Risky business

When trustees first take the helm of a charity there is a temptation to ‘play it safe’. Concerned about the consequences of taking risks, trustees may aim to keep the organisation compliant but avoid challenging discussions which may rock the boat. That may sound eminently sensible but as a trustee you have an obligation to improve performance.

In order to increase impact and be genuinely sustainable, organisations need to innovate. My team and I have developed a model for growth in the charity sector; an s-curve that highlights the relationship between growth and risk.

Where does your organisation sit and what can you do to help it enter a new phase of growth?

The maturity 's' curve

Phase 1: Initiation

Anyone who has been involved in the formative years of a charity will know what a challenging and rewarding time it is. Starting something from nothing requires passion, vision and innovation. New ideas are tried quickly and the associated risk is managed, accepted and embraced as a characteristic of this start-up period.

Phase 2: Growth

In this healthy phase of an organisation’s maturity, the management of resources is improved and longer-term capacity is built. Impact and income are growing, fuelling a willingness to try new things. The leadership team recognise that innovation and the associated risk are necessary to keep the momentum going.

Phase 3. Maturity

Flat-lining finances and impact are the symptoms of this plateau stage. Management processes may have become too internally focussed and the appetite for trying new things is dwindling; innovation and risk are no longer part of the culture. Lots of organisations reach this stage; it’s what they do next which is important.

Next time…

In my next instalment, I will set out four strategies that organisations can adopt to help them breakthrough to a new phase of growth; a new s-curve.

Want to find out more?

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Nige was head of consulting and training at NCVO.

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