2 things you need in uncertain times

“I think the reason charities have kept going is that they are Vision and Value led first and foremost. I believe these two factors will make all the difference to our work.”

Late last year the Charity Commission published some research on the impact of Covid 19 on the charity sector. [1]

It shows that the vast majority of the 170000 UK charities experienced a negative impact from Covid (90%) and a majority experienced negative financial impact (60%).

The UK charity sector is very diverse with many very small charities led entirely by their trustees to some very large international ones with hundreds and thousands of staff.

Remarkably there have not been any large scale closures of charities and many have adapted fast to the changes in the last two years.

In our work with charities we have seen so many trustees in particular having had to compensate and do the work of staff who are furloughed and face constant governance and financial decisions.

I would call the last year ‘The year of the trustee’.

It’s one thing to respond to a crisis and a challenge and quite another to rebuild and recover well.

We have delivered some webinars and training on disaster recovery for charities for that very reason.

Charities have been in disaster mode and now it’s time to recover!

There is widespread uncertainty still and widespread tiredness from hard work and emotional stress and the need for governance doesn’t go away.

Charities know that their clients and beneficiaries rely on them and so in many senses, they must carry on the work or people and services will suffer but we know we need to recover and rest.

So where does all this leave the average charity?

I think the reason charities have kept going is that they are Vision and Value led first and foremost. I believe these two factors will make all the difference to our work;


People will rally around a vision and bust their guts for it.

Keep the main reason you do what you do and how that is needed VERY clear to trustees, staff and volunteers.

Tell the story of why you need to exist regularly.

Vision will get you through a great deal and telling the story over and over will unify, strengthen and encourage everyone to keep going.

It’s the fuel and the food of your work and just like food and fuel, you need to regularly refill on Vision.


I often ask the charities we support what their values are. Many don’t know or have never articulated them.

I always wish there was more opportunity and time to really work with charities to identify and solidify values.

The reason for that is that the charity’s values will be the ‘modus operandi’ or ‘the way we do things around here’, spoken or unspoken.

When it is the outspoken measure or litmus test for all you do it becomes the guide in your budget, the guide in your interviews for trustees and staff, the guide for your volunteers, the guide for your promotion and marketing. Being clear about your values will be the difference between the life or the slow death of your charity.

In summary

To conclude then, uncertain times could be here to stay for a while.

Governing a charity well in uncertainty will take us all knowing our story, our reason for existence, well and communicating that to all stakeholders. The human heart responds to vision, period.

Also being certain of your values and building them into all we do – and therefore deciding what we don’t also do, will become a force that will guide you and those in the charity through the greatest challenges.

Brene Brown has done some excellent work on this topic, I highly recommend checking her resources out[2].

We also deliver training to all size charities which might help unify and create a stronger outlook for your charity.

At the end of the Charity commissions research on the impact on Covid they add this encouragement which I think summarizes the points above well.‘Ensure you are always led by your charity’s purposes, and the best interests of those you exist to serve. Don’t avoid or delay tough decisions, but know that how you make them – how you behave and communicate along the way – can be as important as what action you choose.’ [3]

[1] https://charitycommission.blog.gov.uk/2021/10/28/what-new-research-tells-us-about-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-charities/

[2] https://brenebrown.com/resources/dare-to-lead-list-of-values/


Trust Advice CIC

Trust Advice, formerly Advice For the Voluntary Sector (AFVS), has provided expert advice, training, and resources to the charitable sector for over ten years. Their founder has many more years of experience working with charities as the CEO of Independent Examiners (IE), which helps charities and CICs with year-end accounts, independent examinations, submissions, and advice.

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