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Shrink to sustain and grow … not just to survive!

Over recent weeks I have helped a third sector organisation manage the consequences of a significant reduction in their funding support from their local authority. This will be a common experience across England for many in the voluntary and community sector at this time, and, for many, it will not be the first time they have met this situation.

What has been fundamental to this process, and why I wanted to write briefly on it, was a mindset and an approach that, from the start, sought out a sustainable platform providing a springboard for growth, thus anticipating better times economically, and not just surviving a budget hit!

The approach has been also been characterised by a some key elements, principally developing a clear focus on:

  • PURPOSE – ensuring that the purpose of the organisation remains clear, consistent, practical and visible;
  • UNIQUENESS – capturing and promoting a strong USP that plainly differentiated this organisation from other competitors in the market place;
  • ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES – taking the opportunity presented to both rationalise and strengthen former  posts and design new roles that give the ability and future capacity to respond to new opportunities, whilst still being able to deliver current contracts and commissions;
  • MAINTAINING STAFF SUPPORT AND MOTIVATION – by being open, honest and inclusive; by communicating clearly and effectively; by responding to queries and concerns; and by leading by example [this particular CEO has agreed a significant reduction in her salary]; and finally,
  • SHIFTING THE MINDSET – understanding that the world is changing rapidly and being ready to think more laterally about approaches that can help to build for the future or to seize new opportunities as they arise. In this particular case, that will involve developing a stronger traded services perspective and related activity and a different approach to marketing and promotion of the organisation. Not unusual in themselves but, at a time of reduction, creating a new post of Business Development Manager to drive that agenda!

Clearly much more has gone on with such a serious change process but it seemed important to highlight a positive example of how this might be achieved beyond the fairly typical ‘slash and burn’ reaction to major budget reductions that I have met in my own professional career and hear of all too often in this current climate.


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