It’s been a year of three halves. Each has been productive and sometimes problematic in different ways. View the summary of our year in numbers here.
We were operating as normal, finishing off work on some powerful programmes:
Away days continued to be as useful as ever, facilitating short, focused events to help with the perennial themes of organisational development, board roles, strategic planning and developing and embodying organisational values.
Our trademarked Advance Retreats also got underway, with some amazing results and lovely feedback to match. We’ll return to this model as soon as social distancing stops, giving people the vital time and space they need but never get.
Workshops: Whether tailored or off the shelf, our Lasting Difference workshops were popular, especially for funders who believe in supporting grantholders with sustainability.
Resources: Launching Lasting Leadership (another trademarked resource) to a packed house at the Gathering was a real highlight. This vital new guide to sustainable leadership explores how to address equalities, delegation, succession, self-care and development. Topics that proved to be timely as the year progressed…
Graeme’s book, Making a Lasting Difference passed its 500th sale, reaching over a million readers via related articles in publications as diverse as Forbes Magazine, Charity Finance, Charities Management, Civil Society…and The People’s Friend! The Kindle version is available here. A second edition is coming in Spring, with new content on lasting impact.
…and then it’s March: Covid, lockdown and mayhem. Once we’d looked after our clients, the next thing we did was to assess our own sustainability. Having worked out how to still be here in a year’s time, we focused all our energies on helping others to do the same. Our turnover was down 60% on the same period last year, but we were here to stay, as we blogged at the time.
Moving online: We’ve counted our blessings a lot this year. Not least for having set up a Moodle platform and piloted e-learning in 2019. By the end of the year over 750 people had been on the platform with us, for conferences, workshops and events, as well as for our Lasting Difference E-learning course. We’re about to pilot a similar six-hour, self-directed course on Lasting Leadership too, before welcoming the first cohort of learners around Spring. We’ve already piloted four workshops on Sustainable leadership, Succession planning and Lateral leadership and distributed authority.
[Follow those links for more than a dozen free resources and look out for more workshops in 2021.]
Supporting the sector: We pledged to do whatever it took to help sustain the sector during the crisis. So, we:
Lasting Leadership action learning programme: We’ve been blessed with an amazing, inspiring cohort of leaders in our first annual learning programme. Work concludes in March 2021, so look out for notes of the year’s learning.
Licensing: We’re followed by dozens of consultants and are well known for supporting freelancers in their early days and sharing our learning and practice as generously as we can. At the same time, the licences on the Lasting Difference and Lasting Leadership guides prohibit commercial use: consultants need a commercial licence before using them. We were delighted to sign the first such licence with the fantastic team at Merida Associates in June, so if you’re in the Midlands give Karen, Polly and Angus a shout and they’ll have everything you need!
Development: Isn’t it funny, for years you make the excuse of being too busy to do development work…then when you have time, you still don’t do it! But we did use the few quieter weeks in April pretty productively:
Unusually but understandably, programmes and projects didn’t break for the summer this year:
…And then things got interesting. In just two weeks in August we brought in the same number of contracts as March-August (17) but with three times the value. Turnover for the second half of the year is up 70% on last year: taken with the 60% losses mentioned above, things are just about balancing out. So if you’ve seen us looking busy or tired, now you know why! These are looking like themes for the second half of the financial year:
Reaching across the UK: About 20% of our work is with UK-wide organisations, a trend that is growing as we reach more membership organisations and funders. For example, we ran two properly participatory three-day conferences reaching people all the way from Jersey to Shetland, enabling Befriending Networks to celebrate Befriending Week and Carers Trust to launch important new research about student carers. We also enjoyed giving short inputs with the HIV Collective, Small Charities Coalition and various CVSs up and down the country.
Strategic planning and leadership development: Working with boards, management teams and using our ‘lateral leadership’ approach. An interesting example that’s getting more common was a brief to support Community Brokerage Network’s board to develop exit strategies and transition plans: see Anne Marie’s testimonial here.
Sorry, a long article – but it was a long year after all. All the best for the year ahead.