It’s my birthday today… and I’m heading rapidly towards the big 50, although not quite as rapidly as my husband seems to think – stop adding an extra year to my age will you my dear chap! Inevitably birthdays always leave me assessing where I am and where I’m headed and what has changed over the year.
Personally as I’ve gone through my fourth decade I have felt more and more comfortable with myself and my life and less inclined to question everything that comes along. I don’t know if this is because I have less energy or if I am just more relaxed, but my new frame of mind has certainly helped me cope with situations that in times gone by would have given me absolute nightmares. Being a Chief Executive of a medium sized charity certainly has plenty of stressors so a calm approach to working life is definitely a help to me and those around me. I think if you asked any of my team they would probably say that I see red a lot less now than I used to!
That’s not to say that a calm disposition is incompatible with a creative outlook on life nor that you are less likely to take risks; just that when you do they are going to be better weighed up and understood. In organisational terms this comes through clear review and planning processes that help you to identify opportunities to develop and things to avoid. I suppose a good phrase for this would be discretion is the better part of valour; you can still be brave but following sensible thought and consultation. I have also discerned over the years that I am not the only one with good ideas and I have become much better at listening to other people and allowing them to help create the solutions and opportunities that we have needed to weather the storms. As a result Community Lincs is a well-respected local charity that helps thousands of people each year.
The year ahead is going to be another challenging one given the changes in funding heading our way. Our core contract with Defra, which we have held for at least the last ten years, is ending in March and we may suffer other cuts to our core funding as a result of the impact of the Government Spending Review on the County Council. It is no longer enough to be doing good work that helps to achieve your key outcomes and objectives; you have to know which of your outcomes and objectives are most important to your funders and therefore, most likely to be funded going forward; and then you have to be able to write outstanding tenders that beat the rest of the field.
Ultimately this move towards contracting through tendering processes has been a double edged sword. It has helped to drive clarity about what is being bought and paid for and who appears to be in the best positon to deliver services; but on the other hand it has disadvantaged smaller charities and VCS groups who have neither the skill nor the capacity to compete in this environment. It is these smaller organisations that benefit in particular from grant funding, something which a new grouping of organisations Grants for Good including The Charity Finance Group and the Directory of Social change say are most affected by the changes in funding. They claim that grant funding has fallen from £6bn in 2003 to £2.2bn in 2013. If this rate of reduction were to continue by the next election grants would be all but non-existent. I don’t personally believe that we will get to that point but in such competitive times it is even more important for charities and small groups to be able to monitor and understand their outcomes and impact so that they can argue their case for investment much more effectively.
This is something that Community Lincs has been working on for the past couple of years and which has helped us to win new contracts. Outcomes monitoring has also helped us to manage our existing contracts and activity to ensure that we are on track and not being distracted by something new and shiny. If you are interested in finding out more then please do get in touch – but maybe leave it a few days until I have finished all my birthday chocolates!