Strategy, communications, and fundraising are the functional areas sector leaders most need to focus on as we enter the new decade, according to the 2019 data aggregated by the Charity Sector Data Store.
The Charity Sector Data Store aggregates the data collected through the Charity Excellence Framework online toolkit, which supports charities with their governance and compliance by providing the means to assess and manage performance across key areas, as well as work out where to make improvements, tracking more than 20 key metrics.
The Charity Excellence Framework launched with a pilot in 2018 and will begin scaling this year, with the Charity Sector Data Store already holding over 1500 completed questionnaires offering insights into areas where more focus could be beneficial.
According to creator Ian McLintock, the 2019 results are broadly comparable to the 2018 data, and suggest that while those using the system report the weakest functional areas as strategy, communications and fundraising, charities are performing better in the areas of compliance and keeping people safe from harm, and at managing finance.
The data highlights that while lack of resources is a major issue, there are a number of areas where more can be done to build resilience without more funding: such as responding proactively to relevant issues in the outside world, thinking about and evaluating alternative options to increase impact and ensuring that plans and targets are realistic and cost effective.
Under governance, the weakest areas overall were organisational purpose and board effectiveness, suggesting that boards should review their strategy and effectiveness if they haven’t already done so recently.
In terms of keeping people safe from harm, while the data suggests that charities are performing well here overall, it also suggests that many boards lack effective oversight of safety issues and whistleblowing.
Under diversity, encouraging under-represented groups when recruiting board members comes in as the lowest scored metric.
Under fundraising, the data identifies one key opportunity to be investing in developing fundraising skills and understanding, both within fundraising teams as well as more widely and including at board level. The data also shows opportunities in how charities identify and engage lapsed, existing and potential future funders, and in assessing the merits of using increasingly accessible technology options, such as those in communications above.
The lowest rated metric here was having a CRM system that is easy to use, provides the functionality and reporting to exploit data well, and which is also cost effective, while having a sufficiently large and engaged pipeline of funders was 8th bottom.
Overall however, communications was the lowest rated area, with 33 of 43 indicators at amber, and many charities still missing out on opportunities such as contactless, text donations and the Google Ads Grant, as well as basic analytics. The lowest rated communications metric however was having clear, powerful messages that engage audiences, with having realistic outcomes and clarity on what these are both identified as opportunities to achieve more.
This year will see a number of new upgrades for the Charity Excellence Framework, including a micro charity module, making the resource base fully searchable and open to anyone, and the launch of social franchising. This will enable groups of charities, as well as large multi-site charities, to access the core system, to create and control new functionality.