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Charity finance policy

Caron’s comment: Financial skills are a priority for any government

In last month’s budget there was a welcome slug of cash to support the development of fundraising capacity building. I was pleased to hear it but couldn’t help thinking, why is there still a lack of recognition of the importance of financial skills?

Post by CFG

CFG’s drive over the last few years has been to change the narrative around finance. CFG is here to inspire the development of a financially confident, dynamic and trustworthy sector. In the minds of many, finance continues to be perceived as limited to controlling costs, meeting budgets and preparing and filing accounts. Our approach in recent years has aimed at enabling organisations to understand the importance not only of complying with accounting and reporting requirements (though clearly this is necessary), but of the critical role inspired financial leadership plays in creating effective organisations.

This year could be pivotal in this journey. While it appears that we are seeing economic recovery, the sector will continue to face significant pressure – increasing demand coupled with a continued squeeze on income. The ability to influence major change in the run-up to the election, if we’re being realistic, is fast reducing. However, the role we can play in putting financial skills on the agenda with the next government, whatever its colour, is only just beginning. We’re fighting against years of ingrained stereotypes, but just because it’s a tough job doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Attitudes to charity effectiveness are changing.

If ever there was a time when charities could ask for support simply because of our good intentions, then that time has passed. We are under continuous pressure to demonstrate that we can add value, resolve intractable problems and make a difference to society. Waste, or perceived waste, is less tolerated. The choices we make in raising, spending and investing funds are continually under the spotlight. We’re expected to not only achieve maximum impact with dwindling resources, but to make them go further while also innovating, growing and adapting. Reassuringly, attitudes to finance are changing too.

At a recent London members’ meeting, we heard from two fantastic CEOs: Kate Lee (Myton Hospice Group) and David McAuley (Trussell Trust). Kate put it neatly – the role of senior management teams in charities is to balance resource and demand. To me, that screams “financial leadership”. If financial leadership is either absent or uninspiring, how can that balance be struck and the best decisions be taken? David also told the audience that having a great finance leader at the Trussell Trust had made all the difference. It has brought insight and the ability to interpret information, supporting the big decisions needed to sustain their invaluable work. Come election time in May, our policy team and I will be reaching out to the politicians in the newly formed government and opposition MPs to get this message across. During the course of the next parliament, could we see an announcement regarding support for financial skills and capacity building? We’ll certainly give it our best shot!

Caron Bradshaw, Chief Executive, CFG

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