Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Preparing for Recovery

Google report they have had 54m hits for "economic recession" in the last few months, but only 28m for "economic recovery".

We can't afford to get hooked on how dreadful it all is, even though that is what the News incessantly reports. The Charity Commission have put out some interesting figures from a survey they conducted with a range of charities.

58% of charities say they have already experienced falling income. 64% of charities with income over £1m say their work will be affected adversely.

And yet only 3% say they have considered mergers or alliances as a way forward. This is surprising. And disappointing.

I can understand the issues that surround this. I was recently roundly told off by a member who objected to my call for more partnership, alliance and mergers.

"Objectionable " I was told. And I understand that third sector bodies proudly protect their brand and mission. They don't want to be "gobbled up" by some big charity as the said member complained.

This is not just understandable but right. Yet there are ways in which mergers can protect and enhance the brand. The arrangements for Child Line and NSPCC are a case in point. And other organisations have pursued an alliance route that marries both the savings of merger with the protection of the brand and unique way of operating.

But if we are to be strategic as CEOs we must look to the potential of alliances. A full on merger may not be right, but partnerships or other ways of working together may be a good way to beat the recession.

And rather than planning for a recession, it makes sense to plan for recovery. Thinking ahead to work in different ways or new approaches. This is the time that innovation often flourishes. So the best third sector bodies will grow and expand. The State will need third sector services more than ever - so contracting will continue to grow.

Now today is St Patrick's Day. Today all those proud of their Irish heritage wear the shamrock. When I was a lad my Grandmother always had shamrock posted to her from her home in Union Hall so I used to wear my shamrock to school. (An interesting fact: my mother and Third Sector Minister Kevin Brennan's father were born in villages in Co Cork no more that 20 miles apart!)

I shall be seeing Kevin later today at a launch of a book published by the John Smith foundation (on social enterprise and service delivery ) He and I have written Chapters for this new publication. Will he have the Shamrock I wonder?

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