organisations within our groupings – other large charities that have faced and overcome difficult experiences, as well as learning from other sectors.
CFG’s Large Charities Conference 2018 is on Wednesday 26 September. View the full programme and book your place.
This article originally featured in August 2018 issue of Finance Focus
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