Cranfield Trust: celebrating 30 years of building successful charities

This year, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary as a charity, an important milestone in our history. It also coincides with a period of great change for Cranfield Trust, as we are in the first year of an ambitious three-year strategy to help more charities and charity leaders to deliver their services effectively.

This is a challenging time for the voluntary sector. The past decade and immediate future present a period of unprecedented adjustment for charities in the UK. From Brexit to the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ created by digital change, charities are affected by world events and global change – whether they are working internationally, throughout the UK, regionally or in a local community.

From the Trust’s work with thousands of UK charities, we see specific issues for many organisations at this time: for example, increases in demand for charitable services; concerns over charity finances; issues of public image; and, public trust. In this period of uncertainty, charities must take concrete steps to plan ahead, consider possible scenarios and prepare for them, to ensure that they continue to support those who need their services – when they need that help the most.

We can help!

Cranfield Trust is the leading free management support organisation for the voluntary sector, and is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019. We work with voluntary organisations that address issues of poverty, disability and social exclusion, to help them operate effectively and confidently in providing their vital services. Our core service is pro bono consultancy and mentoring. We also offer employment information and advice via HRNet, our online service, and provide regular masterclasses and learning events on key management topics.

At present, we support around 15-20 organisations a year in the West Midlands with new consultancy projects. Our projects in the past two years have been divided between strategic and business planning (about half of projects) and other issues, including organisation/structure reviews, governance, marketing and communications, mentoring and HR. Each project is scoped and supported by Trevor Kitching, our West Midlands Project Manager, who oversees all our activity in the region.

Nationally, we work with over 450 frontline organisations a year on consultancy projects, or by placing volunteer mentors with charities. We have 1,400 charity members of HRNet, and reach around 200 charities through our masterclasses every year.

Cranfield Trust Volunteer Consultants

Cranfield Trust volunteer consultants work with charity clients to develop their skills and confidence in tackling management challenges in their organisations. Our volunteers are skilled management professionals, motivated by a desire to help charities and volunteer their professional skills. Our volunteers give an average of 7.5 days of time to each project, often spread over a few months to fit charity timetables.

Our projects are individually tailored to client organisations’ needs, but outcomes typically include:

  • Improved skills and confidence of staff, trustees and volunteers
  • Reviewed and improved services (in consultation with the local community) to meet local need
  • Increased efficiencies in service delivery
  • Greater understanding of income opportunities and diversification, enterprise and sustainability
  • Stronger structures, more cohesive Boards with improved governance
  • Greater security and long term sustainability
  • Charities equipped with strong plans to attract funding

Client Organisations – challenges we see through our work

Our clients are small to medium sized voluntary organisations. 80% have income under £1m, 60% under £0.5m. Their specialist knowledge and services are vital to the people and communities they support, but they lack resources to invest in developing management capability.

We work closely with our clients, and understand their challenges and concerns. At present, we are seeing:

  • Falling local authority funding leading to an increased reliance on fundraising. We’ve observed that some charities feel inhibited about fundraising for core costs, which hampers growth and leads to lack of staff security. It also makes it hard to plan: charities don’t grow strategically as they take on what is funded, rather than being able to make their own strategic decisions
  • Many frontline organisations have short term funding: having to take a short term approach rather than setting out a longer term plan can create a very stressful environment for staff and managers
  • Leaders are under a lot of pressure unless their boards are very hands on and supportive. They can be isolated and often don’t have networks to fall back on to provide support – they’ve often exhausted their families and friends in terms of discussing their work challenges. We get consistent feedback on the value of our Project Managers and volunteers who can act as a sounding board, and provide support and challenge.
  • Very small charities or those which are fairly newly formed struggle to make progress – especially in raising enough funding to move forward. This means that founders and leaders are often living day to day, juggling too many things. They have great passion but the demands of what they’re trying to do comes at a cost – at the best, very little head space to think and plan ahead, and at the worst, personal financial pressure as they’re working hard but don’t have enough organisation resource to be paid realistically.
    Our impact

    Through working with us, we help charities to achieve organisation improvements across their management activities. Some projects have an impact on the whole organisation, others are more specialist. Our client feedback for our last financial year is below, and case studies of our work on our website
  • 100% said that they were better able to plan and prepare for the challenges ahead as result of working with the Trust;
  • 100% said that they would recommend the Trust to others;
  • 98% of organisations said that leadership and strategic direction had increased as a result of working with the Trust;
  • 96% reported that people management in the organisation had been strengthened as a result of working with the Trust;
  • 97% reported that financial management had strengthened;
  • 91% reported that financial management had improved as a result of working with the Trust;
  • 90% reported that working with The Cranfield Trust had been an excellent personal development opportunity.

Please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

We have capacity to support voluntary organisations addressing issues of poverty, disability and social exclusion in Birmingham or the West Midlands.

To learn more about our work please visit our website call our office 01794 830338 or contact our West Midlands Project Manager, Trevor Kitching,