What does consistency mean for your charity? Do you understand the impact you could have on your beneficiaries’ lives if your organisation didn’t have consistency?
What am I referring to when I talk about consistency?
Staff consistency. The consistency of your charitable focus. The consistency of your support.
All these things, should consistency fail, can have a monumental impact on the people that matter: your charity’s beneficiaries. Of course, you can’t help it a staff member finds another job opportunity that better suits what they’re looking for; however, you can prevent a poor internal culture that causes staff to leave quite soon after they’ve joined your organisation. You can’t do much about issues beyond your control, but you absolutely can direct the direction your charity takes. You can’t do much about funders and grant-makers moving the goalposts when it comes to their criteria, but you can ensure that the support you offer stays in the same remit and doesn’t change, twist and turn with every bright idea, new trend or actions a neighbouring charity may be taking.
Small actions can have a big impact. A new outreach worker won’t have the luxury of picking up exactly where their predecessor left off. Those beneficiaries will have learned to work with and trust the outgoing member of staff; it doesn’t matter that it’s the same charity knocking on the door…that new outreach worker will have to go back to basics and earn the trust and respect of the individual/family all over again.
Perhaps a trustee feels that delivering a new service under your charity’s umbrella is a good move, because they’ve noticed a batch of new funds trying to meet this need or they’ve seen another charity enjoying success with this new idea. However, if the new project, event or service isn’t aligned to your current methods of support, you risk damaging your charity’s credibility, confusing your beneficiaries and devaluing your support.
Perhaps you think your food bank should move to a Monday from a Wednesday because it better suits your staff or volunteers. A small shift in your eyes, but this could make a huge difference to the people you support. Maybe their benefits go in on a Tuesday, and there’s no money for bus fair when Monday rolls round. Maybe they get a lift from someone who can only bring them on a Wednesday. Maybe they care for someone who has respite support on a Wednesday but not a Monday. Maybe they work their part-time job on a Monday and will no longer be able to get to the food bank for much-needed support.
Consistency is key, from the top of a charitable organisation to its front line and beyond.
Stakeholders and donors also need consistency from you. They need to trust you, donors in particular. They want to be sure that the money they give you will positively impact the issue they’re trying to combat. They want to rely on you, to be confident that you know how to help your beneficiaries. If your board is constantly subject to upheaval, if your management structure ebbs and flows, if your support workers/project deliverers aren’t clear about what they need to do, it’s your beneficiaries that will suffer the most—and they have enough on their plate.
I have a friend who’s just retired after years with an established charity. She tirelessly worked her ‘patch’ as a frontline service provider then a new CEO came on board, who, soon after, ordered a full organisational restructure. Rather than be forced from the role she loved, my friend opted for early retirement.
This new CEO wanted to make their name by delivering the same level of service on a smaller budget. This is not what happened. By the time the restructure was over, any money saved had been paid out in redundancy payments. Staff, when shifted to other departments, struggled to have the same impact in their roles. Evidentiary statistics plummeted and grant-makers were less keen to throw good money after bad, and the whole organisation went backwards.
One person’s ego did a lot of damage to this charity. In the third sector, more than any other, if you’re doing something well and there’s no reason to alter anything—don’t! Too much will be riding on your decision to change, and those with the power to influence things need to remember this, whether they’re management or a trustee.
Consistency within a private business usually means keeping to brand guidelines when marketing or promoting something, perhaps also maintaining good relationships with suppliers to ensure consistency within their products or services.
Consistency within a charity—apologies for the dramatics—could be the difference between life and death for beneficiaries most in need.
A robust organisation will have a better grip on consistency than one that doesn’t quite have all its ducks in a row. If you’d like my help to make your charity stronger, contact me on 0114 350 3354 or email email@example.com.